Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Isaiah 43:14-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
14 Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
For your sake I will send to Babylon
and break down all the bars,
and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned to lamentation.[a]
15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your King.
16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
What is God up to? There are times when my immediate response is “I have no idea.” In the midst of difficulties or witnessing hurt and suffering, my honest response is “I don’t know.” And, when it gets right down to it, I suppose that has to be our answer in any particular circumstance.
But, there is another answer. It is the answer to the question that has echoed down through the ages. It is the answer we find in parts of scripture as the people of God are wrestling to figure out where God is in the circumstances of their lives. It is the answer we find reflected in our scripture reading for today. It is the answer we find in the central events of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. It is even found in the very way we Christians conceive of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So, what is God up to?
God is creating. Isaiah reminds the people that God is the creator, the source of all that is. But, God isn’t finished. God is still creating.
What is God up to? We say it in one of our beloved creeds: I believe in God, who has created and is creating.
God is redeeming. Isaiah reminds the people that God has done magnificent things in the past. Not only has God created, but God redeemed them from slavery. God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. He recounts how they escaped from Egypt, victorious over the armies of Pharoah. Isaiah’s message to the people in exile took them back to the past so they could find comfort in knowing that if God acted in the past God can act in the future, as well.
In fact, there is a sudden shift to the future that must have surprised those who first heard the words: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.” (43:18).
But God goes on to say, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (19). God is not only God of the past, but God of the present and God of the future as well.
God acts out of personal relationship to his chosen and beloved people. The first and fourth verses of this chapter make that clear: “I called you by name, you are mine” (end of v. 1). “You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you” (v. 4a).
God again acts in the central event of the New Testament: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul, in his letters, looks back at that event and reminds those early believers of what God has done for them in setting them free and giving them a new life. Paul says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Paul says, “for freedom Christ has set us free.” But, Paul doesn’t stay in the past either. Paul turns to the present and looks to the future. He says that in Christ we are new creations.
He says, “I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us….Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God is sustaining. For the desert tribes of Israel, the life-giving presence of God was intimately tied up in the image of the life-sustaining presence of water. Deliverance and water are found side by side throughout Scripture. Water cleanses, restores and refreshes. The text for today focuses on this water theme as God promises water, “rivers in the desert,” “water in the wilderness,” will be present in abundance.
John 4 tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at the site of Jacob’s well. In verse 14 Jesus says that “…those who drink of the water that I give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
What is God up to? God is still sustaining us, renewing us through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster