Advent Reading Day 4 – Upside Down Inside Out Hope

“‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord…For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected,’ says your God.”  Isaiah 54

Upside down.   Inside out.   That would describe God’s words through Isaiah the prophet.   How can I be barren and blessed at the same time?  How could one rejoice that she has not been forgotten while all indicators point to her having been?  Yet, within Isaiah’s prophecy we get an insight into the hugeness of God’s heart and His plan for redemption. Israel had come out of a season of barrenness and unfaithfulness and had now come to the place of repentance.  And as they do this, The Lord reminds them that He is the One who redeems them.   He has been with them as a husband who has long suffered with an unfaithful wife and He is busy at work redeeming them – they are not alone.

But, here in these words we also get a glimpse into the hugeness of God’s Mission.   He shows that He is not just about Israel, but rather He is The God of all the earth.  In verse 3 he also talks about how Israel will spread out to the right and to the left – something that commentators take to refer to God’s larger mission to The Whole Earth and not merely to be The God of Israel.   The God of inclusion.  The God of mission.  The God who spreads the net wide and welcomes all who will respond into relationship with Himself.

This is the hope of Jesus.  The One who Simeon declares to not only be the salvation of Israel, but also a light to The Gentiles.  Jesus comes as the fulfillment of God’s Mission throughout history.   He is the climax of God’s Mission to redeem what was lost and bring everyone and everything back into relationship with Himself, no matter ethnicity, religious background, race or class.  He shows us that He is The Redeemer that we never deserved.  Even in our unfaithfulness, He was faithful.  His Mission leads to Jesus’ coming – His incarnation, His nativity, His ministry, His death, His resurrection and His return.  In all of it God is redeeming that which has been lost.  In all of it He is calling our attention from the desolation and barrenness at hand to instead remember His Mission as a long suffering, faithful Husband to His people.

It feels good to know that we not only have have been remembered, but that we’ve been included and are being redeemed.  This same Jesus is actively working to make Himself known in the most unexpected of places where we imagine there to be barrenness and desolation and at times even believe that God cannot reach to…to the wife who was just left by her husband,  to the guy trying to drown his sorrows at the bar, to the person struggling with their sexuality, to the witch doctor who has a different kind of power encounter,  to the practicing Muslim to whom Jesus appears in a dream.  His Mission has been redemption since the beginning…despite our collective roadblocks, failures and unfaithfulness.   Feels good to be included, doesn’t it?

Prayer:  Today’s prayer centers around those whom we feel have been excluded from redemption…

Jesus, we repent of our unfaithfulness to You and Your Kingdom.  At times we lose sight of you.  We also repent of how we tend to think of your coming in Insider terms.  We repent of how we have made it more about us as insiders, rather than the wideness and vastness of The Kingdom that You came proclaiming.  Help us to be mindful of those we consider to be Outsiders – as we once were ourselves – and help us to point the way to You – God with Us, the only hope of redemption. Amen.

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