Writing the midst of a spiritually and politically tumultuous time, Isaiah doesn’t say that the world is basically a good place and because of that everything will be OK. His faith is much more realistic because it is beaten out between the hammer and anvil of history and tempered in the fire of reality.
Isaiah’s time was a time during which Israel was threatened by a revival of Assyrian military might and the resultant potential conquest and enslavement. In the midst of this time when Israel is “looking down the barrel” of Assyria’s gun, Isaiah is a political realist: He acknowledges that Israel will be carried off into slavery. But, that is not the last word. For Israel is God’s chosen and beloved. And, because of that God will not abandon Israel, but will ultimately lead His people out of chaotic confusion into serenity and peace. At that time Isaiah says Israel’s suffering will end. Her burdensome yoke will be lifted. The tools of her tormenters will be broken and Israel’s will live in peace and tranquility, one with her God and His and their joy will abound.
What Isaiah promises is that the people to whom he speaks are God’s chosen people and that God is possessed of “hesed,” an unfailing love which is by definition a faithful love which shall not be frustrated by the world’s sinfulness and its leaders’ selfish, power-mad actions. These are powerful, profound, and faithful words for those who live today in a similarly political, economic, and cultural tumult. And who are thereby challenged similarly in their spirits.
Yet, in the midst of the tumult, there comes echoing down through the ages these words from Isaiah. Words that the church has always clung too, words that the church affirms are truer and more profound than are the crises in which we find ourselves. These are words that breathe life and hope, love and security, peace and confidence. They are the promise of better times. There can be no question that God will redeem us. The question is in what physical form shall God make manifest our deliverance? When shall we see that which will deliver us? And how shall we respond?
For that, you’ll need to see Eleanor Nurney’s mediation on Isaiah 9:6-7. Stay tuned. Details on December 24th.