But Now

But Now

Isaiah 43 begins with two powerful words: “But now.” They tell us that a significant change is taking place:  “Before, things were one way; BUT NOW a new thing is happening.” Jumping into the 43rd chapter of Isaiah, we can easily miss the “before.”  So go back in your Biblical memory bank – way, way back.  Remember how God built Israel into a mighty nation:  saving them from slavery in Egypt; leading them to a Promised Land; raising up kings like David and Solomon; commissioning the Temple.  Remember that for a time, Israel had all the trappings of a mighty nation:  wealth and soldiers and land and buildings.   As Israel reached its pinnacle, it began to behave like an overconfident teenager who forgets that she owes any of her success to her parents.  Israel turned away from their God to worship other gods.  They did it again, and again, andagainandagainandagain.  God sent prophets to warn them again and again… but no use. The consequence to that sin was exile – being kicked out of their own Promised Land.  The Babylonians took Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah in 587 BC.  Most of God’s people were scattered across the Babylonian Empire. They were exiled.  Exile is the “before.” But now. Something new is taking place.  With the rise of Persia comes the Edict of Cyrus in 587 BC, announcing that the scattered peoples can return to their native lands.  Or, as Isaiah puts it: “I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, Do not withhold;...

Following a Star

We three kings of Orient are Bearing gifts, we traverse a-far. Field and fountain, moor and mountain – Following yonder star. So:  how did the “three kings” find Jesus? The followed “yonder star,” that’s how. The wise men made their way to Jerusalem because they saw Jesus’ star rise.  They found the exact spot when the star hung right over the infant Messiah.  The star was the key; they navigated by the star to find Jesus. Which makes me think:  I would not have made a good wise man (or woman, as the case may be).  I’m not so good at that kind of orienteering.  That’s not to say I can’t get around without a GPS.  I’ve logged plenty of miles along wilderness trails.  I’m so comfortable getting around in the woods, half the time I don’t even bother to bring a map.  But that kind of trekking involves following a well-defined trail cut through a dense forest – often with white blazes to follow as extra insurance.  What I cannot do is go away from the trail and the blazes and navigate toward some far-off point.  I cannot orient myself by the night sky, picking out Orion and the Big Dipper (the only two constellations I can recognize) and charting a course accordingly. I find my path by the nearby landmarks, not by some far-off star. Which works very well, I might add.  I have very rarely gotten lost in the wilderness. But it has happened. The most dangerous failure happened out in Colorado – a place I got to call home during three years of seminary.  Hiking...