Focus Scripture: Isaiah 62:1-9 (NRSV)
Examining the Scripture
The scripture in this chapter is located in the last section of the book of Isaiah known as Third-Isaiah, which covers the early postexilic period (c. 540-520 BCE), shortly after Persia had conquered Babylon and the king had permitted the people of Israel to return to a small parcel of land near Jerusalem. In prophecy, Jerusalem was often called Zion, which was initially the name of the hill on which the citadel stood, or even possibly the name of the fortress itself. In any case, when the prophets spoke of the future of Jerusalem they often used the title Zion.
After the people finally arrived there after being released from captivity, they found that the land had been ravished, and they felt that God had stopped caring for them. I imagine that the people felt hopeless and abandoned. But that was far from the case. In the middle of all that depression and angst, God wanted the people to know God’s intent for them. And, as is customary in such situations, God sent a prophet to deliver the intended message.
In Isaiah 62:1-3, we experience an epiphany. The prophet is concerned with rebuilding Jerusalem after the people’s return from exile, but he is also worried about the more profound task of restoring the hope and faith the people may have lost during the exile experience.
In that regard, God sent the prophet to deliver a word of hope to a disheartened people, whose spirits were very low. God sent the prophet to encourage a people who felt forsaken, a people who believed that they were lost and alone, a people who needed to experience an epiphany to arouse them out of their lowly state of mind. I submit to you that Zion in its state of desperation was a lot like Wednesday’s child.
- Verse 4 describes God’s intent to rename the city and its people. Discuss the implications of changing one’s name.
- Isaiah compares Jerusalem’s future relationship with God to a marriage. How should we interpret this idea? What are the implications of this relationship?
- In the Old Testament, watchmen were often stationed on city walls or in towers to look out for approaching enemies; alternatively, they were to keep an eye open for messengers bearing good news. Who are the modern-day watchmen, and what are their responsibilities?
- The prophet tells us that the Lord has promised his people a harvest that will not be taken away by their enemies (v. 8). This promise is to be fulfilled in the future. What responsibility does the church have to encourage God’s people and help them endure until the promise is fulfilled? What are the church’s strengths and weaknesses in meeting this responsibility?
Some of you might be familiar with a nursery rhyme entitled “Wednesday’s Child.” It first appeared in literature in the 1830s and was supposed to predict a child’s character or future based on the child’s day of birth. It was also meant to help young children remember the seven days of the week. You will notice when you hear the rhyme that children born on all the days except Wednesday are predicted to have favorable futures. One common modern version goes like this:
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is fair and wise and good in every way.
As Christians, we have all been called to love our neighbors by speaking hope and promise into their lives. Some of you might be asking: who is our neighbor? I submit to you that the definition of neighbor includes Wednesday’s child – the children who often get lost in the shuffle when our communities start to decline. Sometimes, Wednesday’s children need someone with a prophetic vision to look past that woeful outer shell and lay eyes on the beauty that lies in their spirit. We have a responsibility to introduce Wednesday’s children to the one who can make everything all right. We need to remind them that God is handing out new names and new identities even as we speak. The scripture for this chapter tells us that God sees the best in Wednesday’s children and that a new life is only a prayer away.
Church in Community Exercises
- Identify ways in which the church might help young people draw parallels between the present and significant events that occurred in the past.
- What are your church’s current strengths and weaknesses in helping children raise critical consciousness about their circumstances?
- In what ways could the church make use of mentors to help young people build confidence and competence in serving the community? What are the pros and cons of this approach?
Boff, Leonardo. (1995). Ecology & Liberation: A New Paradigm. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Fowl, S. E., & Jones, L. G. (1991). Reading in Communion. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing.
Reed, L. (2017). The Agape Alternative. Chicago, IL: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Thurman, H. (2003). Disciplines of the Spirit (10th edition). Richmond, IN: Friends United Press.