Telling Good News

Lesson 6  –

Isaiah 40:21-31

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in;
23 who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
Who created these?
He who brings out their host and numbers them,
calling them all by name;
because he is great in strength,
mighty in power,
not one is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Background
Isaiah is one of the prophetic texts of the Bible. Prophecy, at its core, is about seeing God’s desires for human beings. It isn’t really about crystal balls or predicting the lotto numbers. In this text, you will find a writer who wants everyone to have their needs met. It is the same text where the writer says, “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low.” This same book features a writer who declares, “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat.” You might even recognize some of the verses at the beginning of this chapter. In your own devotional period, read this entire chapter. You will recognize verses from our life at Concord. What memories come up for you here?

Today’s lesson will focus on the importance of telling good news. Read the scripture out loud together. Discuss with someone in your home. What do you make of the phrase, “good news travels fast?” In what context have you heard someone say those words?

What’s happening during this passage?
There’s no way you can read this passage without some theatrical oomph! Do Cicely Tyson proud! This passage is full of good news! Have you not heard about this exciting news? There is one who sits above us, bigger than rulers of the Earth. No one can compare to the Holy One! Who created all that exists? God, in the voice of the prophet, is described as someone “great in strength” and “mighty in power.” The prophet calls to Israel who has said “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God.” Again, the writer says, “don’t you know?! The Lord is the everlasting God!” God is the creator of the Earth; God is one who does not get tired or drained. God’s mind is unsearchable. Even young people will get tired, but those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength!

How does this passage make you feel?
Hang on to the world as it spins around…
This passage is intentionally designed to encourage people who just can’t see past tomorrow. And it’s okay to be in that place! There are good reasons to be sad and drained by the world. Remember, these are people who have been exiled from their homeland. These are people who just can’t see the point of building, because everything feels so up in the air right now. You might empathize.

In just the last year, we’ve endured so much uncertainty. A global health crisis. An uptick in highly visible police violence. Political unrest. An attempted coup and a lack of accountability. A decline in available jobs. An uptick in unemployment, evictions both legal and illegal, and mental health challenges. All of this happening in a context when you can’t hug or have people over for dinner and healing laughter. But Isaiah begins the chapter with a call to God’s comfort.

What does the writer do to prove a point?
This writer relies heavily on techniques that most Black teachers, preachers and activists engage.
1. Repetition
Have you not seen? Have you not heard? These words appear several times throughout this passage. People who will hear these words will hear them over and over. It’s a strategic rhetorical tool. Consider the Spiritual, “Is You Been Baptized,” that relies on repetition. Simple, repetitive songs are easy to remember and participate in.
2. Questions
Has it not been told from the beginning? Who created these? Have you not understood? These questions invite people to reflect on their relationship to a Good God. Instead of telling people what God can do for them, this technique requires that people reflect on where God is in their life.
3. Reminders of what can be
The writer calls the audience back to the created works of God. Do you not see the massive mountains, the eagles, the heavens? Do we not serve the same God who created all this glory around us? If God is as powerful as God is, and without peer, we can trust that we will be held. Things may not go our way, but God will be with us wherever we are.

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 one of its most compelling animated films, Disney’s Finding Nemo follows the story of a fish trying to find his son. Marlin, a clownfish, gets separated from his son due to a series of unfortunate events. He has to travel across the ocean to search for him. He never gives up! Except, he does get discouraged.

Eventually, he decides to sit down and tell the story. He begins to tell the story with as much detail and passion as he can to a group of turtles. Then the turtles tell it to the fish, who tells it to a lobster, who tells it to a swordfish, who overhears it and passes it on to a dolphin, then to a bird, who eventually gets the message back to Marlin’s son Nemo. An elaborate game of Telephone, of course. The good news here was that Marlin was traveling across the ocean to reconnect with his son. And hearing this good news helped Nemo to pursue his Dad. The spread of good news kept people (well, fish) from giving up.
This is not just the stuff of cartoons. Freedom initiatives like sit-ins and self-emancipation efforts on the Underground Railroad relied upon communication like these. Sometimes it’s not possible, or wise, to tell 100 people something at once. But you can share news about The Community one person at a time. It’s more impactful that way!

Journal: What good news do you want to share with your community?

Closing: Listen to “They That Wait,” by John P. Kee and Fred Hammond

They that wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength
They shall mount up on wings just like an eagle and soar
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and never faint they that wait on the Lord
And I say wait on the Lord

Hold on a little while longer
Here’s what you got to do
Trust and believe my friend
He’ll work it out for you
One thing you must remember
My God is able, and He cares for you
He cares for you

Wait on the Lord and he will come through
Wait on the Lord He will answer you
Wait on the Lord and He won’t be long
Wait on the Lord He’s going to work it for you.

Prayer:

Dear God,
You want Good things for us. It may sound simple, but we need to remind ourselves that you want GOOD things for us. You don’t want us to suffer, to be in need, to struggle. You want us healthy; you want us free; you want us whole. We are inundated with bad news. On our televisions, on the radio, on our phones. All we hear some days is bad news. Bad news travels fast and it sure does linger.

Help us to focus on the good things we want to see in this world. Help us to be motivated by building a world where we are truly free. Show us what’s possible, even when we are too tired to imagine it for ourselves.

In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Works Cited
https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/fifth-sunday-after-epiphany-2/commentary-on-isaiah-4021-31-5

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