He will comfort all her waste places
And will make her wilderness like Eden
Her desert like the
Garden of the Lord
1 Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. 2 Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many.
3 For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
4 Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. 5 I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope.
Listen! Look! Remember!
This week's first reading comes from chapters 40 through 55, or 2nd Isaiah, who spoke God's hope to many of God's people who had been exiled to Babylon.
Prior to this, they'd crossed the Jordan into the promised land after a 40-years long trek through the exodus desert after being liberated from Egypt. They'd made Canaan home by sinking deep agricultural, familial, religious, occupational, and commercial roots. Please note: the events in these verses cover a very long timeline, and all of it could not have been part of the living memory of any one person.
However, everyone would have resonated with Isaiah's imagery because they would have frequently remembered, retold, and relived salvation history.
Isaiah reminds the exiles of their experience with God's extraordinary faithfulness. In Hebrew, listen and hear are the same word...
Righteousness, the Exodus rock, Abraham, Sarah, mount Zion, wilderness, Eden, desert, garden, justice, deliverance, salvation, hope. Plus singing and thanksgiving! God's arm—God's power, presence, strength, deliverance from death to life. Any of these would make an illuminating word study. Also, most of this is geographical and physical.
Notice what God has done and trust that same God's promises for your future. Notice where you've been, how far you've traveled, how you got to where you are, and because of it, claim hope for God's future.
To remember means to reassemble something that has been broken apart, torn apart, dismembered, dissembled into multiple pieces. It's no longer an integral whole.
Remembering Into Hope
Listen to God, pay attention and hear what God proclaims and teaches. Look to our source and our deep roots in God's life and God's actions. Remember.
You've probably heard:
(1) If you keep looking back you won't see where you're going; and
(2) If you don't look back, you won't learn from the past and you'll make those same mistakes. Both are true.
• What family memories are especially important to you? Why?
• Any family memories you'd like to forget? Why?
• What memories of your current place of worship and service are especially important to you?
• What memories of your entire history with the church and churches you've been part of are particularly important to you?
• What story of stories from scripture have special meaning for you?
Remember where you've been in order to gain hope for your future.
• How does remembering the past give us post-911, post-January 6th, post-Covid pandemic hope? (Covid still is with us, but it's become endemic.)
• How do we best remember?! Narrating the timeline? Talking with people who've been there with us? Looking at photographs and scrapbooks? If you keep a journal, reading your past entries? Reading the bible? Some other way?