By Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams
The oracles in Isaiah chapters 7-9 are delivered against a background of political and social turmoil. Judah faces a very real threat in the impending attack of Aram and Israel. The prophet Isaiah delivers a strange message to the king of Judah, “Take heed, be quiet, do not fear…” The prophet’s instructions are based on his understanding of God’s role in world affairs. His words reflect the larger themes of Isaiah, that God’s holiness, power and might are greater than any earthly threat. Moreover, this mighty God is “with us.” The prophecy that God is with us, “Immanuel” is a promise and a reminder that reorients us by replacing the realities of our world with an ultimate reality.
The psalmist understands this when he says, “my heart trusts in him because…” No matter what the circumstances, the response of the psalmist is consistent. We can avail ourselves to God.
Centuries later, a small church in Thessalonica is struggling with its identity as followers of Christ in a tumultuous world. Paul reminds them live in light of the hope that Jesus will return soon and that “the one who calls you is faithful.”
The circumstances of our life do not define us. Rather it is God’s presence with us that informs our reality.
How do the words of scripture “reorient” us so that we can be encouraged in difficult circumstances?
Gracious God, help me to remember that regardless of my circumstances, you are with me and that you are faithful. Amen.
Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams is Professor of Old Testament at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.