In this portion of Second Isaiah, Cyrus of Persia has promised release of the Jews from Babylon back to Palestine after their exile. The author begins with the voice of God calling for Israel to be tenderly comforted with the news that the Exile is to end. Jerusalem has paid for her sins, and the way must be prepared for the Lord to return in victory. Miraculously, all manner of things will be healed and renewed to show God’s glory. No matter how fickle people may be in the future, God will prevail. God will come with a gentle might and respond to human need as the good shepherd does: feeding, protecting, and guiding the flock.
How helpful to you is the image of God as shepherd? For a long time, I was unable to relate to God or Jesus as the Good Shepherd and dismissed the image as anachronistic. But thirty years ago, my husband and I visited the Scottish Highlands and hiked into the hills of Glen Lyon, where a herd of sheep grazed without a shepherd. The view was glorious until we stumbled upon a deep hole under an uprooted tree. The hole was filled with a decaying adult ewe that had strayed and fallen into the hole. Without the help of a shepherd to crawl out, she had perished.
As I gazed at the dead ewe, the reality of God as Good Shepherd became apparent. I realized that all my life, especially through the death of both parents when I was a teenager, God had been tending to my needs. Without the care and guidance of the Good Shepherd, I might not have survived.
God, help us to honor the Bible’s context by recognizing that biblical images were created to help your children know you. May we never let old images be a barrier to our relationship. You are beyond all images, and someday we will know you as I AM. Amen.
Prepare the way of the Lord! This is the theme for the second week of Advent. Isaiah cries out from the wilderness that the people should prepare for the arrival of the Lord. This will be met with shouts of praise and rejoicing. The psalmist tells his audience to prepare the way of the Lord by living rightly, namely by showing love and faithfulness to each other. Second Peter restates that we do not know the day of the Lord’s ultimate return, but we know that the delay is a result of God’s patience and desire for all to come to repentance. Matthew opens his Gospel with a quotation from this week’s Isaiah passage. Here John the Baptist is presented as the one preparing the way of the Lord.
Read Isaiah 40:1-11. When have you profoundly experienced God’s guidance or protection? How did this experience change you?
Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13. Consider the author’s questions. How can you and your faith community return to God to “dwell in God’s land”?
Read 2 Peter 3:8-15a. How might considering God’s time alter your perspective on your daily rush and prompt you toward a greater experience of peace?
Read Mark 1:1-8. When have you reached a spiritual dead end? How did the working of the Holy Spirit help you turn around or move forward in a new way?
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