God Is God
When Jesus and his disciples had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, `The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
To appreciate this beautiful passage from the Prophet Isaiah one must know that in the sixth century BCE, the unthinkable happened. The Babylonians defeated Israel. They destroyed the temple, plundered Israel’s treasure and livelihoods, took its people into bondage, and marched them back to the gates of Babylon in chains. “By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). The Babylonian victory over Israel was absolute. The Israelites pleaded with God to deliver them. How could the Mighty Deliverer allow this to happen? Was God still God?
Into this crisis Isaiah prophesies. By reminding the Israelites of who God is and what God is doing by sending a savior, Isaiah expands their frame of reference, repurposing Zion within God’s cosmic frame. As Isaiah speaks, it’s as though we see the camera lens zooming slowly out from one moment in history to a cosmic view that transcends time.
This means that God is the God not only of Israel or even of Babylon, but the one who “created the heavens . . . and stretched out the earth” (v. 5). This is the God of creation, who made everything that is, and cannot be contained by the deadened spiritual space of exile. This is the God of the expansive universe and the God of these very particular people.
God calls them to righteousness, not for themselves alone, but for all nations. Isaiah reminds this exiled people that God has not abandoned them but is indeed at work among them, restoring them. They must trust and trust some more.
God’s people are still God’s people in their particularity, yet with a purpose that extends beyond themselves to all of the earth. What’s even more striking is that there is no talk of revenge, of turning the tables on the Babylonians. This may be the hardest truth to accept. Think about Ukraine, and the suffering of her people at the hands of an aggressive neighbor. Wouldn’t we all want to see Vladimir Putin get his comeuppance?
Please remember that God is still God—yesterday, today and tomorrow. May this truth stay with you during Holy Week. Be still in the suffering silence of Good Friday and know that God is still God.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.