Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Hope and Not Despair: Isaiah 43:1-3
This is what the Lord says—the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3)

At the time when these words from the book of Isaiah were written, the people of Israel were in a very difficult situation. Jerusalem, their cultural and religious center, had been destroyed and a large part of the population of Judah had been deported, forced to live in exile. The former kingdom was now a small and insignificant part of the Babylonian empire.

Yet the chapters of the book of Isaiah written at this time are ones of hope and not of despair. How is this possible? Is the writer closing his eyes to reality, picturing a dream world to which people could escape when the real one was too painful? Obviously not, but then how does the author help people to bring back hope to his people living in exile, with their homeland in ruins?

First of all, by reminding them who God is. This is not some faraway God who doesn’t know them end their suffering. No, this God is the one who created them, who wanted his people in general, and each individual in particular, to exist.

Second, by calling them by their name. We all have names, of course, but unlike in the Bible most of us have a name that has been chosen fairly arbitrarily. It was not so in those days: names said something about the deepest identity of a person. Jesus’s name for example means “The Lord saves” because that was what Jesus’s life was about. So God calling us by our name means: I know you, I know too what you are going through and I care greatly about that.

Third, the prophet gives his people hope by reminding them of a collective experience of the past: once before they had been exiles, foreigners in Egypt. And the Lord brought them back. God led them through the water; God led them by a pillar of fire through the desert to their own land.

Luckily, most of us don’t live in such difficult circumstances as the people of Judah did at the time this text was written. And yet this text can certainly help us in facing the bigger and smaller difficulties of everyday life. Even if we stay in our own country, there are moments that we have the feeling that our life, our society or our planet lies in ruins.

In a world that changes so quickly and where a lot of people, whether they choose it or not, are moving from one place to another, it is important, as the fifth proposal for 2020 states, “to find a place where we are inwardly anchored”. Like the people of Israel, we can remember that it is God who created us and loves us. That God knows us personally and that he is the one who sets us free. And then, when we realize that only God is holy, we understand as well that in the end nothing can really hurt us, or rather, as the apostle Paul says, “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

- Am I hopeful? Why or why not?

- In what way is my hope related to my faith in God?

- Where do I find God in the midst of life’s difficulties?

Other bible meditations:

Printed from: - 5 June 2020
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