God promises not to abandon Israel again

For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, says the LORD your Redeemer. To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the LORD , who has compassion on you. (Isa 54:7-10)

God comes to Israel as a husband (“for thy maker is your husband”, v 5) comes back to the wife he has abandoned (“for the Lord has called you as a forsaken wife” v 6) to explain why he has abandoned her and promised never to treat her so badly again.

God declares his everlasting love, despite the brief abandonment. He reminds her of another time he abandoned her but promised never to threaten her with drowning, and reminds her that he kept that promise, so he can be trusted to keep this promise. His love is as sure and solid as the mountains that surround them. He promises to give her expensive, beautiful gifts (v 11-12), to give her children and teach them (‘great shall be the peace of your children’ v 13) and to keep her safe  (‘no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper’ v 17).

Honestly, I am having trouble writing this commentary. What can I say about a passage in which God shows signs of being an abusive husband? It’s an uncomfortable place for me to be. I prefer images of God in which God is purging us of our badness through a refiner’s fire, or images in which God goes through the fire with us (as with Daniel in the fiery furnace). This image of an temporary abandonment which God promises never to repeat worries me–and, let’s be frank, Israel did feel the abandonment of God again after these words were prophesied. I am glad its not a dominant image for God’s relationship with us.

So, I will just sit with these verses and leave them unexplained for now. Perhaps  readers would like to weigh in, and I will become wiser for it.

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