Some years ago a noted scholar from Harvard created a list of the three greatest poets in human history. Homer was there. And Shakespeare. The third was the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is no surprise, really—not when one considers how the words of the prophet have impacted musicians and mystics, lyricists and orators, and other voices as far-ranging as poets and politicians. Isaiah speaks words of challenge and comfort, words that are equally accessible and metaphorical.
Although we don’t know much about Isaiah, his poetry has certainly echoed through the centuries in the church—through music and message, lyrics and liturgy. Isaiah holds a special place among the prophets but is unrivaled as a poet.
Time and time again, Isaiah visits the theme that while we are often dismayed and distressed by our current circumstances, God does not leave us to our own devices. Rather, God can transform the former things. God can make creation new. The violence, the hatred, the hungers of our world will be transformed into new ways, new attitudes—new creation. “Do not remember the former things,” God says through Isaiah. “I am about to do a new thing.”
Most people can identify with these ideas, especially in times of hardship. We crave the new; we long for what is fresh and vital. We rarely enjoy living in the humdrum routines of existence. We all crave familiarity and find comfort in the routine and the dependable, and yet we realize that change is inevitable. God is always creating the new in and through us.
New things! Yes, Isaiah still speaks to us. Our fears, our despair, our weariness in the world can be transformed. Look for the new opportunities. Don’t overlook what God can do.
O Lord, thank you for walking with me. I trust you always are doing a new thing in me—even as I celebrate this, a new day, which is your gift. Create a new spirit in me this day. Amen.
God is constantly performing works of renewal. Isaiah had warned Israel of judgment, yet here the prophet turns his attention to the other part of God’s message, that of restoration. God will breathe new life into the people, like sending rivers into the desert. The psalmist celebrates a communal festival in honor of the renewing deeds of God, who has turned their weeping into joy. Paul also experiences this work of renewal. He previously had boasted of his privileged position in society, but God has changed his thinking so that he considers his knowledge of Christ his greatest possession. In John a woman named Mary begins to point our attention to Christ’s coming passion by anointing Jesus’ feet. Crowds begin to gather, and the stage is set for the impending conflict.
Read Isaiah 43:16-21. When have you seen God make a way for a new thing in your life?
Read Psalm 126. Consider how your joy and laughter might heal others.
Read Philippians 3:4b-14. When has God’s strength helped you finish a race, literally or metaphorically?
Read John 12:1-8. God gives gifts to all of us. How do you share your gift from God with others?
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