Lent - March 22, 2021

By Rev. Dr. Rick Lowery - Monday March 22, 2021

3-22 Lowery“Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me, there is no savior!” – Isaiah 43:10-11 NRSV

In these words, we find glimmers of hope in the grim reality of Babylonian exile (586-538 BCE) and an astounding theological breakthrough born of deep spiritual crisis.

Exile is a devastating experience for any people anytime, but it took an especially heavy spiritual toll on Judeans exiled to Babylonia when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in 586. In the ancient Near East, gods were thought to have particular jurisdictions on earth. YHWH (usually translated, “the LORD”) was the God of Israel and Judah and the land they occupied. Where does that leave the people when they are forcibly taken from the land where YHWH had authority and power? The words of Psalm 137:1-4 express a real theological question asked by those in exile:

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
On willows in the midst of it, we hung our lyres.
For there our captors asked us for songs, those who made us wail asked us for joy: ‘sing us a song of Zion!’
How can we sing YHWH’s song on foreign soil?”

Our verses today offer a profound answer to that deep crisis of faith: “before me no god was formed; nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior!”

Before the exile, the predominant view in Jerusalem was either polytheistic – the worship of many gods – or “henotheistic” – the exclusive loyalty to one god (YHWH) among the many possibilities.

But exile prompted a radical rethinking. This world-shattering crisis was the ground that gave birth to a profound new insight: we can sing YHWH’s song on foreign soil, we can find confidence and hope in times of uncertainty and despair because YHWH is the only God there is, the One, Universal God of all lands and peoples. It is a bold, counter-intuitive claim that would reshape the course of human history and leave a definitive stamp on the world even still today.

In cultural and political strife, ecological crisis, and global pandemic, we can rest in the knowledge that there is One God of all the earth who is ever present and ever working to rescue and save. And we can act with boldness to fulfill our calling to be a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.

O God, help us rest in the assurance of Your all-embracing presence and love and help us act with boldness to build the just and peaceful world of your desire. Amen!


Rev. Dr. Rick Lowery

President, Disciples of Christ Historical Society



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