15 July 2010

Isaiah 26:7-19

"In the path of your judgements, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and your renown are the soul's desire." (v.8)


Today's passage presents us with a song to be sung in the middle of a crisis. This chapter comes part way through a section of Isaiah which seems, in some way, to stand alone (24:1 - 27:13). There is less reference to the historical events we have seen unfolding all week, but rather a series of metaphors and predictions that seem more general and could apply to many times in Israel's history, or to the end of time.

But this song takes on a new vividness if we remember the history against which Isaiah prophesied. At least one biblical commentator suggests that we could imagine today's reading as a song sung by pilgrims to Jerusalem, part way through the disastrous events we have been reading about.

The northern kingdom of Israel has been invaded and the southern kingdom of Judah is now under attack. The land and other cities have been ravaged and only Jerusalem remains relatively unscathed. And in the midst of this the pilgrims affirm their faith. The chapter opens by celebrating the "strong city" and asking that the gates of the city be opened for the pilgrims. In this passage the pilgrims proclaim that God seeks righteousness and justice; that God is seeking to teach the world the way of righteousness, even though God's way is hidden to many; and that they will continue to acknowledge God's reign even though they are suffering. You might want to imagine yourself as one of those pilgrims and read the passage through slowly, asking yourself if you could say these verses in such a situation.

It could also be that verse 19 should be read as God's promise to a broken people. In a dry climate, dew is an important source of moisture and thus becomes a symbol for new life. The song for the middle of a crisis ends on a note of hope. Those now living in dust have a reason to sing.

To Ponder

Does God always "make smooth the path of the righteous"?

When you are at points of crisis, what aspect of your faith do you find it helpful to affirm?

Bible notes author

The Revd Judith Rossall

Judith Rossall is a Methodist tutor at Queen's Foundation in Birmingham. Before moving to Queen's, she was a circuit minister and taught at STETS in Salisbury.