Lesson 50 –
Isaiah 12:2-6 NRSV
2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Today’s passage is a song of thanksgiving and praise in a prophetic book. Isaiah utilizes future tense language often to speak about what will happen under the true reign of God. This chapter itself is just six short verses, but the first verse of this passage is very strangely left out of the prescribed lectionary passage. In your own devotional period, read the entire 12th chapter. What does this omission do for the meaning of the whole story? Should it have been included?
Today’s lesson will focus on building life-saving affirmations. Read the scripture out loud together.
What’s happening during this passage?
The writer speaks about how sure it is that God is their “salvation.” The writer will “trust” and not be “afraid” because God is their “strength and might.” The writer speaks to the readers directly, proclaiming that we will give thanks to God and call on this sacred name. The readers/hearers will tell about the Lord’s good deeds “among the nations.” The audience of this message is reminded that praises should always be sent to the Lord.
Why do we see so much future tense language?
As far as genre goes, Isaiah is a prophetic book. Throughout the entire book, there are phrases like “every valley shall be exalted,” “The Glory of the Lord shall be revealed,” “all flesh shall see it together.” The writer of Isaiah has the unique responsibility of imagining what will happen. This happens at the same time as a critique of the empires squashing the people in that moment. Imagine reading the newspaper and still having the courage to say, “and God will be on our side…”
Prophets have the responsibility to see freedom and hope coming, even if believing in it feels silly and strange.
What is the purpose of affirmations?
Affirmations are not meant to aid in delusion or unwarranted idealism. They are short mantras and sayings that help people get through one minute to the next, and even one second to the next. Therapists and mental health experts often encourage the use of affirmations to help rewrite the tape that is playing in our head. After all, in this world we are reminded implicitly and explicitly that we are worthless, ugly, and not deserving of care. Whether we hear these things in magazines or in the news, we are often saturated with toxic messages that make it difficult to believe that we are worthy and loved by God. And so, mantras help us replace those messages. Some examples:
I am beautiful.
My worth is not determined by my productivity.
I am loved.
What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?
Connection to Today’s World
In 2001, India.Arie burst into the music scene with a song called “Video.” In the music video for the song, we see India.Arie riding her bike, smiling, playing her guitar. She makes it to a video-girl audition surrounded by all kinds of women. But India.Arie is the woman with the darkest skin and wears her hair in locs, unlike the rest of the auditioners. She is very clearly out of place. And throughout the song, she talks about the ways she feels she’s not the ideal woman by industry standards.
The chorus of the song features affirmations that not only spoke to India.Arie, but millions of people across the world. So many people over the last 20 years have been resonating with the song’s core message.
I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen
Of course, you can edit the song’s lyrics to match your own identity. But the song’s message called out the Anti-Black and patriarchal industry standards that have been killing people and making them chase impossible looks. What would happen if every person could move about the world without being judged, feeling like they were a target for harassment, or targeted for bullying? What would it take for every person to feel beautiful, just as they are? India.Arie’s music defies the mainstream because it continues to evangelize about themes like self-love, community appreciation and specific care for Black people. If you like “Video,” you’ll also love her love song to Black people, “Brown Skin!”
Journal: Write an affirmation for yourself. It’s just for you. What message do you need to hear over and over again? Feel free to write it down today. Leave notes for yourself throughout your home with this affirmation on it. How does it make you feel?
Closing: Listen to “I Will Trust in the Lord” by E. Dewey Smith
I will trust in the Lord (3x)
I will Trust in the Lord till I die.
We thank you for these twelve months we’ve seen thus far in 2021. We had no clue what it would be like, or how we would end up. We had no choice but to trust that you would be there for us.
And You were. Even when we felt like You weren’t around, You didn’t abandon us.
God, we call on your name and we know you never tire of us. We know that you hear our cries and our concerns. We’ll do our part to surround ourselves with whatever is lovely.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.