We’re studying Isaiah 51:1-8 for Sunday, June 26 – a dramatic announcement to the people of God that comfort for Zion, and God’s salvation and deliverance, are all on the horizon. So we may want to think more deeply about who, specifically, we think of when we hear “God’s people,” and what kind of comfort, specifically, we understand those people to need, or want. Some notes on the text are here. Here are a few questions we might want to think about or discuss:
God, the speaker, names the audience three separate times in the text (vv1, 4, and 7): “you who pursue righteousness and seek the HOLY ONE,” “my people, my nation,” and “you who know righteousness and have my teaching in your hearts.” Who do we understand this group to include? Who would feel themselves addressed by these statements, do we think? Do we ourselves feel addressed? How do we feel about that? Why?
[possibly more speculative] What are our impressions of the way the membership of this group has changed over time? Where have we gathered those impressions from? How homogeneous does this group feel to us? How do we feel about that?
What does the instruction to look to Abraham and Sarah mean to us?
Do we feel like their story is “our” story? In what way? Why? Or, do we feel it is more “someone else’s story”? In what way? Why? What difference does it make if we think of it as “our” story, or as “other’s” story?
If we ourselves do that looking – if we meditate on the experience of Abraham and Sarah – what does that story tell us about God? How does it affect our confidence in God, or expectations for God’s activity? Why is that?
Verse 3 presents a vivid description of comfort for Zion; verse 6 presents a description of the impermanence of the heavens and earth, compared with God’s salvation and deliverance. What effect do these images have on us as readers? Do they feel desirable, comforting, reassuring, … ? Why is that?
What attributes or qualities of God’s do these images emphasize for us? How does that affect our own image or impression of God? [e.g., does it reinforce what we already think of God, modify it in some way – what way? Does it make God feel closer, more distant, more or less involved, … what?] Why is that, do we think?
[more personal] Thinking of our own relationship with God, what do verses like these contribute to that relationship? Why is that, do we think?
One way we might want to approach thinking about this text is as an invitation to think about the history of God’s people, and the way that history tells us about the faithfulness of God, and what the faithfulness of God means to us – that is, what does it include and what does it not seem to include.
A different approach might focus on what it means for us to think of ourselves as “God’s people,” or as members of the larger group of “God’s people.” What does that identity mean to us, and how do we think it relates to our experiences in life?
Image: “Der Plausch am Weg” [the chat on the way], Oswald Achenbach, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons