Episcopal Church in Minnesota
Year B, Pentecost (Whitsunday) Sunday, Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading
|But now hear, O Jacob my servant,
Israel whom I have chosen!
Thus says the LORD who made you,
who formed you in the womb and will help you:
Do not fear, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my spirit upon your descendants,
and my blessing on your offspring.
They shall spring up like a green tamarisk,
like willows by flowing streams.
This one will say, "I am the LORD's,"
another will be called by the name of Jacob,
yet another will write on the hand, "The LORD's,"
and adopt the name of Israel.
|Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel,
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let them proclaim it,
let them declare and set it forth before me.
Who has announced from of old the things to come?
Let them tell us what is yet to be.
Do not fear, or be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
You are my witnesses!
Is there any god besides me ?
There is no other rock; I know not one.
Reflection on Isaiah 44:1-8
by John G. Gibbs, PhD
The repeated “Do not fear” of this text (vv. 2, 8) fits well with the repeated “Peace be with you” of John 20:19-23. The basis of confidence is the nature of God (vv. 6-8): King of Israel, Redeemer of his people, Lord of hosts, the incomparable “first and last.” “There is no other rock” than this God.
This clear statement of monotheistic faith is made for pastoral reasons. Whatever the situation we are in, we are entitled (literally and/or metaphorically) to write down on our hands the name of this One to whom we belong: “The Lord’s.”
If God were only Almighty, there could hardly be any pastoral help in being reminded that we belong to this God. The central meaning of this text lies, then, in what this God does for Israel and nature alike (vv. 3-4). This God sees thirsty land, and pours water on it; dry ground, and pours streams on it. Likewise this God beholds generations to come, and pours his Spirit upon them; sees our offspring, and pours his blessing on them.
These are expressions of Hebrew parallelism, which works rather like
the spokes in a wheel. It views the same object from slightly different
angles at each turn of the wheel. The all-gracious care of this God
is seen in the history of People and Creation alike. For both, God’s
blessing is his Spirit poured out abundantly. People and Creation
share alike their thirst for the care of this God. As the Spirit
blesses our grandchildren and their grandchildren, so the rain blesses
dry ground throughout a thirsty land. The same is true in reverse
order: as rain cares for dry ground, so God’s Spirit cares for God’s People.
Holy Trinity Church
Elk River, MN 55330-0065 USA
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