Isaiah 35: 1-10
Have you ever been interrupted? If you were to sit down and read the book of Isaiah from the beginning, if you are at all like me, by chapter 34, you would be ready to quit or skip the dozens of chapters. Everything has fallen apart; nothing is working. Then, we get interrupted by today’s passage, Isaiah 35. The interruption forces us to observe that God’s story is not yet finished.
The Israelites during the time of exile were dissatisfied with how their lives were going. Then, they all raised questions to God—Why did we suffer from this anxiety, homelessness, and the sense of being uprooted? Why did God’s people seem to get one dose of bad luck after another? Why did God’s people seem to have any direction? How did these other people—seemingly evil and bad—fit God’s will and plan? Could we recover from this period of exile, going back homeland again? Could we possibly be saved from this suffering and challenge? These questions are not only for Israel but maybe the ones we often wrestle with daily.
When we are in the story, we never know how near we are to the end of this chapter. There may be a surprise ending on the next page, or it may go on for a hundred pages. But what is important for us is that the story is not finished yet.
Such interruption gives us a chance to catch our breath. We may calm down, and see that contradictions, inconsistencies, impossibilities, unresolved tensions, conflicts, and lack of balance between blessing and disappointment—all of these are materials and plots in the process of being written by a master artist.
In writing their books, some novelists use a flashback technique. The writer begins in midstream and then, every once in a while, interrupts the flow by inserting a seemingly forgotten episode from the past—helping us to get the background and history we need to remember and understand what is going on right now in the story. What we need to do is not skip the pages while we trust the main writer.
Biblical writers also do that, but sometimes they also “flash-forward,” a brief glance ahead like today’s prophecy—the blind will be opened; the deaf will be cleared; the lame will leap like the deer; the speechless will sing; waters will spring up in the desert; streams in the wilderness; the burning sand will become a pool; the thirsty ground will become fountains of water; be strong; do not fear; God will come to save us.
Some of us might feel we live in the wilderness, the dryland, the burning sand, the thirsty ground, and so on. That is why some of us might want to skip some chapters and get to the end. Some of us may be displeased with our story in this chapter because it does not seem to work out fairly. If so, I invite everyone to get interrupted by today’s passage, Isaiah 35—Be strong, fear not, behold your God, God still comes to save us, and God still works in a mysterious way—just like making a rare flower boom in the desert.
Thanks be to God.