Today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah finds the people of Israel in deep despair, wondering if they’ve been abandoned by God.

The land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the land that God led them to after freeing them from slavery in Egypt; the land where King David ruled and where the magnificent Temple, the very dwelling place of God, was built — that land is no longer theirs.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and his powerful armies have sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Those Israelites who weren’t killed were captured and taken back to Babylon, where they remain in exile.

The Israelites are broken, defeated, and humiliated, filled with doubts and questions about God. Why did God allow this to happen? Has God forgotten or negated the divine covenant with the people of Israel? Does God no longer love them?

Even more disturbingly they wonder: Are the Babylonian gods more powerful than the God of Israel? What chances do the exiled people of Israel have in a world dominated by emperors and their mighty armies?

Those are the questions and doubts addressed by the prophet Isaiah. His answer is an emphatic defense of the God of Israel against all other, lesser gods.

The Babylonian gods are mere idols, created by human hands, the prophet proclaims. The God of Israel, on the other hand, created the entire universe. Their God formed the foundations of the Earth, and created the heavens with the ease of one spreading out a curtain.

God sits above the Earth in regal splendor, so high and lifted up, so elevated and exalted, that the human inhabitants of the Earth are seen only at a distance, as small as insects.

“To whom will you compare me, or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

The answer, obviously, is no one.

Isaiah also reminds the people that their powerful, creating God does not merely stay in the heavens looking down on the people. God is deeply involved in the events of human history.

The God who governs the heavens can dispatch the nations of the Earth. This God “brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the Earth as nothing.”

The God who rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and made a covenant with them still remembers them and is about to rescue them from their enemies once more. The people of Israel may feel that the strength of the Babylonian military and empire are overwhelming, but they cannot stop the power of God.

As one commenter notes,  this “describes the heart of biblical faith as the entry of God into the confusion of human affairs.

“Like the rush of a forceful wind, God’s entry sweeps away every obstacle that stands between the community and its God, as tyrants fall like stubble and a way is made through the wilderness.”

The people of Israel may feel like the situation is hopeless, but the power of God is about to bring their exile to an end.

There are parallels between the Israelites’ plight and our own days; so many ways in which the situation around the world seems hopeless.

Look at present-day Israel, the descendants of the people whom Isaiah addresses. They were victims of an unspeakable act of terrorism by Hamas in October — leading to many deaths, other acts of violence, and the taking of Israeli citizens as hostages.

And then look at Israel’s response to that atrocity — the bombing and killing of thousands of innocent people in Gaza, the destruction of hospitals and infrastructures, creating situations of hunger and disease.

Look at Ukraine, entering into its third year of war against Russia, who invaded their land.

Look at our own country, where people fleeing desperate situation are treated cruelly, making a mockery of the Statue of Liberty that proudly proclaims “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Or look closer to home. On the surface most of our lives, or the lives of people around us seem good. Almost everyone we know has access to shelter, food, and water. Most are employed.

But beneath the surface there are struggles with addiction, with loneliness and emptiness, with illness and grief. 

In truth, no one gets through life without periods of questioning and despair. There are times when all of us may feel faint, weary, powerless, and exhausted.

But the God of Israel, our God, is none of these things.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?” Isaiah asks the people of Israel and us.

God does not grow faint or weary. God gives power to the faint and strength to the powerless.

God is just what we weary exiles need, a God who does not stay in the distant heavens, but who enters into the confusion of human affairs. 

No one can answer why evil rages around a world created by a loving, powerful God. have 

A person I was talking to recently said they had a list of questions to ask when they see God face to face. I’m betting that most of us have such a list.

One commentator put it this way.

“We don’t think of ourselves as soaring eagles. We run and get weary. We walk and get weary. Sometimes we don’t even move and get weary.

“To wait for God is to hope anyway, to believe that God is there through it all, that there’s a light at the end. 

“When we are alone, God is with us. When we think we can’t go on, God strengthens us. When our heart is broken, God heals us. When we cannot give anymore, God gives. When we cannot love, God loves.”

Even when we do not realize it at the time, even when our belief in God is lacking, God is faithful.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.


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