Friday, January 8, 2016

And you thought your running days were behind you.

The Word for today:
Isaiah 40
My sons run. They run hard and fast, the way we were made to run. So I watch a lot of high school and college track meets.
You wouldn't know it, seeing me leaning against the fence that encloses the track, but I used to be one of those runners.  And someday -- some golden someday -- I will be one of them again. This I know, for the Bible tells me so...
A form of hell, of separation from God, is coming upon Israel in the time of the prophets. First the glory of God--which had hovered over the tabernacle and in the Temple--will depart from Jerusalem before it can be extinguished by the sewage of their sin (1). Then banishment is upon them, and overtakes them. They would soon live out a collective nightmare,
by the rivers of Babylon,
where we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion,
hanging our harps upon the willows in the midst of it
And so we've wandered with them, disaster impending, through Isaiah chapter 39.
But now in chapter 40--as if a curtain were drawn aside--their long night has passed. Their winter is over; fragrance and birdsong caress their senses:
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance

Isaiah 40 is where your Bible turns for home.  
A certain voice gathers distinction, separating itself from the gray Babylonian drone; the heart quickens, the world turns a somersault on its axis as the voice of the forerunner, John the Baptist, rings out--
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low;
the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places made smooth."
  (Isaiah 40:3-4)
I don't know what night you've endured, or what wilderness you've crossed on the way to your own Babylon.  It wouldn't surprise me to find we were both there--by the same river, at the same time, our harps hung in the same tree.
But the forerunner's voice signifies that all our Babylons have (to slightly turn a phrase) come to pass:
"Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins."  
 (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Moreover, the forerunner's voice signifies that the King is drawing nigh (4)--
"And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
 (Isaiah 40:5)
And with the King will come a quickening (5).  No longer former runners forced to concede to the evil years (6), we shall be so effortlessly swift that the poet must look to the skies for our likeness:
"He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint." 
 (Isaiah 40:29-31)
And you thought your running days were behind you.
(1) see Ezekiel 10, 11; (2) Psalm 137:1-2; (3) Song of Solomon 2:11-13; (4) 1 Kings 18:46; (5) see 1 Corinthians 15:45/KJV; (6) Genesis 47:9

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