Creating a New Jerusalem
Our reading from Isaiah today comes from a time shortly after the Israelites returned from their seventy year exile in Babylon. You can imagine the scene of Jerusalem rebuilding after fifty thousand people return to a dusty and devastated city. King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland and he even sent laborers to help rebuild the city. The Jews had adapted well under Persian rule and Persian culture. Some had intermarried. Some had taken Persian names. Some retained their ancient faith while others had fallen away. Upon return to Jerusalem these thousands of industrious people set up new lives. Merchants, farmers, capitalists and priests all very busy with their commercial lives while trying to recollect just how they should live under the Jewish law of the Torah.
In the midst of tremendous economic, social and religious recovery and just when they thought they had things going well for them enters the prophet Isaiah. No more gloom and doom this time. Instead Isaiah heralds a series of unforeseen reversals for the people of Israel. God's people were experiencing a disconnection between the way their life was in Babylon and when they returned to Jerusalem versus the way God intends for them to live. Thus Isaiah says "the former things shall not be remembered... but be glad and rejoice forever in what God is creating."
A close reading of Isaiah 65 reveals that the word translated as "create" is used throughout the Hebrew Bible ONLY in the context of God doing the creating. In other words ONLY God will create Jerusalem as a joy and its people as a delight. There is a second component to this idea of divine creation. First let's recap the situation. Thousands of Jews return to Jerusalem along with a force of engineers and laborers to help rebuild. They set about doing all the things they think they should be doing. They begin to wrestle with t ...
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