Over the last two months I have listened to the book of Isaiah straight through several times on my morning commute. Although I have never really thought of Isaiah as containing a creation narrative, it is clear that this theme of creation, and more importantly God as Creator, is integral to the book and runs through Second Isaiah in particular. Isaiah 40:25-28 is a case in point:
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
William P. Brown (The Seven Pillars of Creation) notes that “the language of creation pervades what many readers consider the greatest body of prophetic literature in the Bible: “Second Isaiah,” chapters 40-55. … Creation is not confined to the primordial past but extends into, invades even, the present.” (p. 198) Isaiah is unabashedly monotheistic and the one God, the God of Israel is the Creator of everything. Brown points out that in Isaiah God’s creation is all encompassing. In Genesis 1 darkness was over the surface of the deep. God spoke light into being and separated light from dark. In Isaiah 45:5-7 we read:
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.
God forms light and creates darkness. Darkness is not merely the absence of light as in Genesis 1. Here it is a creation of the sovereign God.
To reinforce the idea of God as Creator we can turn to many other passages as well:
This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
I am the Lord,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself (44:24)
It is I who made the earth
and created mankind on it.
My own hands stretched out the heavens;
I marshaled their starry hosts. (45:12)
Listen to me, Jacob,
Israel, whom I have called:
I am he;
I am the first and I am the last.
My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them,
they all stand up together. (48:12-13)
“I, even I, am he who comforts you.
Who are you that you fear mere mortals,
human beings who are but grass,
that you forget the Lord your Maker,
who stretches out the heavens
and who lays the foundations of the earth,
I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you with the shadow of my hand—
I who set the heavens in place,
who laid the foundations of the earth,
and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” (51:12,13,16)
The God who created the heavens and the earth also created and called his people Israel. The return from exile is a rebirth and a new creation of God’s people. Brown writes:
Israel’s creation is bound up with Israel’s election. To choose a people is, in effect, to create a community. Israel was formed from the womb of God’s decision to constitute and sustain a people. In creation, cosmos and community are welded together. (p. 202)
The Creator God is the one who calls and the one who redeems his people. It is he who provides the true life-giving food and drink.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:1-2)
Creation in the Bible isn’t science. Discussion of creation uses metaphor and figurative language. God stretches out the heavens (like a tent) and lays the foundations of the earth (like a building). Creation is theology – and Isaiah makes this clear. God is responsible for it all, both the origin ongoing function of the heavens and the earth.
Perhaps we should have ears to hear and not miss the echoes of Isaiah in the New Testament, particularly in the Gospel of John. John 1:1-14 identifies Jesus as the Word who was “with God in the beginning” and “through [whom] all things were made.” Both Paul (Col. 1:16) and the author of Hebrews (1:2) repeat this insight of the early church. Creation is through Jesus.
In John as in Isaiah, the Creator is also the one who satisfies hunger and thirst.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38)
Come all you who are thirsty.
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net
This post is also available at Jesus Creed, now published as a Christianity Today blog.
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