Isaiah 35:1-10:  A Safe Passage for the Those Made Whole by God

This text opens with the glory of God likened to natural occurrences of beauty.  While nature erupts with glory, strength and steadiness are given to human limbs.  God’s idea of renewal has no limitations.  Nothing is too broken, not even the worst part of ourselves.  We place our hope in this belief.  This thought, perhaps presented as a responsive reading, would be a great way to open a worship service.

A deeper look at our Isaiah text poses this question in my mind:  what has caused the limbs to weaken (vs.3)?  What has caused the hearts to fear (vs. 4)?  In the context of history, scholars assume that the exile has happened and this has caused many to lose hope.  Therefore this passage has more of a sense of desperation. Lester tells us that despair is a total loss of future story, every day looks like the last.  This generation will never have the lifestyle they had grown accustomed to living and their children would not have the same childhood they did.  A way of life gone.  Things will be different but is all hope lost?  Hope is still alive because God is still at work.  Isaiah 35:1-10 gives us insight into what God is working toward – a safe passage.  Notice that God does not send a chariot for a comfortable ride on this passage.  Rather weak limbs and weaker hearts (that restrict movement) give way for the people of God to WALK the path God has laid before them.   Furthermore, God promises a path that is safe. God, wanting God’s people to be on the move toward God, gives hope by strengthening what was weak and giving a safe way.  Could this safe passage lead to the super-sized Jerusalem in Isaiah 2?

In verse 8-9 cements the visual: a highway and a lion or a secure way and a threat.  God’s highway leads the travelers to Zion and God promises safety along with way.  They move from fear (vs. 4) to rejoicing (vs. 10).  Living into God’s hope is a process.  We are constantly being “saved” (vs. 4).

 Hope is still alive because God is still at work.  Isaiah 35:1-10 gives us insight into what God is working toward – a safe passage
 

If ADVENT 1 is God’s hope for humanity and ADVENT 2 is the leadership that leads us toward God’s hope, then ADVENT 3 is how we will get there – the highway.  The condition necessary to travel – healing and safety (both by God’s hand)

LECTIONARY CONNECTION

The text’s subjects are in a-b-c-b-a order; creation, humanity, God, humanity, creation.  In the center is God who comes to save.  What does salvation look like?  A very present process – being healed and walking God’s highway toward God’s hope.  But is this a salvation far off?  Not necessarily.  In the gospel text for ADVENT 3 ( Matthew 11:2-11), John the Baptist sends his followers to confirm that Jesus is the messiah by asking Jesus if he is “the one who was to come”.  John’s time was growing short and I imagined he was reflecting on his mission.  I suppose I would ask myself if my time on this earth had counted for something.  And so he poses the question to Jesus – Am I mistaken?  Or worse yet, Did I waste my time and energy?  Jesus’ response correlates to this passage because physical healing was happening.  Creation obeyed Jesus’ commands.  The new highway was in the midst of those who were told to look so carefully for it.

Once again using IFS Theory, Jesus is in our midst, the Holy Spirit tugs at our Self.  Can we envision salvation being a current process in which our Self listens, loves, acknowledges, embraces the other parts (exile, firefighter, manager)? Can our inner leader (self) make a safe passage for the other parts to be heard?  This kind of inner leadership leads to healing.  (see Advent in July; Isaiah 2) This kingdom is within and now, not to come and later.  

PREACHING THE TEXT:  focusing on the God’s highway

Jesus tells us that he is “the way, the truth and the light”.  Could the highway in Isaiah be Jesus?  Preachers can take the congregation to that assumption through the lectionary gospel text provided.  Internalizing the “highway” as a journey toward the kingdom within is an opportunity to talk about the Christian walk/journey/God’s highway.  What aspect of our spiritual growth is a journey? How is holiness a process? What threatens that journey (lions, our own foolishness, and feelings of unworthiness)?

To my entire Methodist preaching friends, this sounds like “going on to perfection”.  This Sunday may be a opportune time to educate and encourage the congregation in that journey.  However to continue my use of IFS Theory, I’d like talk about safety.  Sometimes our spiritual growth is stunted because we do not allow a part of ourselves to experience the divine.  Forgiveness, grace and acceptance are denied. Perhaps we view that part as sinful or broken(vs. 8), not worthy highway traveling.    That part is labeled the “exile” is IRS Theory.  When the Self offers acceptance and encouragement to the exile, the exile is fit for travel.   Being that God redeems everything, this includes the exile or the part of us that bears our shame.  God promises safety and restoration for the “exile”.  The same grace can be extended to the other “parts” in IFS Theory.

When our “exiles” are placed on the highway to move toward God, we are more hopeful.  Our very self is changing as the “exiles” receive the acceptance and peace God has to offer.  As a result other voices, Self, manager and firefighter begin to mimic the grace of God.  The despair felt by the “exile” is relieved.  This results in spiritual healing. 

How do we move toward God’s hope and dream (ADVENT 1)?  Our leader/Self (ADVENT 2) allows all the parts of us to follow the path God has laid before us (ADVENT 3).

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