The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 43:16-21 and the language purposefully brings to mind the events of the Exodus, but at the same time it points forward from that event to other salvific events which are yet to come. The Exodus always remains a continual and present reality for the people of Israel. It is always on their mind. It was and remained the big salvific event of the Old Testament. Yet, at the same time, it points forward to what God will continue to do to save His people. The first concern will be the return from the Babylonian exile as a kind of exodus. And Isaiah, speaking for the LORD, tells the people to forget about the Exodus so they will focus on what God is doing NOW. This does not mean they are really to forget the Exodus as if it never happened. Rather, they are to focus on what new thing the Exodus is pointing to, first the return from Babylon, and ultimately and most importantly, the greatest salvific event of history. The New Moses, Jesus, will accomplish the greatest salvation... for the whole world.
We also see language which points to “new creation,” “re-creation,” “restoration,” and, therefore, baptism. The language of dry wasteland, the haunt of jackals and ostriches, is a common way to speak of the wilderness; the deserted, broken-down land vacated by exile. It also is used to reference the dwelling place of the evil one. Isaiah says water and rivers will come into this barren land and give drink to the chosen people: From death to life!
As you prepare to preach this text, one can certainly see a Lenten theme. The salvation prepared for the world comes out of the wilderness (think temptation of Jesus) and journeys to the cross to bring new life and restoration. The people of God are rescued from the hands of their enemies by the waters, and they walk with their LORD and God until they join Him in the new creation in Heaven where the river of life flows around the tree of life (Revelation 22).
Thanks to Reed Lessing and his Isaiah 40-55 commentary in the Concordia Commentary Series. It has provided very useful insights.
Isaiah says water and rivers will come into this barren land and give drink to the chosen people: From death to life!
43:16 הַנּוֹתֵן root: נתן Qal participle: “the one making; the one giving” Note that the referent is Yahweh.
עַזִּים “strong; mighty”
נְתִיבָה “path; way”
43:17 הַמּוֹצִיא; root: יצא Hiphil participle: “to bring out; to expel; to bring forth” It is interesting to note that the LORD is not only the One who makes a way through the waters for the people of God, He is also the One who brings the enemies of Israel into the waters to be destroyed. It is God’s hand that orchestrates, controls the entire event!
וְעִזּוּז> “mighty one; mighty; powerful”
רֶכֶב-וָסוּס “chariot and horse” Note these are singular but may be a collective understanding. Lessing states that they denote political power and strength.
יִשְׁכְּבוּ root: שׁכב “to lie down” This is generally a reference to judgement and eternal death.
דָּעֲכוּ root: דעך Qal: “to be extinguished; to go out”
כַּפִּשְׁתָּה; “wick; flax wick”
כָבוּ root: כבה Qal: “to go out; to be quenched; extinguished”
43:18 וְקַדְמֹנִיּוֹת from: קדמֹני “former thing.” These former things are older prophecies that had been fulfilled (Lessing) already by the time of Isaiah. God is not commanding Israel to have historical amnesia about the exodus redemption through the Red Sea. Rather, their eyes are to be focused on the new event that I coming.
תִּתְבֹּנָנוּ root: בּין Hithpolel: “to ponder (for awhile)”
43:19 חֲדָשָׁה “new; fresh”
תִצְמָח root: צמח Qal: “to sprout; spring up” This verb has Messianic connotations.
בִּישִׁמוֹן “desert; wasteland; wilderness”
43:20 חַיַּת “wild animals; all manner of animals; every living thing”
לְהַשְׁקוֹת. root: שׁקה Hiphil: “to provide water; to give drink for” Note the causative connotation.
בְחִירִי. “chosen; elect”
43:21 עַם-זוּ “this people; a people” This phrase is used also in Exodus 15:13, 15:16 and points to the deliverance accomplished at the Red Sea.
יָצַרְתִּי root: יצר Qal: “to form; fashion; create”
תְּהִלָּתִי. “song of praise; praise”
יְסַפֵּרוּ> root: ספר Piel: “to recall; recount” Coupled with the previous noun is translated as “declare my praise”
Concordia Theology: Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 43:16-21.
Text Week: A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 43:16-21.