Hope in Strange Circumstances - Ashland Theological Seminary

Hope in Strange Circumstances

“Why do you keep saying, O Jacob, and keep declaring, O Israel,

        ‘My path is hidden from the Lord’

        and ‘My way of life is ignored by God’?

Don’t you know? Can’t you hear?

        The God of all time is the Lord,

        the One who creates the ends of the earth!

He doesn’t get tired. He doesn’t grow weary.

        There is no way to grasp his thinking,

He who gives strength to the weary

        and who gives stamina to those who are spent.

The youthful may get tired and weary,

        and vigorous young people may falter.

But those who hope in the Lord will get a second wind.

They will be borne aloft on the wings of eagles.

They will keep running and not get tired.

They will keep walking and not grow weary.”

 --- Isaiah 40:27-31 (original translation)

 As we begin this new year, my spirit is drawn to the soaring poetry of Isaiah 40-55. These prophetic words were addressed to people who had seen their world end when they were taken into exile. The Jews of the exile had witnessed the destruction of everything they held dear. They had lost their freedom. They no longer had control of their lives. They were reeling from catastrophic change, which transported them from a good and secure life to one that felt strange and unpredictable. They grieved the life they once knew and peered into a future that promised only more of the same. And they were worn out by the daily, hopeless sameness of their circumstances.

They had some big God Questions. Why did this happen? Is God really in control? Does God care about us anymore? What kind of world will our children and grandchildren inherit? Has God abandoned us?

In a striking directness not seen in the words of other prophets, God speaks in first person to this devastated community:

 I created all that is (40:21-23), and I created you (43:1-3).

  • I love you as deeply as a mother loves the child she nurses (49:14-16).
  • I am making a new future that no human being can imagine (43:14-21).
  • The powers that your world looks to for help and explanation are impotent and clueless (41:21-24; 44:6-8).
  • I’m not through with you. Get ready for a new mission (42:5-9; 49:8-12).
  • Don’t live in fear. Don’t give up. Don’t abandon your calling (52:12-16).

 The prophet invites the faithful to embrace a deeper, more expansive, more wondrously mysterious view of God than they had ever before conceived. And to recognize that more of the future is in God’s hands than we are aware. Disappointing returns on old beliefs open the way for a more profound understanding and a richer relationship with the God whose steadfast love endures forever.

 Let us therefore anchor ourselves to hope as we walk into a new year fraught with uncertainty and promise.

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