Thus says the Lord:
In a time of favor I have answered you,
on a day of salvation I have helped you;
I have kept you and given you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages;
saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”
to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”
They shall feed along the ways,
on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;
they shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them.
Reflection: God’s first chosen people were exiled and away from the land they had been promised during the time of this writing from Isaiah. Place meant everything to the Hebrew people. God promised to their ancestor Abraham, land, descendants and a promise to fulfill God’s plan of hope through them. How could that promise now be fulfilled and how were their needs to be provided when they were geographically so far removed from their homeland and in their minds and hearts, away from God? The prophet speaks the word of God to exiled people saying, “In a time of favor I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you.” Isaiah is reassuring these nomadic people that God made a promise long before they were carted off in captivity.
Promises are easy to make and accept when things are going well, far more difficult when life seems to be falling apart. We learn to trust those who hold onto us even when the way forward is unclear or even lost. The prophet’s words are good words for us to hear as we long for images of hope. God provides that hope and promises to provide for the promised ones, the first people of the promise as well as for us, many generations removed. A verse from one of my favorite Advent hymns comes to mind, “God’s promise will not fail you, no more will doubt assail you, Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God’s word.” God provides what we need and fills us to overflowing. Thanks be to God for naming and claiming us in God’s promise whose words are faithful and true.
Prayer: We give thanks to you, O God for claiming us as your own and thereby making us people of your promise to love us and provide for us unconditionally. Forgive us when we fail to trust you and restore our hope so that we can bear witness to your love and grace through our thoughts, words and deeds for the sake of honoring and glorifying you above all else. We pray in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.
-Pastor Craig Swenson