Week 3 - Isaiah 40:12-31

Hope deferred makes the heart sick
But a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

In June, Lyle and I left the city for Lester Beach. The anxiety of pandemic exile, not to mention flood repairs, was lodged in my chest as I went for an evening swim. I wasn’t expecting anything but a quick dip, but as I floated in the cool waters, it was like scales fell from my eyes. To the west, waters rippled gently as far as the eye could see, and to the east, a green spring shoreline shimmered placidly as seagulls soared. I saw myself from God’s vantage point, like a tiny grasshopper suspended on Manitoba's vast midland ocean. Nature had ignored my panicked memo and had gone on being gorgeous and vast. I hadn’t realized how paralyzed my imagination had become since March. I took deep breaths as I remembered God’s grandeur was still in control. Instead of seeing out of my small eye, I saw God seeing me as though through the eagle’s eyes.

God could have chided me on Lake Winnipeg, as He did Israel in verse 21 of this week’s passage, “Have you not heard? Have you not understood?” It seemed outrageous that God could override the challenges of 2020, but that’s the perspective I glimpsed for a moment and I’ll never forget it. With it came a calm reassurance.

I was reminded of this scene as I reflected on this week’s passage. Isaiah zoomed the lens out to give the people a broader view, showing Israel that God was stronger than Babylonian gods or politics, and vaster than exilic distress. In a word, God was incomparable. The writer describes God with breathtaking poetry, but you get the sense that words just don’t cut it. God broke into exilic uncertainties with a proclamation that was impossible to deny. Amid the pain of exile and sin, God is still intimately involved in the historical and political machinations of human life. God is powerful enough to bring his people home.

Reading: Brueggemann pages 22-28

- Lydia

Questions for Reflection 

  1. In this section the prophet seems to be dealing with the doubts the people have about Yahweh. If God is so powerful and caring why are they in exile ? The promise of comfort and a superhighway through the wilderness seem too good to be true given their experience of the last 150 years. Have you ever had a time when the gospel (good news) seemed too good to be believed ?
  2. What situations challenge our own assumptions of God’s greatness? 
  3. In an exilic situation in your own life, how did God supply you with energy and power? How did God reassure you that you weren’t alone? (verse 31)
  4. Verses 18-20 describe Babylonian gods that topple and rot. What are the gods of modern 21st century life?
  5. Isaiah 40:27 is reminiscent of the “how long oh Lord" laments throughout the Bible, “My troubled path is hidden from the Lord, and God has lost all interest in my cause.” Israel has known all about the pain of unanswered prayer. What are some “How long oh Lord” prayers you’ve had? How did God renew your strength?

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