In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage, the prophet Isaiah offers stirring words of comfort and prom-ise to the Israelites who have been in dispersed and in exile in Babylon. Notice how these words apply to us today.
Isaiah 35 (selected verses, CEB); “To Those who are Panicking”
4 Say to those who are panicking: “Be strong! Don’t fear! Here’s your God, coming with vengeance; with divine retribution God will come to save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be cleared. 6 Then the lame will leap like the deer, and the tongue of the speechless will sing. Waters will spring up in the desert, and streams in the wilderness. 8A highway will be there. It will be called The Holy Way 10The Lord’s ransomed ones will return and enter Zion with singing, with everlasting joy upon their heads. Happiness and joy will overwhelm them; grief and groaning will flee away.
Isaiah 35 is a powerful poetic word of comfort for a mourning people who had lost their temple, land, and sovereignty. Isaiah confronts their fear with promise: “Here is your God . . . .He will come with vengeance . . . .He will come and save you.” God is here. God will come. Isaiah asserts that God will act to reverse the oppression and deliver his people. He does not describe specific conditions of oppression, but instead seems to speak in general terms as He promises salvation to his people. Therefore we can know that these verses are for us and for our time as well as for God-followers in past generations.
Pay attention to the words Isaiah uses: fear will turn to happiness and joy; debilitating problems will be removed; a dry existence will be refreshed; the Way will be shown; the ransomed will be free. Grief and groaning will be gone.
Is this music to your ears? It is to mine! I am struggling to stay afloat in a world of chaos, conflict, and constantly worsening news. Perhaps you are, too. Like the Israelites stranded in Babylon, let us listen to Isaiah and travel on the “holy highway.” Let us the walk the “Way” that Jesus showed us. Let us watch for all the ways that God is showing up. Let us have faith that God is at work – even in these dark times. People are still being transformed. Disciples are still making a difference. Watch and see! Let us stop panicking and watch for and participate in the ransom of the world.
♥ It seems more and more important to stay connected with the political, economic, and foreign policy news each day. However, hearing daily about scandals and incompe- tence and threats of war can be draining. Perhaps if we repeat the words “God is here and God will save us” before we read, watch or listen to the news, we can keep the reality of being safe in the Kingdom of God at the top of our minds.
♥ We are to be a light in darkness. What gift can you offer to a dark world: kindness, patience, forgiveness, mercy, justice, peace, joy, wisdom, etc? How can you serve someone and brighten their world. What can you teach through your words and actions about God’s care for his people? How can you bring calm to those who are panicking?
♥ Isaiah 33: 1-2 speaks about the refreshing of the world through nature.
“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. . . . Waters will spring up in the desert, and streams in the wilderness.”
♥ Refresh your spirit: walk on a nature trail, take a moment for the sunrise and chirping of birds, sit by a pond or lake, buy a beautiful flowering plant. Gloom and fear can be driven away by the beauty of God’s creation.
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Amid rumors of war and desolation, Isaiah 35 surprises us. A voice speaks without addressing anyone by name, without the particularity of time.”Amid rumors of war and desolation, Isaiah 35 surprises us. Amid rumors of war and desolation, Isaiah 35 surprises us. A voice speaks without addressing anyone by name, without the particularity of time.
. . . . . Some say this hopeful promise belongs to Second Isaiah. Others argue that it comes even later — sixth century BCE or later still — surely after the exile. This poem comes too early. Who moved it? Some things even our best scholarship cannot explain. The Spirit hovered over the text and over the scribes: “Put it here,” breathed the Spirit, “before anyone is ready. Interrupt the narrative of despair.” So, here it is: a word that couldn’t wait until it might make more sense. It couldn’t wait until it might make more sense” (Barbara Lundblatt in the Working Preacher website, December 15, 2013).