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Isaiah 44:6-8

At this time of year it seems that the Gospel readings are primary while the other lections are supplemental. For example, last week we read the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. Psalm 65 spoke of thanksgiving for the beauty and bounty of the earth. Then in Isaiah 55 the earth “burst out in song” in praise of the Lord. The theme of God’s love and care found through creation wove it’s way through the texts.

I believe that Isaiah 44 is connected to Matthew 13 for Proper 11A, but that is not exactly how I want to address this passage. You can make the point that in both passages we evidence of God’s sovereignty, God’s complete transcendence; as creator and redeemer, first and last, and as judge of all the earth. You can make the point that the ultimate redemption of all things is not contingent upon you and me; don’t tear up those weeds.

You could argue that this passage, when connected with Matthew 13 saves us Wesleyans from Pelagianism. Isaiah 44 is found within a divine trial, a divine Judgment. Israel has been put on trial and, as in Matthew 13, we see that God is the only judge. God is the one who can redeem, forgive, separate the righteous. You see, if I’m able to live sinlessness on my own without God’s aid, God’s divine judgment is senseless. There’s no need for God to judge if my salvation is contingent upon me!

But that’s not what I’m going to do for this essay. As valuable as that may be, I don’t want to only look at Isaiah 44 in it’s proximity to Matthew 13. Let us look at Isaiah 44 in it’s own right.

This passage does more than keep us from diving headlong into Pelagianism. The prophet’s justification to not be afraid is the mere existence of God. Because the people of God are witnesses of God, they need not fear. The very existence of God is comforting and uplifting.

This ontological emphasis feels kind of foreign to a culture so heavily influenced by Enlightened Deism. As a citizen of a country founded by fathers who cut out every miraculous thing conducted by Christ (Thomas Jefferson) and publicly proclaimed deists (Benjamin Franklin), modern utilitarianism doesn’t have room for the ontological comfort of Second Isaiah.

The Deism of modernity led to a utilitarianism; that nothing has intrinsic worth, but is only valuable in it’s usefulness. Or maybe it was the utilitarianism of Modernity that led to the deism… Regardless of which is the chicken and which is the egg, we in the west have been formed to believe that things have value in their utility. Just because something exists, just because something is, doesn’t mean it matters.

Hebraic philosophy and theology begs to differ. Simply take a look at Ezekiel 36:22, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.” It’s not for our utility that God acts, but for God’s own.

I don’t know about you, but I find some great comfort in Isaiah’s ontological emphasis. Because God is we don’t have to fear or be afraid. Because God is . Deism is not enough. The existence of God does not mean God is not involved in God’s creation, the existence of God actually demands that God is involved in creation, drawing all things unto Himself.

This is comforting because if we have been created in the image of God, if you and I bear God’s image, it is not our utility that gives us value, it is our existence! When, in our utilitarianism, we reduce God to how God might be useful to me, we are prone to reduce others based on their usefulness for me.

Thanks be to God that we can say with the prophet, “Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me?There is no other rock; I know not one.”


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