“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called.” – Isaiah 48:12 (NRSV)
“Listen.” “Hearken.” “Assemble, all of you, and hear!” “Draw near to me and hear.”
Chapter 48 of Isaiah echoes with the injunction to the Israelites to listen up. Theirs was a fearful and uncertain time. Most were still exile in Babylon as a new military power swept through the region. Commentator James Muilenburg noted, “Empires were toppling. Commerce and trade were in chaos.”
Israelites who had been able to return to Jerusalem found the holy city in ruins and the land devastated. In Muilenburg’s words, “The depressed and fearful mood which prevailed during the Exile settled on them once more.” The prophet spoke to an anxious people, whose lives were filled with fear and dread.
What did he say in such a troubled time? “Listen.” “Hearken.” “Draw near.” “Hear.” In a word, reconnect with the One who was both the first and the last, who had “laid the foundation of the earth and whose right hand spread out the heavens.”
The prophet knew he couldn’t just say, “Be not afraid.” He had shared his people’s suffering and knew their terror first-hand. He knew the only way to overcome that terror was to come back to the living God. So he gave voice to God’s love: “I am the One who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you should go.”
In our time of uncertainty and even fear, may we heed Isaiah’s call and reconnect with the God of earth and heaven.
Help us to pay attention to you, Lord. In your love, may we find our hope and courage. Amen.