Shall not Lebanon in a very little while
become a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?
18 On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a scroll,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
19 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
20 For the tyrant shall be no more,
and the scoffer shall cease to be;
all those alert to do evil shall be cut off—
21 those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit,
who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate,
and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.
22 Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
no longer shall his face grow pale.
23 For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24 And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who grumble will accept instruction. - Isaiah 29:17-24
It is so easy to feel some comfort when I read Isaiah, especially around this time of year. I'm not much of a poetry lover, but Isaiah's poetic words have an impact that is hard to describe. He speaks to a generation very far removed from ours and yet his words are as relevant today as they were in Isaiah's time.
I found it hard to get past the first line of the passage with its reference to Lebanon. Lebanon was known as a place where tall, strong cedars grew, cedars that were used in the building of the Temple at Jerusalem but in the past several decades it has been identified with warfare and strife. Isaiah prophecies that Lebanon would become a fruitful field and a forest. With its placement in the Middle East, though, that fruitfulness has become questionable. Too many of its closest neighbors are troubled and in danger and that danger is spreading.
Tyrants push buttons. They make people do what they want, even if the people don't want to play that game. History has had more than plenty of tyrants. Countless have died at their hands and countless more have suffered from their tortures and slavery.
Like in many of Isaiah's prophecies, God turns things upside down. Tyrants, scoffers, and evildoers will be overturned while their victims will receive God's blessings. Those who have hung their heads in shame will stand tall and proud. It may require a change of thinking and accept new teachings that would put them on the right path.
The New York Daily Mail had a front page headline recently that said "God Isn't Fixing This."* While a lot of people would take exception at the sentiment, it says something to us Christians about laying it all in God's lap and however it turns out must be the way God wants it. We have no responsibility in the matter at all. That's false thinking, though. God has always expected us to do our share, now more than ever. We can't keep making messes and expecting God to clean them up for us.
Advent's journey is a time for us to think and to listen. It's a time to study and pray, but also a time to act. The world needs a dose of kingdom work, and that means turning things upside down. After all, Jesus did a lot of turning things upside down, didn't he?
*New York Daily Mail, front page, December 3, 2015. Accessed online.