Living under judgement: Isaiah 47.1–11 (14 June 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Reflect

Daily reflection: Isaiah 47

Israel is to return home from Babylon thanks to God's action through the conquering King Cyrus. But the slate isn't wiped clean. Even as an instrument of God's judgement on Israel, Babylon has behaved cruelly: 'I was angry with my people; I treated them as no longer mine: I put them in your power, and you showed them no mercy; even the aged you treated harshly' (verse 6). It will be punished accordingly (verse 11).

The relation between divine providence and human responsibility has always baffled theologians and philosophers. Sometimes it's led believers to do terrible things in the belief that they're fulfilling God's will. But the lesson in this chapter is that it's never right to be oppressive or cruel. Anyone who does wrong is under God's judgement, no matter what their motivations and no matter how their actions might fit into a wider 'plan'.

So Isaiah 47 speaks of our personal responsibility. It also warns rich and powerful people against assuming that things will carry on as they always have done: 'You thought you would always be a queen,' the prophet tells Babylon (verse 7). No: judgement is coming, if not in this life then in the next.

The prophecy here is about Babylon, but if it's only about the fall of an ancient empire, it's hardly worth reading. It's also about us: God judges sin, whoever commits it and whatever their reasons, and power and wealth are no protection. We all rely on his mercy.

Pray

Pray

God, show me my faults; help me to see myself as I really am, and not to be proud but to trust in your mercy. Forgive me and restore me, I pray.

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