14 December 2016Isaiah 26:7-9
“My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” (v. 9)
Psalm: Psalm 71:17-24
The hymn (within what is known as 'the Apocalypse of Isaiah') continues but these verses begin a change to becoming more like a Psalm of Lament. These few verses are beautiful and very personal as God's people draw close to their God while waiting for God's kingdom. Isaiah 40:3 (made so popular in Godspell) that is quoted in Luke 3:4 as a prophecy coming true with John the Baptist might even be built upon verse 7 here:
"The way of the righteous is level;
O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous."
However the emphasis is different. Instead of preparing the way for the Lord, the Lord is smoothing the way for the righteous. What that means is something that people have understood in many different ways over the years can still be understood in a wide variety of ways today.
The personal nature of these verses, especially the first half of verse 9, might seem to fit very well with a modern faith that is understood as being personal and inward. However, there is also a strong community focus "we wait for you" (v. 8) and an impact beyond the local "inhabitants of the world". This inward desire for God's kingdom is a desire for a kingdom shared by the whole world, not just a kingdom of our hearts and souls.
This idea of waiting for God's kingdom is very clearly one that we have made a central theme of Advent with the dual hope of God's kingdom in the world begun at the incarnation and the hope of God's Kingdom coming in full with the return of Jesus. Although our Advent traditions don't generally include much yearning during the night (maybe because we have got so busy during the days) we see that aspect in the popularity of 24x7 prayer weeks, where many people find the prayer time through the night very powerful experiences.
- How do you feel about the idea of God making smooth your path?
- How does the idea of your soul yearning for God feel to you (day or night)?