Reader: “You are my servant”
Response: “You have been chosen to know me.”
Scripture: Isaiah 43:8-13
Bring out the people who have eyes but are blind,
who have ears but are deaf.
Gather the nations together!
Assemble the peoples of the world!
Which of their idols has ever foretold such things?
Which can predict what will happen tomorrow?
Where are the witnesses of such predictions?
Who can verify that they spoke the truth?
“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the Lord.
“You are my servant.
You have been chosen to know me, believe in me,
and understand that I alone am God.
There is no other God—
there never has been, and there never will be.
I, yes I, am the Lord,
and there is no other Savior.
First I predicted your rescue,
then I saved you and proclaimed it to the world.
No foreign god has ever done this.
You are witnesses that I am the only God,”
says the Lord.
“From eternity to eternity I am God.
No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.
No one can undo what I have done.”
Reader: This is the word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
That the times in which we live are very uncertain is not news. While some of us may be more anxious in recent days, in looking through history, there have been worse days. The words of Isaiah come to us today to bring comfort and certainty. Yes, this writing of the prophet is absolutely true. We live in an era that is afraid of “absolutes.” Not only are we afraid but in rejection of absolutes particularly when it comes to faith and Christian belief which frankly explains the mess our world is in.
In the early portion of the chapter concerning the Israelites, through Isaiah God reminds the people that he has ransomed them. “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. . . I love you.” But his chosen people are deaf and blind. Into this setting Isaiah introduces a contrast between the idols of the world and the God of Israel. The nations of the world are called together to pit their god against Israel’s God in answering four questions. Have any of their gods foretold what will happen in the future? . . . predicted what will happen tomorrow . . . any witnesses on behalf of the gods to verify . . . any other witnesses to verify their truthfulness? Crickets.
As blind and dumb as you are, Israel, God says, I have, nevertheless chosen you to know me, believe in me and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God―never has been, never will be. I am the Lord. There is no other Savior.
In a secular world where humans have usurped the throne and become their own gods, I am reminded of a passage earlier in the Book of Isaiah (14:13,14) “I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.” Note the three “I will’s.” “I will ascend, I will preside, I will climb” expresses the mindset of our culture: ambition, power, greed.
This pericope (per-Rick-ko-pee―just in case you wondered!) then answers the four questions raised previously. God predicted the rescue of the Israelites and did it! The world is the witness to the truth of what God did to this very day! No man made or imagined god has ever done anything like what God did for his chosen people. God has never not been! (From eternity to eternity.) By his saying “I am God,” we are reminded of God’s words to Moses when he asked at the burning bush, “Whom shall I say sent me?” Think about it, “am” is always in the present. It is a time-less word. In other words, it is not a chronological word. It is not measurable. In the words of C. S. Lewis, “The present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole . . .”
Then we have this marvelous conclusion to today’s passage, “No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.” Those are the most comforting, loving words you’ll ever read! Why would anyone ever settle for their own god and their own wisdom when they could respond to the One who created them in the first place? Ambition, power, greed are pretty dreadful reasons. Pray for our world and its leaders.
Music: “The Lord is an Everlasting God” St. Olaf Choir Kenneth Jennings
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is God who sits above the circle of the earth
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
“To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?”
says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and see: who created these
and numbers them, calling them all by name?
Not one is missing.
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
who does not faint or grow weary;
whose understanding is unsearchable.
God gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted.
But those who wait for the Lord
shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
Have you not heard? Have you not known?
-Isaiah 40:21-22, 25-26, 28-31
Bonus: from “The Chosen” Jesus and Mary Magdalene
This clip comes straight out of today’s passage in Isaiah. In the story, when Mary Magdalene was a little girl, she and her father memorized the passage Jesus quotes at the end of the 3:46 minute clip. If you are not familiar with “The Chosen,” you should be. Check it out at www.thechosen.com. It’s free.
God of eternity, in whose image we have been created, we lift up our hearts to you in wonder. How it is Lord, that you, the Creator of the universe, show such compassion in the giving of your Son to make possible the redemption to such arrogant people is a wonder we cannot begin to fathom. Yet, you have called us to be your people―your representatives within this world. We marvel that we are called by our individual names. Being your ambassadors is a task too great for us to bear in our own strength, but we bless you for the Holy Spirit who can make good what is lacking in us. Let him come upon us that we may run and not grow weary; that we may walk and not grow faint. ―Prayers for Sunday Service, p.81, adapted Daniel Sharp