We're so glad you decided to join us today!
We are back to meeting in person, and have been for a while. We would love for you to join us at 10 am on Sunday mornings if you have been reading the lesson online. During our opening time together, we take time to share any prayer requests we may have. If you have a request, you can add it as a comment to this post. When you are ready, use the prayer below (source) to get started.
Great Lord and merciful Father; we speak to You not by any right, but by Your invitation, for You have asked us to pray for others. Receive therefore our prayers for friends and for family, for those who suffer and those who face trials, for people who try hard to do Your will but feel that they fail. All Your people Lord, all who have been made according to Your will and who follow You, all of us need a touch of Your grace and the liberty of Your Spirit. Bless us we pray, and as we commit ourselves to You: AMEN
This week, we are starting our summer quarter. The topic will be The Righteous Reign of God. This week's lesson is on Isaiah 52:7-12.
Isaiah chapters 40 through 55 is a large section with the image of a herald announcing good news. Chapter 52, of which we are reading part, is divided into five sections. The first four, through verse 12, invites exiled Israelites to return home because Babylon is about to fall to the Persians under Cyrus the Great. Zion is personified as a woman. The period of exile is depicted as one of slumber for the ancient city. A rebuilt Jerusalem would welcome home her returning children. The holy and ethical acts to which the prophets had always called the people could be embraced anew as Jerusalem was given another chance to live up to her calling and potential.
A Call to Rejoice
Paul quoted Isaiah 52:7 in Romans 10:15 as part of his discussion about the relationship between preaching and faith. The good news affects the one announcing it as well as the hearers. Paul was talking about spreading the gospel message. In Isaiah, the announcement is the good news of the return from Babylonian exile to the homeland of Israel and especially to Jerusalem.
God's rule over the cosmos is celebrated and affirmed. People who believe that God reigns live in hope of the time when all the evils of the world will disappear and goodness will triumph. When the city of Jerusalem is rebuilt, everyone will see the miraculous deeds of God. Then, there will be an appropriate response of celebration and worship.
A Call for a New Exodus
The passage calls for the people to return to Jerusalem, and to bring the temple articles back with them. The temple articles had been used by the Babylonian kings for unholy purposes. The people needed to avoid unclean things in order to carry the holy articles back.
The people of Israel had their first exodus when they left Egypt for the promised land. This return would be a new exodus. Our book says the second exodus contains both a departure from the past first exodus and a continuity with it. In the first exodus, the people had to quickly flee. In the second exodus, they could carefully plan, and depart when all was ready. In both cases, divine protection would be needed.
The greatest enemy of faith is often traced to a loss of hope. This week's text called on the people of Israel to reclaim their hope so that they could act in faith toward God. The temptation to despair undoubtedly remained strong. That is not something one can simply will away. By refreshing memories of God's saving actions of the past, Isaiah's prophetic vision of the future could be believed and acted on.
The good news of God's saving work should always create a climate of gratitude, joy, desire to share the news, and generous acceptance of all who receive it. There can be no greater calling than that of bearing God's words of hope to people who are seemingly without hope. Let us celebrate the good ways in which God can use us as his vessels to transform the lives of those around us.
O God, who calls us to faith, empower us to leave the comfortable and familiar for places you would have the message of your son spread. We pray in the name of that son. Amen.
Questions for Discussion
This week's benediction is from the New King James Version.
Next week's lesson is on Isaiah 65:17-25.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.