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God the Savior, before and after exile

July 5, 2022

Daily Scripture

Isaiah 33:21-24, 43:9-13

Isaiah 33

21 The LORD’s majesty will be there for us:
as a place of rivers, broad streams
where no boat will go,
no majestic ship will cross.
22 The LORD is our judge;
the LORD is our leader;
the LORD is our king—
he will deliver us.
23 Your ropes are loosened;
they can’t hold the mast firmly;
they can’t spread the sail.
Then abundant spoil will be divided;
even the lame will seize spoil.
24 And no inhabitant will say, “I’m sick.”
The people living there will be forgiven their sin.

Isaiah 43

9 All the nations are gathered together;
the peoples are assembled.
Which of them announced this?
Who predicted to us the past events?
Let them bring their witnesses as a defense;
let them hear and say, “It’s true!”
10 You are my witnesses, says the LORD,
my servant, whom I chose,
so that you would know and believe me
and understand that I am the one.
Before me no god was formed;
after me there has been no other.
11 I, I am the LORD,
and there is no savior besides me.
12 I announced, I saved, I proclaimed,
not some stranger among you.
You are my witnesses, says the LORD,
and I am God.
13 From the dawn of time, I am the one.
No one can escape my power.
I act, and who can undo it?

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The prophet most mainline scholars call “Isaiah of Jerusalem” (chapters 1-39) wrote confidently that God would deliver Israel even when defeat and judgment loomed ahead of their stubbornly rebellious kings and people. The prophet the scholars identify as “second Isaiah” (chapters 40-55) spoke to conditions 100 or more years later, after the exile ended. As Israelites returned from Babylon, he pictured God triumphantly announcing, “There is no savior besides me. I announced, I saved.”

  • In the Hebrew Scriptures, God as “deliverer” or “savior” most often meant deliverer from slavery, oppression and earthly enemies. That did not exclude salvation from trouble or despair but spoke less frequently to those concerns. Yet, as Isaiah showed, that confidence survived even times of terrible defeat, slavery and suffering. How can you maintain your trust in God’s saving presence even when things do not immediately turn out the way you would wish?
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. often said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Apparently, he shortened and paraphrased an idea from an American abolitionist preacher in 1853. * As Pastor Hamilton often reminds us, when God wants something done on earth, God most often sends God’s people to accomplish that. The prophet in Isaiah 43 said, on God’s behalf, “you are my witnesses.” How can you use your influence on the side of God’s saving purposes?

Dear God, there is no Savior besides you, and you call me to be one of your witnesses. Guide me to the most effective ways I can use my specific gifts to share your saving character with others. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Denise Mersmann

Denise Mersmann

Denise serves as the Care Coordination Director for the churchwide Care Central department at Church of the Resurrection.

“You are my witnesses,” says the Lord.

What exactly does that mean for us? What have we witnessed, and what are we called to do with this information? When we witness something significant, it is typical for us to share that information. As witnesses our role is to make sure that we share what we have witnessed with others.

God has called us to love our neighbor, and to use our freedom to serve one another with love. He doesn’t tell us to judge or condemn others, to find fault or to force our will onto those around us. In fact, we are to look first for the log in our own eye before we point out the splinter in the eye of a friend.

In a time where there seems to be constant friction between people who have different views on politics, moral issues, and nearly every other matter, it is easy to lose focus; to forget what we have been called as witnesses for. It is easier in many cases to judge our neighbor than to love them.

What would happen if, when faced with a decision, instead of immediately thinking “What is best for me?” we considered “How might this impact other people?” And as we think about the impact on other people, we accepted that with our diverse backgrounds, wildly different circumstances, and varied personal experiences what is best for us might bring great harm to others.

For years there was a slogan (“I Am Third”) that was a reminder that God is first, other people second, and we are third. Recently, I saw a professional athlete saying, “I Am Second.” When I asked someone about that, they assured me that the current phrase is indeed, “I Am Second.” I spent a lot of time thinking about this. While I am completely on board with each of us making proper self-care a priority, I can’t help but think when we put ourselves above everyone else, we become the problem.

God has called us to be witnesses, and in doing so to help others experience God’s calling to love our neighbor and to serve each other with love.

I don’t know everything about you, but I know that God has called me to love you and to use my freedom to serve you. Until I actively focus on seeing things from your perspective, on wanting what is best for the greater good, and realizing that just because our views differ doesn’t make yours wrong, I am failing to answer God’s call. There is no doubt that I don’t always get it right–in fact, more often than not, I fall short. But I certainly hope that at the end of my life, people will think of me as a solid three-–someone who put God first, others second, and myself third.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Click here to read Michael Denzel Smith’s article “The Truth About ‘The Arc Of The Moral Universe,’” examining the history of Dr. King’s quote and the importance of actively defining and working for justice rather than passively waiting for it to happen