The Hope of New Vision

As a result of God's protective appearance, "the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless will sing for joy" (35:5-6ab). G.F. Handel's ubiquitous oratorio, "Messiah," enshrined these words forever as predictions of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, but of course that connection had been made already centuries before the composition of the musical piece. The coming of God in protective and powerful grace will change the world in multiple ways. In short, the beleaguered and distraught world of Isaiah 34 now finds itself the recipient of God's saving work wherein reversals of fortune are seen all around. There are now "streams in the desert," "pools" appear out of "burning sands," "jackals" now find their true resting places (if 35:7b is understood correctly), and "desert scrub grass" turns into watery "reeds and rushes."

"A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way." In an echo of Isaiah 40's famous highway (40:3), 35:8 proclaims a highway for God in the wilderness, a highway free from the "unclean" and from "lions" and "ravenous beasts" (35:8c-9ab). Ultimately, the highway is built as a safe road for "the redeemed of the Lord" who will "return and come to Zion with singing" (35:10ab). And upon their return to the sacred city "sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (35:10d).

No wilderness is too wild for the activity of the grace-filled God. No desert is too dry for God not to find water and blossoms and reeds in it.

No knee is too infirm for God not to strengthen it. No situation is too hopeless for God not to find hope. This vision of a God of infinite and unstoppable hope is the one we need this and every Advent, for the one we celebrate at Christmas knew no person or situation so dead that he could not find life in it. In that way among many others, he is the spittin' image of the God of Isaiah 35.

Read Alyce McKenzie's New Testament reflection for this week, The Fear of (Spiritual) Blindness, here.

12/3/2010 5:00:00 AM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.
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