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First and Last

July 16, 2020

“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” Isaiah 44:6

The Israelites’ exile in Babylon was cause for despair. Torn away from land, temple, and home, the people were left with little reason for hope. The evidence all suggested that their God, the LORD (YHWH), was unable to stop the destruction of the nation. Was their God, in the end, of less consequence than Marduk, the chief of the Babylonian gods?

The LORD speaks through Isaiah, creating hope for the future by reminding them of who God is. God is the LORD, the One who has long kept covenant with them. God is the King of Israel; it matters not that no Israelite sits on the throne. God is the Redeemer, the One who will buy back the people from exile and stand for the oppressed. God is the Lord of hosts, the commander of great forces. God is the first, and God is the last. The point isn’t that God is stronger than Marduk; the points is that Marduk doesn’t even exist. He is an empty shell.

The God who saved them in the past will redeem them in the future. And so it would come to pass. In the short term, salvation came through Cyrus the Great, but that relief was temporary. As Christians, we see this promise fulfilled through Jesus Christ, the redeemer of his people who is also the Alpha and the Omega.

Located between the beginning and the end, things can seem bleak for us. But that’s no cause for despair. Is there another God who can derail the LORD’s purpose? No. Setting aside despair, we can live with hope. We can work for the release of all those who are captive to injustice and oppression today. We can stand against the false gods of supremacy and self-righteousness. We can, finally, trust the future to God.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Lord God, you are the beginning and the end. In you we live and move and have our being. Recalling your great deeds of the past, remind us that the future belongs to you. Restored to hope, set us free to work for a better today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: The Prophet Isaiah Predicts the Return of the Jews From Exile, Maarten van Heemskerck, between 1560 and 1565 (public domain).

From → COVID-19

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