For this is what the Lord says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
The ancient Jewish love for similes continues.
As the book of Isaiah comes to its close there is a very mixed final chapter. There are both beautiful Eden like images of what is in store for those who are obedient to God, and images of horrific judgment on those who refuse to respond to God.
However, it is a fitting end as all the way through The Bible there is a clear indication that with God there is no middle ground. You’re either seeking him or you’re not. You’re either serving him or you’re not. You’re either on God’s mountain or another mountain. If you’re in the valley in between, you’re still not on God’s mountain.
Right? It makes sense.
The angel of the Lord in Luke 2 has featured in the last few posts. And today’s post is no exception. There appear to be a number of connections between the latter parts of Isaiah and the announcement of Jesus’ birth by said angel.
In Isaiah 66, there is a promise of peace and comfort for those who are God’s people: I will extend peace to her like a river.
The angel of the Lord echoes these words: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
Some years back I met with an older Christian mentor every fortnight, on Friday mornings. Towards the end of our time meeting together, she suggested we read 2 Chronicles together, which is in the Old Testament. Her rationale was sophisticated and spiritual: “Who reads 2 Chronicles? No one reads 2 Chronicles. Let’s read 2 Chronicles.”
I liked her rationale (for once it wasn’t me with the non-conformist suggestion). So we read 2 Chronicles.
Around the same time in my daily Bible reading, I was reading either Isaiah or Jeremiah, or one of the major books in the Old Testament where Israel is not doing well and about to go into exile.
The same sort of thing is happening in 2 Chronicles. It was a bit depressing, really. I was left wondering if there was any person who wasn’t steeped in sin. Was there anyone? Was there any shining light left?
Surely God’s favour would rest on them, as it says in Luke 2.
I discovered that the answer comes in Isaiah 66.
For many years, I have selected a Bible verse as a verse for the year: something like a new year’s resolution, reworked. At the end of the year that I read 2 Chronicles with my mentor, I selected Isaiah 66:2b as my verse for the coming year:
“These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
There’s a lot more that could be said about that verse, but let’s return to Luke 2 and the angels:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
Does God’s favour rest on you this Christmas? Are you humble, contrite and listening to his word with reverent fear?
Then, yes. Peace to you.
If not, perhaps Christmas is the time to take stock and consider what being esteemed by God would look like in your life.
Yours in the end of Isaiah,