|Episcopal Church in Minnesota|
Environmental Stewardship Commission
Year A, Easter 6, Old Testament Lesson
Isaiah 41: 17-20
Thus says the Lord your God:
"When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the LORD will answer them,
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
so that all may see and know,
all may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it."
Reflection on Isaiah 41: 17-20
by John Gibbs, Ph D
“Becoming People Who Are Safe for the World” (“God’s Offspring”)
Prophets and poets are good at imagination. The Second Isaiah is both: prophet who is poet. In this section he prods our imaginative powers.
Imagine a law court in which all nations will be judged (Is. 41:1 - 42:4). In that court the Lord God, “the Holy One of Israel” says to his people: “Do not fear, I will help you” (41:13). Even more: “…you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff” (41:15). Imagine such national power as that! This metaphor, which certainly is not to be taken literally, imagines such power.
As a basis for believing those promises, we see that this “holy One of Israel” is the Lord of all nature (41:17-20). God is the One who could “open rivers on the bare heights” and fountains in flat places, or turn a wilderness into a pool of water, and make trees grow in deserts. Only this God could “create” such apparent impossibilities as these (v. 20). As for gods of other nations, they are “nothing” and their “work is nothing at all” (v. 24).
Creator God, moreover, is committed to social justice. “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them” (v. 17).
Only those are safe for the world whose public policies both promote social justice and safeguard a world that belongs to God rather than to multinational corporations. To be sure, the world of nation-states with its World Economic Forum and other gatherings of economists and business leaders, is not the same world as Second Isaiah knew. There is nothing, however, to prevent continuity of vision and goal from ancient prophet to modern people.
Matters of life and death, such as water and plant growth, are matters
of theology and ethics---today and tomorrow no less than yesterday. The
Interfaith Climate Change Network (“joining together in protecting creation”)
emphasizes the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change on the
poorest nations and people. “It is a matter of justice,” this network claims,
namely: “Justice for poor people in developing nations who will be most
severely impacted by changing weather and rising seas, and who have the
least capacity to adapt.”
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