Archive for Isaiah

All things new II: the end of exile

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 4, 2009 by stephengardner

Its not often that the hopes of one nation impact the entire world. But this is precisely what Isaiah 40-55 promises will happen through the hopes of Israel. Israel, in exile is far from being the ‘light of the world’ it was made to be.
And so the words of Isaiah bring hope of a new thing:

 

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Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that she has served her term,
that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the LORD’S hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Lord GOD comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.(Isaiah 40.1-11 NRSV)

Its just not the case that once Israel had returned to the land that their exile was over. They were still slaves in the land (Ezra 9.9), and God had most certainly not returned to rule for them as he had promised he would. Implication – Israel is still in exile.

Israel needed to redefine their idea of how God would bring them out of exile, that seems to be what John the Baptist was trying to do. How do the gospel writers introduce him?
As one who went ‘into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’

Its only when God himself returns to his people, to rule for them, In Jesus Christ, that Israel’s oppression,  hardship and  exile is over. But these are words of hope not only to Israel, but to the entire world. God is doing a new thing in Jesus, taking his people out of exile, comforting them and bringing the true light into the world, for the world.

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All things new I: redefining hope

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 2, 2009 by stephengardner

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Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. (Luke 2.25 NRSV)

Simeon is an interesting figure. He gives us a snapshot of the hopes and aspirations of first century Israel. They are back in their land, they have their temple but they are far from experiencing the promises of God that parts of Scripture reminded them of. They are longing for consolation, for the redemption of Jerusalem from the pagan rulers and for God to come dwell with them again and rule for them.

What I hope to do in this series is explore Isaiah 40-55 and the promises made to Israel. I don’t suppose to be on top of these chapters, but I love them dearly and hope to grasp them better through this series.
One of the things I hope to do is to see how these hopes are not just for Israel but for the entire world, as Jesus the true light of the world brings a new hope.

Looking at Jesus afresh often brings surprises. Sometimes we find that the answers he gives us are not the ones we were looking for. Looking at Jesus  requires we shift our thinking about how God has worked, is working and will work in the world.

Simeon himself was forced to do this, as he held the new born Jesus in his arms, he made a massive shift in his thinking as to how God would satisfy the hope of Israel

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2.29-32 NRSV)