God’s word was like a healing salve to a wounded people. They had been exiled long and hard. Early in Isaiah the people heard words of condemnation and despair. But it took a turn in chapter 40, when God proclaimed, “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” Here, the people hear a vision of what is to be. In the new world there will be celebrations, rejoicing, creation rather than destruction, food and riches, and everything that the people lost in their exile. At the time it would have been hard to believe. But these things did come to pass eventually.
Sometimes it seems we live in a world that God has abandoned. Terrorism, drought, poverty, global warming, and injustice seem to reign. But this is still God’s world. Amid the future promises are the current realities – we also live in a world where tolerance and acceptance are beginning to blossom. Same-sex marriages are legal in North America, and gay and lesbian teens can move through adolescence without the same terror of being found out that once existed in our schools. Small businesses are popping up all over the continent where profits are turned into food for the hungry, clothing for the poor, technology that helps sustain developing nations, or rescue for girls and women trapped in human trafficking. Organic, vegan, and fair trade food are offered in mainstream grocery chains. In many ways, we are already living the reality of the promises God made for a better world. We can rejoice in the promises realized, even as we work toward making real God’s promises that have not yet come to pass.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, foreigners shall till your land and dress your vines; but you shall be called priests of the Lord, you shall be named ministers of our God; you shall enjoy the wealth of the nations, and in their riches you shall glory. Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs. For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.