Today’s passage from Isaiah begins by proclaiming the power of God. When he comes, “he rules with a mighty arm” (40:10). Given what we’ve seen so far in Isaiah, we might expect the next statement to promise judgment, as God uses his matchless strength to punish the nations for their wickedness. But what in fact comes next is a moving picture of God’s extraordinary tenderness.
It’s harder and harder to trust these days. Partly, this is due to the epidemic of cynicism that plagues our society. But, our cynicism comes as the institutions and individuals we once counted on turn out to be untrustworthy. Yet, even in our cynical age, there is something in us that looks, even yearns for something truly reliable, something that we can truly count on.
With occasional oases of hope, the first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah are a desert of divine judgment. But then, beginning with Isaiah 40, the tone changes. Though the Lord is still a God of justice and judgment, emphasis is placed on restoration and renewal.
Hezekiah was manipulated by flattery and fell prey to pride. Like any other human being, he had his weaknesses, and these were costly, not only to him, but also to his people. Our leadership whether in our jobs or families, whether in our churches or communities, can also be compromised by our weaknesses.
This story portrays vividly the power and puzzle of prayer. God healed Hezekiah, doing that which required supernatural power, in response to Hezekiah’s supplication. This is the power of prayer. The puzzle comes from the fact that God seemed to change his mind in response to Hezekiah’s prayer.
The challenges of our lives may not be quite as dire as those of Hezekiah, but we all face apparently invincible problems in our lives. There are times when these challenges – at work, at home, in our relationships, in our own hearts – seem overwhelming. In such circumstances, we are certainly free to pour out our fears and needs to the Lord. Yet, sometimes we need to do more than ask for God’s help.
We are inspired and empowered to live today by our vision of God’s future. We pray to the Father as Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And we allow this prayer to shape our lives wherever we are: in our offices and stores, in our studios and conference rooms, in our churches and cities, in our homes and schools.
I want to spend another day reflecting with you on Isaiah 34. This chapter can be troubling because it seems to celebrate God’s vengeance. God seems to relish the thought of judging the nations. How is this picture of God consistent with the God revealed to us in Jesus, a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness? What in the world are we to take away from Isaiah 34?
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