Year A – Advent 3 -Isaiah 35:1-10

Isaiah’s Messianic Vision – Restoration and a New Exodus (Isaiah 35:1-10)
Isaiah 35:1–10 1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2 it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.   3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”   5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.   8 A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. 10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Overview – Believe in the Promises of Restoration (35:1-2). This passage recalls the exodus through the wilderness, but promises a restoration. It seems to forecast the coming of exiles out of captivity. The people in exile were caught, like us, in the tension between here and longing for home in true/final Zion. The imagery is that, “The wilderness and the desert will be glad,” because the desert will become like the everglades. Spring flowers and the cedars of Lebanon will line the way of a new Exodus highway to Zion. He promises us deliverance as well. God calls us to take courage in His Promises of Restoration (35:3-6). References like Lebanon and Arabah seem foreign, but the application is very relevant: if you believe God will restore His people, then “encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not’” (vv3-4). The basis of our encouraging others, whether then or now is the same: God keeps His Word. He is faithful whether to an Exodus, a temporary rescue (in Daniel’s day), a simple answer to prayer or to the complete salvation in the work of Christ, culminating in Resurrection. Trusting God relieves those with “anxious hearts” (v4) and He is able to do beyond what we expect, “For waters will break forth in the wilderness and streams in the Arabah [wilderness]” (v6). He makes streams in our desert hearts. Therefore we should rejoice in the

Insight – God promises of restoration (35:7-10).  A “scorched land will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water” extend the image of an oasis highway to bring His people back to Zion. In this new exodus “the redeemed will walk” and “the ransomed of the LORD will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion” (vv9-10). The ending promise is like that in Revelation, “sorrow and sighing will flee away” (v10). “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). He will wipe away our tears as well.

Discussion – What are things you long for that God has promised, but have not yet happened?

Prayer – Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen. (Collect for Advent 3)

 

Year C – The Baptism of the Lord – Isaiah 43:1-7

Is 43:1–7 NRSV – “1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; 6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Summary – Like much of Isaiah 40-65 this text speaks of the return of Israel to the Land and the blessings that come with these fulfilled promises. God here promises redemption and that they shall pass through the water and fire without harm as their offspring return and are gathered. The words tenderly emphasize that God sees Israel as precious. They were created for the Lord’s glory. One of the interesting parts of this promise is the language of exchange. ” I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you . . . I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.” This refers to what God gives Cyrus (Is. 44:28) who will make the way for Israel’s return. Cyrus (and son) will conquer these places.

Insight – One of the greatest fears we have is rejection. A slight word of disapproval, an angry look or worse can make us miserable. Personal rejection is much more powerful when it is from someone we truly care about. Israel as a people had fallen into idolatry and immorality and because of this they were exiled. In many ways the people that desired to be faithful to the Lord could have believed that they had been rejected by the Lord forever. Many were tempted to believe that God was no longer their Savior or Redeemer but had cast them off. Yet, this passage is a rich set of promises confirming God’s acceptance of His people, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” In other words, God makes clear our redemption, call, love, and adoption. This even more evident after Christ has come. We are in Him and Christ is true Israel, therefore we are truly loved and accepted.

Catechism  – Why should we not fear? Because “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Discussion – What are some ways that you have experienced rejection? What is the basis for our acceptance before God?

Prayer – Heavenly Father we thank You for these precious promises to Your people that come to us through Jesus Christ. We believe that we are redeemed and called and that we are Yours in Him. Grant now that we so walk in this confidence that we may please You, serve our neighbors and use our gifts for Your glory. In Christ’s name, Amen.