Today’s Scripture: Isaiah 60:15-22

18 Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
   devastation or destruction within your borders;
you shall call your walls Salvation,
   and your gates Praise.
19 The sun shall no longer be
   your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
   give light to you by night;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
   and your God will be your glory. (NRSV)

These words were written to Israelites who were taken as prisoners following the cruel and humiliating defeat of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Isaiah speaks of a future great reversal where the “forsaken and hated”captives will be made “majestic forever.” The complete degradation of Israel will be changed by the wonderful alchemy of God: “from bronze to gold, from iron to silver, from wood to bronze, and from stones to iron.” Moving from these materialistic images, Isaiah foresees an age of peace and righteousness where violence, devastation, and destruction will be banished, and in their place will stand a kingdom of salvation and praise.

This good news is now greatly expanded, moving from the plane of economic and political transformation to a celebration of all creation. The sun and the moon will be but shadows of God’s everlasting light shining upon Jerusalem in the future. There will be no more darkness and no more exile for the citizens of Jerusalem. The least of the families will live in prosperity, and the promises of God made to Abraham will be fulfilled as Israel will grow and spread throughout the land, safe and prosperous. The poem concludes with God’s announcement: “I am the Lord,” making it clear that Israel’s dramatic change of fortune is the work of God acting in the midst of human history.

In this passage, Isaiah speaks an important word for the Old Testament faith that becomes a hallmark of the New Testament vision of God: hope can be found in the moments of deepest despair. When the very foundations of our world are shaken, the presence of God is revealed to give us hope. This is the lesson of the Lenten season that leads us to a celebration of the Easter event. Our lives seem at times like the Friday of the crucifixion, like the Friday of death, like the Friday when it seems we’ve been forsaken by God and abandoned and betrayed by our friends.  Though it seems like Friday, Isaiah points us toward the important truth that the Sunday of resurrection is coming where the whole world will rejoice with the good news of the resurrection hope.