Sunday, February 25, 2007

God "Like a Woman in Labor" (Isaiah 42)

I mentioned in Friday's post that I had given a brief response at the mini-conference of the Washington Consortium Bible Group held here on the VTS campus. The presenter was Dr. Juliana Claassens and the paper looked at the image of God in Isaiah 42. I won't give the entire paper away here, of course, as it is part of a larger publishing project that will appear in print. I do want to record that I loved the argument that the text uses the image of God in the pains of birth and labor as a marvelous rhetorical strategy.

God has seemed to be silent for so long, as the people have waited in Babylonian exile. Isaiah's audience must have had deep suspicions that God might be rather powerless. God must have seemed likely unable to turn their situation around. But what if God is "like a woman in labor" (Isaiah 42:14). If God is at the point of birthing new life, then a lot has been going on for months without it being apparent to the people. Then God's seeming powerlessness and helplessness is actually a means of doing something quite powerful indeed.

A woman's helplessness and frailty during labor is nothing less than power, the power to bring about new life--something a "powerful" male cannot do! This theological theme that vulnerability and frailty is a source of true, marvelous power is a big one throughout Isaiah 40-66. I think Juliana is really on to something here.

Perhaps I'll add a bit more to this discussion tomorrow morning. There are some powerful and exciting ideas here...


Blogger Eliz F said...

Wow--just now in our Bad Girls of the Bible class we were talking about images of God in Exodus, as midwife and warrior, and how each one connotes vulnerability AND strength.

Mon Feb 26, 10:24:00 AM GMT-5  

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