The descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the followers of Moses, the people of the Covenant, have been carried off to Babylon as captives. They look in despair at the heavens and ask “Where is God in all this”. And at this point Isaiah brings a word – in the shape of Isaiah Chapter 40. It begins with the instruction to Isaiah to comfort the people because the moment will come when God will level the mountains and fill in the valleys to make a highway that will take them back home. There is a pause – where we can almost sense those who hear Isaiah shake their heads in hopeless despair. The road home seems impossible because those who hold them in captivity are too powerful, and the Children of Israel are too weak. Isaiah’s reply is decisive: “To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.” The God of all creation is more powerful than any earthy ruler and so will make this happen. In addition to this, the people are not to think of themselves as weak because “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless”.
These words have sustained generations of people since then. Whenever people have felt demoralised, we have turned to Isaiah 40 for words of comfort. Whether we read them aloud – or we sing them as in Part I of Handels’ Messiah – they remind us that God is larger than our history and will carry us through the particular moment we are experiencing.
Just as God speaks words of freedom from captivity to Israel in Isaiah 40, so God continues to speak these words of rescue. And we who follow the ways of our God are partners in bringing comfort to those who have lost courage, and liberation to those who are held captive. Whether this is a woman living in fear of a bad husband, a child who is crushed by the burden of bad adults, a refugee running from bad government, or someone who is terrified of their own bad decisions – the truth remains: “those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Do not fear your particular moment in history. The “everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth” is with you!
Third Sunday after Trinity34 Our Weakness and God’s Strength
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 213.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.