Good morning! Today in Isaiah 47-50 we hear a little bit about how Babylon will fall at God’s hand, but more about how God remains the steadfast protector of Judah throughout everything that transpires. Women’s experiences shape some of what this prophet says, and we read several passages about the “suffering servant” that echo with significance in the time of Jesus and beyond.
Chapter 47 details Babylon’s coming fall from power. Isaiah describes the conquering nation as soon to do the work of everyday women rather than maintaining the delicate isolation of royal women. Though apparently by accident, Isaiah gives insight into the experience of the perils faced by ancient working women (“your nakedness shall be uncovered”, and losses of children or spouse—with the economic support those relations represent). When fortune goes the other way, these women face abandonment, which is what is foretold to Babylon as a “preview of coming attractions”.
For the rest of this passage Isaiah focuses on the people of Israel and their servant leader. The writer emphasizes again that Israel’s God is the one who creates the world and rescues the people, not the idols in which Hebrew people might be tempted to place their trust. Adopting the first-person address of God’s own voice, the prophet suggests that what is to happen is foretold by divine means, so that when the great turnabout comes the people of Israel won’t think that it’s the doing of their preferred idols. Trumpet that faithfulness and the stories of God’s deliverance from old, Isaiah says, instead of giving in to the temptation to trust some other source of salvation.
In this reading we also encounter several more of the “servant songs” that Isaiah is known for. I noticed anew here how Isaiah repeats several times the idea that God prepares one for a given role before one’s birth, incubating in advance the ones that God will need for the purposes of salvation. God’s deliverance through the Servant is not just for Israel but also “as a light to the nations”—which makes it easy to see how this is taken out of this context and given new spiritual, universal meaning when applied to Jesus. The same can be said for the other description of the servant’s suffering at the end of chapter 50. Jesus himself may have had Isaiah’s Servant in his heart as an example when his own beard was pulled and his own face was spit upon.
Much of the rest of the passage develops a prophecy about how the coming favor for Zion will overturn the bitter experiences of these exiles. Isaiah 49:15-16 describe divine commitment to remember God’s people through thick and thin. These verses may hold special significance for those who care for parents with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Even though a woman could forget the child she brought into the world, “yet I will not forget you.” Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Isaiah 51-54. Thanks for reading!