17 December 2007

Isaiah 29:17-24

"Shall not Lebanon in a very little while become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?" (v.17)


Isaiah, one of the Old Testament's best-known prophets, is in an optimistic mood here, looking to the future of God's people. "Lebanon" was not intended as the modern-day country, but rather a metaphor for God's nation, Israel.

The deaf, the blind and the poor are singled out here to benefit from this sense of future hope - reminding us of yesterday's verses in which Jesus defined himself in terms of bringing healing to the disadvantaged (Matthew 11:4-5).

Like so much prophecy from Isaiah, today's words can be taken as pointers to the advent of the Messiah, and all the good things accruing to God's people as a result.

But the growth of a fruitful field into a forest is also a powerful metaphor for ways in which growth, healing and fruitfulness are all part of a process in which God's people evolve and become stronger - like the famous "cedars of Lebanon".

Recent experience of so much suffering in modern-day Lebanon might also evoke images for us of a hoped-for future in which the people of the Middle East could live peacefully and creatively.

To Ponder

What hopes do you see for the future of God's people today?

How does the imagery of a fruitful field growing into a forest relate to churches and communities you know?

Bible notes author

The Revd Peter Byass

Peter is a Methodist minister who spends a large part of his time working on the global health scene, from his working base as professor of Global Health at the University of Umeå (in Sweden) and on frequent field visits. Until recently he also chaired the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF).