While We Were Away: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
by Rev. Lee Johnson
july 11, 2021
The writing of the Prophet Isaiah is often referred to as being contained in a scroll. Remember the Dead Seas Scrolls? Several years ago, I took a group of church folk down to Union Station in Kansas City to view the scrolls, which were on tour throughout the United States. The scrolls had been discovered in the Holy Land in 1947. The discovery contained seven Biblical scrolls, one of which was attributed to Isaiah, in particular, chapters 52-61. For this Bible Study, we read from Isaiah 56.1-8. I find it amazing that in reading these words, they actually exist in an original hard copy form. The Isaiah scroll, in its totality, covers a lengthy history of Israel, from the first exile into Assyria in 733 bce, to the second exile into Babylon in 587 bce. The reading from Isaiah 56 is located towards the end of this historical timeline as the Southern Kingdom of Israel, called Judah, returns home. Isaiah offers an important glimpse into the many ways God was active in the midst of the exiles working to redeem and make new the world in which the Israelites lived. Now think about it for a moment. If God was doing that then, in the exilic history of the Hebrew people, what is God doing now – in the midst of a World-Wide Exile we call Covid?
Have you heard of the term Doomscrolling? In the exile called Covid, many of us have become uncertain about the future, even afraid. Staying put, and out of routine, will do that. We have been understandably slow to return to our pre-Covid ways of living. Psychologists, sociologists, people who study human behavior, say we have developed a compulsive need for answers when it comes to the future. So, we “scroll” endlessly on social media, through the news, looking for answers. Unfortunately, the kind of news we are drawn to is generally “bad news.” That’s Doomscrolling. Hey, I have to admit, been there, done that, and still do. It has a tendency to keep me, and many others, “languishing” at home in exile, not wanting to journey too far from home. Yet, the scroll called Isaiah, reminds us that even in the midst of our “languishing,” God is working to redeem and make new. Have you done any Doomscrolling during Covid? Earlier this week, I was drawn to a headline on my news feed that asked: “Could Pfizer and Moderna Be in Trouble?” What I learned was both vaccines have such a high efficacy rate, the two drug companies are worried they may not make the money they had hoped for from developing a third booster shot. But, the headline sounded like bad news. That’s one way to get our attention. In my journalism school days, they used to call that “sensationalism.” I guess it still exists.
Written and compiled over a period of 150 years, the scroll called Isaiah has more than its fair share of bad news. It’s probably best the Israelites did not have internet access. There would have been some Doomscrolling going on, literally. The Isaiah compilers were wise, though. They mixed in hope throughout the 66 chapters, and really saved the best until last. It’s hope that gets them home. Right there in Chapter 56, the Hebrew people who had languished in their exile, who knew more than their fair share of doomsday predictions, arrive home. And, what do they find? Some things are still the same, like the expectations God has for God’s people. But, some things have changed. God has worked to broaden the tent of God’s people, welcoming those previously excluded by law. God was using the exile to change things up. How have things changed for you during Covid? Do you see God’s activity in it? How has God worked to change you?
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Sunday, July 11 at 11 a.m. for Live Stream or 5 p.m. for recording.
Even now, God is working on me!