Remember who you are. How many times have you heard a parent or grandparent exhort you with that piece of sage advice? It could have been the first day of school. It might have been the first time you took the family car out on a solo excursion. It’s also likely you heard it when you left home as a young adult to begin your life. Perhaps you heard it at each of these milestone events. Whenever you heard, it was probably intended to encourage you to stay connected with your identity, your family values and/or your faith in the face of all the temptations and challenges that the world could throw at you. It is sage advice indeed.
This is precisely at the core of our Scripture for Sunday. Isaiah 40 is the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Israel. After decades of exile in Babylon, following the fall of Jerusalem, the Babylonians had been conquered by the Persian Empire during the reign of Cyrus. This was not the exchange of one tyrant for another. In fact, Cyrus was unique. He was tolerant of other cultures and other political forms. He had a reputation for repatriating exiles to their home lands. Cyrus’ victory over Babylon was the sign that God’s promise to the exiles would be fulfilled. They were finally going home.
Speaking for God, the prophet encourages them, as they set their eyes to Jerusalem, to remember who they are. The prophet didn’t give them new information. He reminded them of truths and identities that had been part of their life and relationship with each other and God. The key part of the reclamation of identity is rooted in first remembering who God is. Their God is sovereign. Their God created the universe. Their God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Their God made eternal covenant to be their God and to be with them always. Their God would strengthen them for whatever challenges might lie in their path.
This same encouragement is a key part of our Christian discipleship. Before we can remember who we are, we must also remember whose we are. Holding firm to the promise of God is to be the North Star that guides our journey. This Sunday, as we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates we will remember and claim this identity and learn to live out this advice.