A Lenten personal reflection on relationships and transformation based on Isaiah 43.16-21
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
It is the 6th century BCE. The people Israel are captive in Babylon. Deeply despairing, they recall a former time – the flight to freedom of their Hebrew forebears led by Moses.
The prophet Isaiah cautions that they not to look back to the old exodus from Egypt and the journey to the Promised Land, but forward to this new thing – their release from Babylonian bondage and their return to the Promised Land.
And this new thing will be more than liberation – as wonderful as that is! – but also transformation.
In the old exodus, the people passed through the wilderness, which, notwithstanding God’s provision of water and food, remained arid and barren. In this new exodus, the people will pass through the wilderness, which will be changed: I am about to do a new thing…I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah’s language is mythological; a subtle synthesis of prophecy and poetry. For it is the manner of myth not to describe something in literal, historical terms, but to reflect a truth, a belief about the way things are, which, by its very nature as truth, cannot be expressed in mere prose.
Did rivers run in the desert? Probably not. But that’s not the point. This prophecy is not about the wilderness. The truth, God’s truth that Isaiah foretells is about the people. They are not to be merely liberated, but transformed. They are the parched wilderness refreshed by the running water of freedom. Freedom to be who they were created to be:
I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to My chosen people
the people whom I formed for Myself
so that they might declare My praise.
Liberated from the past, the people were transformed. Or is it that in being transformed, they were liberated? It doesn’t matter. For at the heart, indeed, the point of their liberation-transformation experience was the restoration of their covenantal relationship with God and with one another.
More to come…
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