We are studying Isaiah 43:1-4 and 10-12 (perhaps with a look at the entire text in verses 1-21) this week. Historically, the entire text is direct speech from God to the people of Israel in exile in Babylonia, shortly before the end of the exile. This historical situation, and this situation of direct discourse, might prompt us to ask: What does this message in particular tell us about God’s relationship to God’s people?
That is, if we look at what God is telling people – and here, we might want to work through the text, and make a note of all the ways God describes Godself here, and all the things God mentions about what God has done and is doing – what seems to be important to God in this text? And why do we think that might be, at this particular time? Why do we think God wants God’s people to know this, now? (That is, when they are about to be rescued from exile?)
This line of questioning seems like one that could take us in several directions, about God, and about God’s people, and about God’s desired relationship with the people. All of that, presumably, matters to us as well. If we think of God as fitting messages, words, to the time and place, and to the state of the relationship between God and people … that is, if we think of God as an actual conversation partner … how does that affect the way we read this text? Or, the Bible in general? Or, how we understand what God is saying to us, at present?
Some notes on the text are here. Here are a couple of additional questions we might want to think about, or discuss in class:
In v1, God makes a point of telling these people “you are mine.” What does this seem to mean – that is, what are the consequences of being “God’s” – here?
Are there people who are not God’s? (Any suggestion of this in the text?) Not precious to God?
What difference does it make how we answer this question?
In verses 10-12, God tells the people they are God’s witnesses. What does it seem to mean to be a “witness”? To what or for what are the people witnesses? What is the purpose of this witnessing, do we think?
[More personal] Are we ourselves witnesses to anything God has done, or anything God is? What is that? Thoughts, feelings about this?
God points out that God has “created” and “formed” the people specifically for God’s glory. Are there implications of this – for instance, what kind of creation reflects glory on a creator? Does that tell us anything about these people? About God? What?
[More personal] Does it bother us that God has acted “for God’s glory”? Why, or why not? What difference does it make how we answer this question, do we think?
[More personal] Are “the people of God” now, in our own time, also “created” and “formed” for God’s glory, do we think? Does that include us, do we think? Thoughts or feelings about this?
What does our text tell us about conditions for praising God?
Are there “conditions” for praising God? What are they, do we think? [That is – are there things people need to know, either about God or about themselves or about … things? Experiences people need to have had? Things that need to be going on – particular features of the time and place? Other?]
Image: “Reading,” Alexander Moravov, 1913, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons