As promised, I am about to post a passage from the book of Isaiah that does not get as much play at Christmastime, but which I love.
Some context: I have long felt the call that these verses awaken in me, especially the first 3 verses of chapter 55 (“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters” etc.). But I really hid this passage in my heart when my oldest was a baby. (That’s a while ago now.) I was a young mom, recently moved to a different country. Basically my entire life was about keeping me and the baby fed, rested, and reasonably clean. Oh, and safe from huge tropical insects. That was it.
I was hungry all the time, because I was breastfeeding and also fasting once in a while (yes, I know, I am crazy). I was also, like most young moms, super emotional. I read these two chapters again and again as I sat holding my baby. There are so many beautiful images in them (cities built of gemstones!), so much comfort (the names of God!), so many promises. There is also the promise of infinite free food, which I realize is metaphorical, but it sounded pretty good to me in my constantly hungry condition. Maybe it’s literal and metaphorical. That would be terrific.
Anyway, this passage, most of Isaiah 54 and all of Isaiah 55, had all the depth and range to deal with my deep, wide-ranging emotions and hungry body. The reading of it has become a very good memory, and I realize that even now, I have not plumbed its depths.
Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame.
Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.
You will forget the shame of your youth
and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his name —
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
The Lord will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit —
a wife who married young, only to be rejected, says your God.
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.
“To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
“O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
I will build you with stones of turquoise,
your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of sparkling jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your sons will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be your children’s peace.
In righteousness you will be established:
Tyranny will be far from you;
you will have nothing to fear.
Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you.
If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing;
whoever attacks you will surrender to you.
See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc;
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and snow come down from heaven
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”Isaiah 54:4 – 55:13