Isaiah 35 = God Comes to Save!
Bible Background: Isaiah 35 is a favorite Advent reading as it stirs up anticipation for what God can do. Is. 34 paints a picture of judgement (on Judah’s captors?) and desolation. But chapter 35 is a complete reversal, filled with fresh images and hope.
Digging Deeper: 1. One reality is that the ‘land’ also suffers when nations are at war (as do all living things). That the desert shall rejoice and blossom is a big deal and a new thing! Just as the first flower of springtime for us includes the crocus pushing bravely above the soil, so new life is promised to people who have been through a long ‘winter’ of exile.
2. But it’s not just the desert that shall rejoice and bloom! People, people with weak hands and feeble knees and fearful hearts receive the good news “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God….He will come with restorative justice…He will come and save you!” And that news is completely transformative: the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy! When we read of such miraculous transformations, our thoughts are drawn to Jesus and his ministry of healing!
3. Then there’s mention of a highway, the Holy Way. It’s described as a way through the wilderness, so the exiles in Babylon can come home to Judah (the homeland) and Jerusalem (the holy city.) It’s safe. It’s wide. Even a fool cannot lose their way on this wonderful road! Joy, gladness, and singing are the trademarks of the returnees who will travel this road! Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Indeed, many did return from exile during the time of Cyrus, King of Persia, who sends the people back home with his blessing. The book of Isaiah tells how God used this foreign king, as God’s chosen servant in that time in history.
4. One of the oldest and best Advent songs is: O come, O come, Emmanuel! And ransom captive Israel. That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel-shall come to you, O Israel! This song is inspired by Isaiah 35 and 40, especially! It’s a quiet song, not like when we belt out “Joy to the World”. But it’s a beautiful prayer and promise. It helps us think and pray “Come, Lord Jesus”. (And Luther said “the person who sings, prays twice!”)
5. Who in your circle of friends; who in the world needs such a word of hope and joy? How can our Christmas celebrations or Christmas giving help give strength, and take away fear and sorrow? Consider how ELCA “Good Gifts” bring hope!