Have you ever felt like God abandoned you in your time of need?
That’s exactly how the Jews felt during exile in Babylon. Before exile, back in Israel, they were behaving badly. They really got what they deserved. But now, they were in a foreign land, surrounded by foreign gods and customs. There was no hope of ever returning back home. It felt like God had deserted them; It felt like He had left them high and dry, right when they needed him most.
- Let’s start in the middle, and work out to the ends. Verse 27 sums up the feelings of the people. Words like “my way is hidden from the Lord” and that they felt “disregarded by God” indicate that they felt abandoned. They thought that God had left them to waste away in Babylon.
- Verse 28a is a repeat of verse 21, the beginning of our passage. “Have you not known? Have you not heard?” Isaiah is urging these discouraged people to remember what they have been taught of old. Remember the stories. Remember God’s chesed*, his steadfast love.
- Verses 22-26 give us a global perspective—the view from God’s point of view. We are like grasshoppers! Have you ever ridden in an airplane, or been high up in a skyscraper? That’s what people look like, isn’t it?
- Verse 24 reminds us of the short-lived nature of humankind— our frailty. Earlier in chapter 40, Isaiah says:
“All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.” Isaiah 40:6b-7
- Verse 26 reminds us that God created us all, calls us by name, and none are missing. God is still there, and He loves us.
- Verse 28 speaks of God’s strength.
- Verses 29-31 say that He gives this strength to us. “Those who wait on the Lord”, those who are faithful and true, will get renewed strength from God.
Some of us would love to fly like an eagle. Others would take great joy in merely being able to run or even walk again. But our spiritual strength comes through being faithful to the Lord. The Holy Spirit will give us the spiritual strength we need to soar like an eagle. The Holy Spirit will not abandon us, because of God’s steadfast love for us.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
How do we get this strength? Sometimes, it is given through prayer. Other times, we receive it by sharing our burden with fellow Christians, or by shouldering others’ burdens.
*Chesed is a Hebrew word which is often translated as “steadfast love”. It is more than that. The Old Testament is full of examples of humankind’s failure to live up to God’s expectations. It is full of stories of our sinfulness. But through it all, we clearly see the love of God at work, loving us, and saving us time and time again. This is chesed in action. It is God’s unfailing love for us, in spite of our actions.
1 CORINTHIANS 9:16-23
In the eighth chapter of Paul’s letter, he discussed the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. Chapter 9 makes an abrupt turn. Paul appears to be angry, and on the defensive. Some of the Christians in Corinth have criticized Paul’s lack of sophistication in his preaching style. They must have also taken some personal pot shots at him, because he defends not only his style, but his way of life. He “had the right” to take a wife, and earn a wage. But he gave all these up to be the type of apostle that he felt God expected him to be. Let’s take a look at what he says.
- He tells us in verse 16 that he can’t brag about being a preacher; it was something God expected of him. He couldn’t not be an apostle—he was compelled to do this. He had no choice.
- He does all of this for free. He can’t charge for something that God has compelled him to do—he is “entrusted with a commission.” (vv. 17-18)
- He then says that his reward is in spreading the gospel message free of charge. Other apostles were married, as we will see in the gospel lesson. Other apostles might have been paid for their services. But due to Paul’s inner urgency to preach the Gospel, and his conscience, he felt obligated to relinquish these rights.
- Verses 19-22a are his answer to those who criticized his unsophisticated style of preaching the gospel. Some might think Paul to be wishy-washy, like a leaf in the wind. But in fact, he is being clever and flexible. He knows that he is most effective when he adapts to the situation; when he changes his style to fit the listener.
- He drives the nail home in verse 23. It’s all for the sake of spreading the gospel. And it sure did work, didn’t it?
There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. Some chose to remain celibate, to devote their lives to service to the Lord, some do not. Some chose to leave well-paying careers to follow a life of service to God. There is no one way to serve God.
There is also no one way to worship the Lord. People of different ages and cultures respond to different styles of worship. All give God the glory. All are acceptable to the Lord.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Perhaps if we are more flexible and sensitive to those around us, we might become better at spreading the good news of Jesus.
Today’s reading comes on the heels of last week’s Gospel lesson. Jesus was teaching in the synagogue with authority, and cast demons out of some of those present.
- Right after leaving the synagogue, they go to Simon (Peter) and Andrew’s home in Capernaum, in Galilee. Simon’s mother-in-law is ill. (Note: Simon Peter must be married, then, right?) Jesus heals her on the spot, and she resumes her domestic duties. (vv. 29-31)
- In that time and place, the next day began at sunset. So, once the sun had set, it was no longer the Sabbath; work could resume. People came to be healed, both physically and emotionally. (vv. 32-33)
- It is interesting that Jesus did not permit the demons to speak. He was not ready to have his full identity revealed. He was on a mission. Full disclosure would have interfered with that. (v. 34)
- Early in the morning, Jesus finds a quiet place to pray. He must have sneaked away from his disciples, because they had to “hunt for him”. (vv. 35-37)
- Jesus tells them that they must move on to other villages. There is urgency in his words. Why the rush? Jesus says the he must “proclaim the message… for that is what I came out to do.” And go, they did. (vv. 38-39)
Sometimes, we put so much emphasis on the cross that we draw attention away from the other parts of Jesus’ mission. The healing and casting out of demons was done not only out of compassion for the sick and the outcast, but to demonstrate his power and authority. This authority was recognized by some in the synagogue in last week’s passage. Soon, he will begin to teach us about our relationship with God using parables and sermons on mount and plain.