but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8, NRSV)
As we near the end of the Lenten season and the end of the Lenten devotional, I looked back over the passages we have been studying this season. I found it interesting that Walt chose primarily Isaiah texts for the devotional: thirty-seven of the forty-seven texts are from Isaiah. I guess that Walt likes the book of Isaiah! (I do, too.)
Isaiah chapter 40 begins a new section in the book and reflects a new historical context (according to most scholarly analysis). Much of the content in chapters 1-39 relates to the 8th century BCE situation of the Israelites, the prophetic speeches in chapters 40-55 relate to the 6th century BCE period known as the “Babylonian Exile.” In this section, Isaiah speaks of God doing “a new thing,” and the language echoes the earlier experience of the people when God rescued them from bondage in Egypt. Now, this prophet says, God is about to rescue them from bondage in Babylon.
In the devotional, Walt focuses on verses 6-8 and the affirmation of trust that “the word of our God will stand forever” (v.8). I am interested in hearing how others understand “the word of God.” Do you think of the Bible? Is it what you hear (or experience) when you pray? When this prophet lived, a Bible as we know it did not yet exist. God’s “Word” was communicated through prophets such as Isaiah.
The Book of Isaiah was a favorite of the New Testament writers. Isaiah is the second most frequently quoted book in the New Testament (the first is the Book of Psalms). The verses of today’s devotional are quoted in the New Testament book of First Peter (1:24-25.) In this context, the author tells people to express “sincere mutual love” and to “love one another earnestly from a pure heart,” reminding them that they have been born anew “through the living and enduring word of God” (1:22-24).
That brings us back to Walt’s conclusion that when we trust in God’s everlasting presence, ”we join the communion of divine love that always has been and always will be.”