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Isaiah 12

Have you ever held your breath waiting for some kind of intense pain to pass and ease? Have you ever known the joy and the peace of returning to normal and breathing easy after a season of exertion and exhaustion that left you out of breath and gasping? The litany from Isaiah 12 is about God’s people who had been holding their breath in exile coming to exhale and breath in the fresh air of God’s grace, might and renewal.

God’s judgements against his people begin to take shape in chapter 9. The arrogance and pride of his people had angered God. The elders and dignitaries of Israel were more willing to trust in and turn to the nations of world for their safety and security than to the God who had created, loved and cared for them. This pride and arrogance was not confined to those on top, even young people, widows and orphans where judged for their arrogance and pride. “For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.” (Isa. 9:21, NRSV)

God’s anger burned against his people for creating oppressive laws that allowed some of God’s people to prey upon others of God’s people. The poor became a commodity. The needy became nothing more than a means to the end of the wealthy. Injustice and the diminishing of human beings was met with a corrective God breathed calamity. “For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.” (Isa. 10:4, NRSV)

Mixed in with the heat of God’s anger and punishment are promises for the those of his people who truly repent. For the repentant remnant there is given the promise of a return to their own land. For those who return there is the promise of a king like David that will rise up out of the stump of Jesse. What was cut off will be reborn. It will be a kingdom according to chapter 11 that will be marked by the Spirit’s wisdom, counsel and knowledge. People will fear the Lord and know peace.

God’s people are holding their breath as they prepare to take the hit of exile. They breath in and hold on as they are taken from their homes to Babylon. God’s people lose their breath and pant from the exhaustion and exertion of slavery in a foreign land. God’s people hold their breath in anticipation of a day beyond the pain, beyond the slavery; a day on the other side of God’s anger when wrath abates and they can return home.