May 2015

Isaiah 65.1   "Here am I, here am I" REV
(or "Here I am ... " NRSV. Literally, Behold me)

The people have been in exile. It was a low point in the history of thei r nation and of their faith. In the year 538, Cyrus, King of Persia issued an order – you can read it for yourself in Ezra 6.3. The order allowed the exi les in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and allowed the rebuilding of the Temple. It was a great moment, and you can imagine the celebrations and the excitem ent once they were able to go home. But it was not easy. 

These final chapters are wonderful poetry with the message of salva tion, deliverance. If the salvation is largely concerned with this world, there are glimpses of something deeper and something beyond – glimpses of a new heaven and a new earth, visions of peace. But the people feel that God is absent from them. They pray, but sense he is not listening. Finally, in response to their insistent and desperate prayer, God responds.

Here am I, here am I. All day long I have held out my hands to you ...

We can imagine what it was like for the people of Israel 2,500 years ago in their distress, their deprivation, their despair. They ad dressed the Father in their prayers: Will you keep silent ...  God replies: Here am I, here am I. All the time he had been alongside them, holding out his hands to them.

We know what Jesus meant when he cried from the Cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? When we are i n distress or anxiety, we too can have that same feeling of being abandoned – or simply of missing the signs of his presence. At the heart of our faith i s the knowledge that God became a man in Christ – the Incarnation. Emmanuel, God is with us. God is in this place with us.

We ne ed this message so often. We need it when we simply forget that he is there. We need it when we are weary with the burdens of life. We need it when we are anxious about others – or about ourselves – we need it if we are in pain or distress. We need it as we hear the stories of the world, of death, hunger, destruction and despair. We need it as we struggle to sense the presence of God with us.

The source of everything that there is s tands alongside us: Here am I, here am I.