The two questions foremost in a preacher’s head when preparing to preach on a particular piece of scripture are: first, what is the context of the scripture? And second, what is this scripture saying to us today?
Both questions are important and both are so easy to get wrong.
When the Prophet Isaiah relays to the people the Word of God, “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth…” (Isaiah 65:17) it has specifically to do with the circumstances of the people at that time and in that place. It has nothing to do with our time and place, and the concerns we face—or does it?
One of the main purposes of scripture and the telling of the people’s struggle to be in right relationship with God is to remind everyone that if God was with our ancestors then God is with us now.
Our concerns today don’t mirror the concerns of previous or ancient generation but God’s guidance and the truths found in these ancient Words bring comfort and hope, and the assurance that our struggles can be overcome.
Too easily a preacher might say that all we have to do is be patient and wait for God to snap God’s fingers and the promised new Earth with appear. The harder thing to say is that we have a role to play in bringing about this new Earth. God has laid responsibilities on us to not hurt or steal, to be joyful and a delight.
People talk of the end of Christendom or of the world, neither will be the work of God. They will be entirely of our own doing.
The message the Prophet Isaiah has for us today is that the new Earth is still a possibility, still a promise of a loving God, who desires the best for us, who desires that we live with joy.