The people of Israel had to adjust their understanding of what God was up to when the Babylonians took them into exile. They felt abandoned by God. Now the prophet asks them to remember and reframe their experience so they can live in confidence and hope in the face of restoration and more change. When we face what stands before us, we see the problems and we feel the current pain. When our religion prepares us to deal only with the past and the future, we find ourselves limited in what we can see in the present.
Isaiah relays the good news that the end of exile is in sight, although the people cannot see it yet. The rulers of their exile have not yet spoken of their freedom to return home, to make new choices for their lives. The voice of Isaiah reminds them of experiences they have known and can build on: God is powerful and gracious. God who created still holds creation. God can free them and bring them home.
Isaiah reminds the people that God who is praised is also the creative Spirit who tends to details of creation. This Creator God is the basis of their confidence. The prophet asks the people to remember and ponder what they once knew about God’s action in their lives and to reconsider how they build on their trust in God. Their life experience has changed their understanding of what it means to be the people of God.
We find ourselves looking back, standing on a certainty we built in the past. News of change is not always welcome; tools, maps, and constructs may not hold.
Creator, who imagined us all and tends us still, give us strong footing to stand with you through change and into an abundant future. Give us strong hands and hearts to dream this future with you, a place where we all can know your grace and power. Amen.
What is the ultimate source of our strength? All the authors for this week come to the same conclusion: True strength comes from the Lord. Isaiah asks his audience: Who is like God? God never grows weary and provides unfailing strength to those who wait for God. The psalmist praises God as the one who lifts up those who are beaten down. It is not those with human strength who are truly mighty but those empowered by God. In Corinthians, Paul states that he has laid down any form of his own strength so that the gospel may advance. Jesus heals many in Mark as a demonstration of his power over the physical world. Thus, God’s power is not just a metaphor but a reality.
• Read Isaiah 40:21-31. When has your focus on past events or ones yet to come caused an inability to perceive God’s work in the present?
• Read Psalm 147:1-11, 20c. What part of your life bears witness to humanity’s desire for winners and losers? How can you help others see God’s desire for wholeness?
• Read 1 Corinthians 9:16-23. What behaviors are you willing to take on or give up “for the sake of the gospel”?
• Read Mark 1:29-39. What intrigues you about the pattern of concealment and revelation in Jesus’ life that Mark’s Gospel portrays?
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