March 2017

"I AM the Lord your God, who teaches you for your own good, who leads you in the way you must go"
(Isaiah 48 17 NRSV)

You may find it easier in contemplative silence to use this abbreviated version of the Saying:

I teach you for your own good: I lead you in the way you should go.

Apart from the four Gospels, the chapters 14-55 in Isaiah are the richest seam in the Bible in which to find the treasures of God's Word, Dominical Sayings, spoken in the first person. Here, the anonymous prophet of the exile hears God speaking of two vital aspects the Divine nature. The gods of paganism are depicted as awesome as high mountains, terrifying as thunderstorms, and needing to be placated. The One True God, revealed to Moses as I AM, may well be awesome, but is relational and imbued with loving-kindness. So in this Saying, he/she is the true teacher, one who teaches, not for personal satisfaction, but for our good.

All the best teachers are cast in that mould. Supreme among them is Jesus, who in an astonishingly short time established himself as a revered and genuine teacher in a nation which specialised in teaching. Himself attuned to listen to the Word of God, he urges us to do the same: If you have ears, then listen (Mark 4.9).

Not only do "I teach you" but also "I lead you". God as the leader is symbolised in the Exodus story by the pillar of fire and cloud. That same light and cloud appear in the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17), confirming him as God-Leader.

A teacher may do plenty of talking, but any good teacher will tell you that a few minutes of demonstration and example are worth an hour of verbal explanation. It is not simply what Jesus said that saves the world, but what he did. In that respect, the best of Christian leadership (and any other genuine leadership come to that) has been marked from the beginning by the actions that speak louder than words, from the martyrdom-witness of the early (and subsequent) centuries to the courage shown by those who are prepared to challenge contemporary power-structures.

In intercession, this Saying has obvious relevance to teachers and leaders that we know, whether secular or sacred.