Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-11
Key Verse(s): All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. (v. 6b-7)
Observation: These opening verses of what is called Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55) are a poetic transition from First Isaiah (chapters 1-39) and marks a definite change in tone. First Isaiah is dark and gloomy with serious accusations against Israel for her unfaithfulness. In First Isaiah, God is full of wrath and judgment leading to Israel being taken captive by the Babylonians. But Second Isaiah begins with the command to comfort Israel. The tone changes and Israel becomes somewhat of a victim as the poet declares that Israel has received double for her sins or that her punishment exceeded her offense. This comfort comes in the form of speech as the poet continually makes reference to proclamation (v. 2), calling (v. 3), crying out (v. 6), and lifting up your voice (v. 9). Comfort comes through words and through these words a way is made for God to come (v. 3-5). Through the words of comfort the re-connection between the people and God is made easier. But the one being sent has second thoughts. People are not faithful and do not have the steadfast love of God in their hearts. The rough places are the result of human disobedience. The mountains, hills, and valleys remain because people are not faithful. The only hope is in the constancy and the dependability of the everlasting Word of God.
Analysis: This second Sunday of Advent we continue to get ready for the coming of the Word of God, the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. Read in the context of Advent we are reminded that we have work to do as we wait. This work is intended to prepare all people, including ourselves, to receive the enduring Word of God that brings comfort, joy, and peace. We want to join the complaints in v. 6b-7. I have often thought of this verse and a half in terms of the temporal nature of human life and missed the reference to the unfaithfulness of human beings. Each and everyone one of us is fickle. We see the unfaithfulness in others but fail to see how we are inconsistent, walking paradoxes. We miss the ways that we contribute to the figurative mountains and valleys that make it difficult for others to see the coming of the Lord. Thanks be to God it is not entirely up to us. We are God’s representatives but we are not God. God’s power strengthens and encourages us to proclaim that Jesus is coming. God’s shepherding reminds us that God is with us as we prepare and God will lead us through our unfaithfulness into the God’s comforting arms.
Prayer: Lord God, we pray for words of comfort for ourselves but also for those who need to hear these words from us. Grant us the courage to speak words that may sound ridiculous in relation to reality but that speak of your love and your will for all people. Moreover, Lord help us to hear your word anew each and everyday, so that we are prepared for Jesus’ coming. Amen.