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Tuesday 20 August 2019 – Summoned to Service

Isaiah 41:1  Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment. 2 Who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service? He delivers up nations to him, and tramples kings under foot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. 3  He pursues them and passes on safely, scarcely touching the path with his feet. 4  Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, am first, and will be with the last. 5  The coastlands have seen and are afraid, the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come.6  Each one helps the other, saying to one another, “Take courage!” 7  The artisan encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smoothes with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, “It is good”; and they fasten it with nails so that it cannot be moved. 8  But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9  you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; 10  do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah’s words come at a time when the Persian King Cyrus is growing in political power. Shortly after 550 b.c., Cyrus was able to unify the Medes and the Persians and to defeat the powerful kingdom of Lydia in Asia Minor. Then in 539 he turned south to conquer Babylon. The Israelites are afraid, because “He delivers up nations to him, and tramples kings under foot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow “. Some make plans to create a protective magical figure: “The artisan encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smoothes with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, “It is good”; and they fasten it with nails so that it cannot be moved”.

In the light of this Isaiah asks the rhetorical question: Who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service?”  Isaiah says that Cyrus’s ascendency is no accident “Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, am first, and will be with the last.”  God is behind all this – and will continue to be in world events until “the last”. We discover these words again in a much later period, when the writer of Revelation describes Jesus as the “first and the last” (Revelation 1:17 and 22:13).

The Creator of our world does not stand outside of history watching humanity drive ourselves to destruction. Instead, God is active within history, using those people who would follow Godly ways. The choice we face is quite simple: either we complain about everything that is wrong – or we become part of God’s work of bringing light into the darkness. I choose to be part of the solution.

 

Prayer for today

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

 

Ordinary 17

39 God, Our Source of Hope

The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 243.

This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

 

“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)