Friday, January 05, 2007

1 Epiphany, Isaiah 43:1-7, cont.

The lesson for this Sunday, the first Sunday after Epiphany, is Isaiah 43:1-7. For the preceding post on our text, click here.

Isaiah 43

The lesson has a magnificent, solid center in v. 4a: "Because you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I, I love you." God's commitment to us is quite striking here, but even more moving is God's declaration of intimate love.

The beginning and end of the poem echo each other with a striking Inclusio. God's intimate love and care for God's people is clear in that God "created" and "formed" God's people (vv. 1 & 7). The poetry moves from a magisterial notion of "creation" to a more hands-on notion of molding and "forming." Then the poetry declares this creative work of God to be ongoing, not just a divine activity of long ago.

God is "redeeming" us (v. 1). Redemption is new creation; in Isaiah it is on a par with God's work as Creator of the universe. Redemption, in Isaiah, is also a father's and husband's act of love. God extricates us from the waters, fires, and lions of "exile" and calls to us, "You are Mine" (v. 1). That theme of (re-)union with God, of wedding God in love, is a big one in Epiphany season. Epiphany celebrates the royal nuptials, when God and God's people (re-)unite in a burst of glory.

God is destining us, drawing us toward "my glory" according to v. 7. This is why we are created. When God shows off God's beauteous glory in God's people, earth's nations take notice and are drawn in. That is a key theme of Epiphany season! Is it present here in this lesson?

When God gathers Israel's "offspring" from the four points of the compass, is this an opening of all nations to be drawn in? Perhaps it is, although the poetry is ambiguous. God does appear open to drawing in "the ends of the earth" (v. 6; cf. 45:22!). God does appear willing to include "everyone who is called by my name" (v. 7), and Isaiah 44:5 invites all of us to write on our hand, "Belonging to the Lord."

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