Precentor - Gilly Myers
Isaiah 40.27 – 41.13, 2 Timothy 4.1-18
The prophet Isaiah, in chapters 40 and 41, is speaking to a nation in desperate times. In two waves, first in 597 BC and then ten years later, the nobility of God’s chosen people were taken into exile by their Babylonian captors.
Jerusalem was reduced to ruins and the walls broken down. The exile lasted for 70 long years and the reproaches cried out to the God, whom the people considered to have abandoned them, must have been countless over those years. Why couldn’t God see their suffering? Why wouldn’t God do something about it?
Isaiah’s message to God’s people disputes this approach to questioning and, in the end, brings a message of hope. Of course God knows; and God is doing something about the situation. The light of a new dawn is rising on the horizon, in the person of Cyrus, described as ‘a victor from the east’, who has been roused by God to deliver up nations and trample kings underfoot. His conquering path is spreading like lighting, and he is coming their way, to the rescue.
In chapter 41, Isaiah delivers his message in the form of a trial. All the nations – the ‘coastlands’ are the court, and God delivers this fact-finding defence speech.
And the bottom line is this - as God speaks through the prophet, to the descendants of Abraham:
I have chosen you and not cast you off ;
do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God…
The uncertainty and despair in our own nation has been unprecedented in my lifetime. Our nation, too, is waiting for a message of hope.
- A message that will bring closure to the fear that uncertainty inevitably brings.
- Something to bring hope of healing and reconciliation to relationships within our nation, and between our nation and our neighbours in Europe.
- A message that will give us faith that to be united is something that is even a possibility in the light of the divisions, disarray and distrust that are the topics of many of our news reports and conversations.
It is hard to imagine having a role in reconciliation when we hold strong personal views and longings ourselves, and we will all bear hurts and anguish in the midst of the turmoil. The strength and diversity of the conflicting views are part of the problem we shall face in the long term, but I think that the Church does and should have a role in rebuilding trust and respect.
What I am also certain about is that we must pray as hard as ever. Paul – part of whose second letter to Timothy we heard earlier, is so very often urging the recipients of his letter to pray; and almost always to pray with thanksgiving.
Paul’s letters are sprinkled with these little phrases like this:
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.
Pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances, (for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you).
1 Thessalonians 5.17
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.)
And in his first letter to Timothy:
I urge that supplications, prayers intercessions and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
1 Timothy 2.1-2
And when we find that we are lost for the words to use, be encouraged by another prayer tip from Paul:
We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that the very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints of God according to the will of God.)
Romans 8. 26, 27
May the God of hope, the God of resurrection, of reconciliation and of love, give us hope, help us to pray, and show us the way.