I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Isaiah 49:8-16a
B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …
C. Other texts for Year A in Ordinary Time
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
8a While we may need God today, God must coordinate response to our needs with the needs of other people, for the building of God’s kingdom.
8b Israel is not offered a covenant, but to be a covenant.
9 How are we captives and needing to “feed beside the road”?
10 Are we willing to be guided?
11 What are is blocking our spiritual growth?
14 When people perceive that God has forsaken them, is this because they are ignoring God’s work in the world?
15 Even if/when people forget God, God remembers us!
16 Divine crib notes? What might we metaphorically write on our hands?
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?
- In verse 12, Aswan v. Sinim
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: Although we may perceive that God has forgotten us, the LORD has engraved our names on his hands.
- Emotional Center: What is blocking us from recognizing God with us?
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Christopher R. Seitz (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Book of Isaiah 40-66,” Abingdon, 2001) parses the chapter into a Servant Song that opens the chapter (vv. 1-6), its elaboration (vv. 7-12), a hymn (v. 13), and finally a response for Zion (14-26). He questions if vv. 8-13 are part of the original text, as it is not clear who is being answered; the Servant or Israel?
Wolfgang Roth (Knox Preaching Guides: Isaiah, John Knox Press, 1988) partitions the text into two sections: The inclusion of separated Kin (1-13) and the surprise of a Deserted mother (49-14 – 50:3).
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?