Engage with the Auslan translation of Isaiah 57:14-15
There are many people who expect to be excluded. For most of us there are places and situations that make us wonder how welcome we would be, but to know with absolute certainty that we will be rejected is a devastating experience.
These texts were written to people who had lived through the destruction of their land, society and culture. The nations of Israel and Judah had been conquered, the temple desecrated and torn down. Many were taken into slavery while those who remained lived in poverty, oppressed by a powerful foreign empire. This section of Isaiah speaks to these people as they try to rebuild, not just their homes and community, but also their sense of identity.
Isaiah 56 opens with these words from YHWH: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.”
Yet despite these powerful words of hope and renewal, the prophet draws attention to two groups of people on the margins of this renewed community â foreigners and eunuchs.
A common tool used by empires to supress uprising is forced migration; as a result the region of Israel was inhabited by people from across the Babylonian empire. The passages in Isaiah 56 and 57 address the internal conflict growing between those who called for national and religious purity and those who hoped for a new, more inclusive vision of community.
The eunuchs were male slaves who had their ability to have children taken away through painful and forced body modification. For the people of Judah, this practice also marked the eunuchs as collaborators and excluded them from participation in religious ceremonies.
To these two groups the prophet speaks these remarkable words of hope: “Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ And let no eunuch complain, ‘I am only a dry tree.’”
What follows is the promise of inclusion. No more is required of them than is required of any other person. This welcome is grounded in the work and character of YHWH: “The Sovereign LORD declares â he who gathers the exiles of Israel: ‘I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.’”
In chapter 57 we are reminded that inclusion is not passive, it requires action. It is not enough to like the idea of inclusion; we are called to actively remove the obstacles that people face.
Our community is in the midst of preparing for the next fire season. I am surrounded by signs advertising CFA education sessions and fire planning tools. My family’s “go bags” will be packed soon, filled not only with precious items and important paperwork but also medication, N95 masks and noise-cancelling headphones. This is a season of weather watching and late-night emergency alerts. The fire seasons of 1983, 2009 and 2019 changed our community. We are more prepared, and we have been reminded that there are things more valuable than houses. We are also aware that there are people in our community who need extra support during this time.
Taking the time to prepare, while often overwhelming, is also a source of hope. In Isaiah 56 and 57 we see the ground being cleared for the work of Jesus, when the God of the high and holy places joined the most marginalised and forgotten, welcoming them into His joy.
Stacey Wilson works for Intergen, an organisation that has been supporting ministry with children and families in Victoria for 150 years. Her role includes intergenerational resource development, training and mentoring.