(Google translation from the french)
COMMENTS BY MARIE-NOËLLE THABUT, SUNDAYS 13 MARS 2016
FIRST READING - BOOK OF ISAIAH 43: 16-21
This text is surprising! At first sight, it has two absolutely conflicting parts: the first part is a reminder of the exodus from Egypt, so the past; the second, instead, recommends forget the past ... But maybe not any past? Everything is here. I take these two parts one after the other.
Everything begins with the formula "Thus says the LORD," who always announces some very important words. Then comes the evocation of the famous "way in the sea": "Thus says the LORD, who made a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters." This is the memorable miracle of the Sea of ??Reeds, when the Hebrews fled Egypt. In all the books of the Bible, an evocation of this order is a reminder of that night of the liberation from Egypt (find in the book of Exodus, chapter 14). Isaiah further states "(the Lord), who bringeth forth the chariot and horse, troops and mighty warriors; here they all lying to not rise, they are extinct, they are consumed like a wick. "These are the Egyptians, of course, launched in pursuit of the fugitives. And God did escape his people. It is no coincidence, besides, if Isaiah used the name "LORD", since it is that name precisely which qualifies the God of Sinai, our liberator.
So God's work in the past. This is the best support of Israel's hope for the future. And this is what Isaiah is talking now: "Behold, I make a new thing." What is it here? Who Isaiah he promises a new world? Here, we need to challenge ourselves in the historical context of this preaching. The second Isaiah, that we read today, living in the sixth century during the Exile to Babylon (which lasted from 587-538 BC. J.C.).
We have often had occasion to speak of this period, which was a terrible ordeal. And, frankly, it was not clear why the outlook became rosier! If they are deported to Babylon, it was because Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated little Jewish kingdom whose capital is Jerusalem. And for now the business of Nebuchadnezzar still work fine! And then, assuming we manage to escape one day ... of Babylon to Jerusalem, he would have to cross the Syrian desert that covers hundreds of kilometers, and the fugitives, that is to say in the worst conditions.
The prophet has much to do to cheer his contemporaries, but he does it so well called his book "The Book of Consolation of Israel" because chapter 40 begins with this beautiful sentence: "Comfort , comfort my people, says your God "; and the mere fact of saying "your God" is a reminder of the Alliance, a way of saying "God's covenant is not broken, God has not abandoned you." For one of the formulations of the Covenant between God and his people was "You will be my people and I will be your God"; and every time we hear the term "God" or "your God," possessive is a reminder of the Alliance together with a profession of faith.
Isaiah will therefore, with all his strength, rekindle hope among the exiles: God has not abandoned them, on the contrary, he is already planning their return home. We do not see it yet, but sure! Why is this safe? Because God is faithful to his Covenant, because, since he has chosen this people, it has continued to release him, to keep him alive through all the vicissitudes of history.
It is these arguments then Isaiah develops here: Nebuchadnezzar scare you? But God has already done best: delivered you from Pharaoh! The desert makes you afraid? But the desert of Sinai, it was much worse and God protected his people all along! But you are still the people of God, his chosen. Understood "what God has done for you once, he will do it again." As he passed his people across the sea on foot dry at the time of the exodus from Egypt, the LORD will pass its people "dry foot" through all the troubled waters of history.
The hope of Israel still relies on his past: this is the meaning of "Memorial"; the work of memory is made of God has always been to discover that this work of God continues for us today, and to draw from the certainty that it will continue tomorrow. Past, Present, Future: God is ever present along with his people. This is one of the meaning of God's name "I Am" (meaning, "I am with you in all circumstances).
Going back to our text, it is precisely during this difficult time of the Exile, when we might settle in despair, that the prophets have developed a new metaphor, that of the germ: "Behold, I'm doing a new thing: it sprouts already, do not you see? "Isaiah said here. In the Bible, it is not only a botanical term: from the very positive experience of a tiny seed can become a great tree, we can see how the word "germ" could become an Israel symbol of hope. The same prophet had said equivalently the same in the previous chapter (proof that it was not worth repeating): "I announce new events, before they germinate, I let you hear. "(Is 42: 2). We still have to learn now to detect the seeds of the new world, the Kingdom that God is being built.