Summary: Year C. Fifth Sunday in Lent April 1st , 2001 Isaiah 43: 16-21
Year C. Fifth Sunday in Lent April 1st , 2001
Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church
Web page http://lordofthelake.org
By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor
Isaiah 43: 16-21
Title: “The, faithful pattern, of a faithful God”
This is a hymn-like prophecy of the return from exile, a promise of salvation. It is cast in terms of a new and better exodus, tantamount to a new creation. Thus the present situation, a return, is interpreted by using the model of an old situation, the Exodus. Comparing the two, the return from exile in Babylon is seen as superior even to the Exodus. Thus God is to be praised even more so because of his great deeds, his loving-kindness. What God has done in the past he continues to do in the present.
In verses sixteen and seventeen, “sea…path…army…extinguished,” The sequence of events given here describe the crossing of the Red Sea at the first exodus. It was a magnificent display of God’s power. He acted then as Israel’s go’el, that is, redeemer. Calling God “redeemer” is based on a custom among the Israelites and many Near eastern cultures, whereby the next of kin, the closest blood relative was considered responsible for the protection of the other and exacting revenge in the event of wrongdoing. Often, the Israelites would consider Yahweh as their next of kin, their redeemer, and their closest blood relative, thanks to the covenant he struck with them. What Yahweh did in overcoming the mighty Egyptians was thought impossible, in fact, unthinkable. The emphasis here, in keeping with Deutero-Isaiah’s perspective, is on God’s action in and over creation. At the same time the exodus was an observable historical event, not only an internal religious experience.
In verse eighteen, Do remember not the former things, or consider the things of old,” “Remember not,” has a wider range of meaning than “forget.” It means here “do not dwell on,” “do not become so stuck in and on the past that you do not or cannot see the present action of God.” In effect, God says, “This release from Babylonian captivity is every bit an exodus, so do not miss it or its meaning.” Surely the Israelites are to remember the past and recite it in their creeds, but they are not to become so focused that they “forget” why they are doing so in the first place. The remembering of the past helps to discern the, faithful pattern, of a faithful God. The remembrance makes that present and enables the people to see the same activity of God going on in the present.
In verse nineteen, “I am about to do a new thing,” What Cyrus, the Persian king, is going to do under God’s prompting and plan is something far greater than the events at the Red Sea of old. Yet, it is entirely consistent with God’s revealed character and modus operandi.
In verse twenty, “in the desert I make a way,” over the wilderness that separates Babylon from Palestine God will make a connecting path, a link, a way out of slavery and into restoration. This is the highway of Isaiah 40: 3, which is to be constructed at God’s command. The first “way” was the “way of the sea” at the exodus. Now, the Creator God will show even greater prowess by making a “way of the land,” through the wilderness, a greater wilderness than the old exodus journey.
In the wastelands, rivers, how will they get the water so fundamental to the preservation of life? The same way the Israelites got it in the former desert Numbers 20: 7-11- God will provide. He did it before; he will do it again and yet again.
“Wild animals will honor me,” God’s actions have cosmic significance. Even the wild animals will cooperate. The prophet sees the ancient historical traditions, Exodus, in a cosmic setting, with the broadest possible scope and meaning. The new exodus will level mountains and barriers, spring up water in the desert and tame anything wild. These are features of the ideal world to come. All of creation will participate in and cooperate with God the Creator.
In verse twenty-one, “so that they might declare my praise,” “Praise” is recognition or acknowledgement. When the people recognize and acknowledge the presence and activity of God on their behalf they will express it in words, in songs, but especially in the way they relate to creation and one another, in a way consistent with the reality who is God, creator and redeemer. God is able to bring salvation and does bring salvation out of the most unlikely situations: water out of the desert, level path out of the mountain, harmony out of wild beats, freedom out of slavery and life out of death.
The study of Sacred Scripture is not for antiquarian purposes. It is not to learn a bunch of insignificant facts so we can do well on crossword puzzles and quiz games. Neither the Exodus nor the Exile is to be studied for their own sakes. They are metaphors for us, paradigms, ways of seeing not the realities of the past, but aids to seeing our own present realities and interpreting them correctly. Thus, at the historical time of the Return from Exile, the prophet first tells the people to look at the Exodus of old, and then he tells them to forget about it. Once they learned the lesson, they were to use their energies to change their situation, not to memorize that of the exodus generation.