The Eternal Covenant of Redemption
Rev. Dr. Charlotte W. Myers
(Rev. Dr. Charlotte W. Myers is an ordained ABC minister who serves hospice patients, marginalized lay women’s missions and ministries, and an advocate for ministerial collegial covenant groups. She currently is Secretary-Elect for the ABC National “The Ministers Council” and Church Women United State President of the Northern California/Northern Nevada)
Isaiah 54:1-10 (RSV)
Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord. 2 Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.
4 Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. 5 For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. 6 For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. 7 For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.
9 For this is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you. 10 For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
God’s care and commitment to humanity is complex. Today, believers experience this relationship in very personal ways. Historically, however, relationship with God was revealed as being with tribal family groups or community. This bible text speaks to the complex nature of a whole community being in covenant with God. It speaks of a faith in God like streams flowing together from a variety of directions, but headed toward the same end. It is a confluence or flowing together toward a community joining and participating in the world through their experiences with God.
The illustration of a barren woman transformed from hopelessness to abundantly bearing children as evidence of godly blessing, represents a particular and peculiar people in relationship to God’s love and care for the nation of Israel. Israel was unfruitful like a barren woman, but God’s intervention has changed her lament into joyful songs.
The text is telling us that God’s people, Israel, have returned to him and he has sworn to once again make them prosperous. In this context of communal faith in God, prosperity is illustrated as an abundance of children or new life.
As contemporary Christians, celebrating Advent, we recognize Israel’s covenantal relationship as being fulfilled through the birth and life of Christ as Redeemer. Here in the Book of Isaiah, we see the prophetic word calling the faithful to return, repent and be renewed by trusting in God’s blueprint. We see this text as a long-standing promise to release us from the unholy grip of sin and evil.
It helps us to better understand the true nature of God and his messenger, Christ. Since it is through Christ that God freely offers us forgiveness for our participation in today’s sin and our own evil. This is God’s message of comfort to each of us and through it we have access to peace with each other and fellowship with him.
Let us pray: Lord, God of All, hear our prayers and be present with us. Allow us to lean toward you in our understanding and comprehension of your promises in this day and time. We often feel the arrows of despair and nod our heads in regret and contempt during the dark hours of degeneration which rattle through our times. But through Christ and your word we are restored and seek renewal in the Name of the Redeemer, Amen.