Confused

Isaiah 43:16-21 with the reactions of the original author.

Maybe.

Thus says the LORD,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick.

Ah! I hear you, LORD.
The army that destroyed Jerusalem
shall find destruction like
the chariots of Pharaoh overwhelmed
by falling walls of water,
extinguished surely like a wick.

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.

Wait. What? But you…
But you just brought it up.
And now you want me to forget
what you just said? I… No. I can’t.

I am about to do a new thing;

All right. A something new. But I don’t see
why I should spend the futile effort
to forget the thing you did before,
the thing you just recalled to mind
yourself. You did. You know you did.

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

Well, since you ask… No! I don’t perceive it.
It hasn’t happened yet. Um. Right?
For here we are in Babylon and scattered round
the circuit of its walls. We languish here
as exiles from our homes, and all we see
are walls and spears and brutal troops.

Now, we could do with a repeat of Exodus.
A plague or two or three or ten, or wait:
would you consider, for these Babylonians,
to raise the volume to eleven?
I have no doubt that Nebuchadnezzar will
exhibit his hard heart as Pharaoh long ago.

I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

Well, that will be a thing. I see.
Instead of crossing water now,
a waste of desert lies between
the ill of our exile and the blessings of
our homeland far away.
So will you strand the Babylonians
in wasteland waterless as we
rejoice for lack of thirst?

The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people.

Now just a minute there. That doesn’t sound
like rivers flowing just for us,
and not for them.

the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.

Now, are you sure this message is the one
you really want me to proclaim? Because
I see a central problem here with this “new thing.”
The old thing worked quite well, you know?
It got us out alive, and kept an army off our back.
These flowing rivers sound quite nice, except
that flowers and rushes will not slow pursuit.

Oh, bring us home and you can count on praise.
But LORD, I just don’t see it. Nor will they.
Call us weary of you if you like,
but what will freedom look like when it comes, and when?

A poem/prayer based on Isaiah 43:16-21, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year C, Fifth Sunday in Lent. 

The image of Isaiah is by an 18th century icon painter – Iconostasis of Transfiguration church, Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3235458.

5 thoughts on “Confused

  1. It’s the *empathy* that’s brilliant. You understand Isaiah as if you were him. That’s a real skill. The Good News is proclaimed that it’s ok to be confused…really ok. Isaiah is to you what you are to your listeners. You’re pretty sure he knows what he’s doing, but — to be honest (another great quality, btw) — you’re not *totally* sure he knows what he’s talking about. He’s given you reason to have faith in him, so you will, but you’re going to have to hold your nose to do it…and you will be all right.

    Extending the metaphor, God is to Isaiah as Isaiah is to you. In turn, you are the same way to your listeners. God is truthful and caring, but demanding and asks weird things of Isaiah at times. Because of that, Isaiah is truthful and caring, but demanding and asks weird things of people like you, these thousands of years later. When you tell this story, they know that you are being honest and caring, but demanding of weird stuff at times. It’s all a through line to God….

    Wow, I got way off on a tangent, but I agree with Maren. And confusion is the way to brilliance. Peace, my friend! Nice job.

    • Well. I’m just speechless, John. You’ve gone very deeply into what I’d written – more deeply than I did in writing it, I think. I’ve learned new things here! Thank you so much. Peace to you, my friend!

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