This week brings another foray into the ForeWords archives, with this blog posting from the third Sunday in Advent 2010:
Entry to the city of Babylon, like all other major ancient capitals, was by way of a grand boulevard lined with impressive monuments and statues to its religious gods. Returning armies used these boulevards to parade the spoils of war, and boisterous crowds would line the street to welcome their conquering heroes home. In Rome the boulevard was known as the Via Sacra (Latin for “Holy Way”), but that same name was often given to similar promenades elsewhere.
No doubt that was the way exiled Jews got their first sight of the magnificent city of Babylon after the destruction of their beloved Jerusalem and Soloman’s glorious temple and forced march eastward. Today we’d probably say the victors were just rubbing the noses of their vanquished foes in their misfortune and misery. The disparity between the glories of the city of Babylon with its well-known hanging gardens (and its own via sacra) and its newest underclass could not be more apparent.
The Jews had trekked across actual deserts and mountain plateaus, with memories beginning to fade of their former life. How could this have happened to God’s chosen ones? Hadn’t God promised King David’s royal dynasty would last forever? Why, it seemed so apparent now, had God deserted them? Or had it been the other way around?
With that sad scene as background, Isaiah’s wonderfully poetic vision begins to make sense:
Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
No, God had not forgotten or forsaken them. Their exile in Babylon would not be permanent. For one day God would cause their joyful return to Jerusalem where they could once again sing the songs of Zion in their homeland. This new, God-created “highway” in the wilderness, a “Holy Way,” would be more glorious than all the ancient Via Sacras put together–or at least it would seem that way to the returned Jews. As poetic metaphor Isaiah’s words are not often equaled.
It should not be too surprising that Christians soon began to see new meaning in Isaiah’s visions. In this case, there would be not just a return of exiles to a homeland but restoration of humankind and all creation. And that glorious promise began with Jesus of Nazareth, these new Jesus-followers believed. There will be such great rejoicing as never before seen. For God has come, in Jesus Christ, and this promised kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven, will be created by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- The Joy of the Lord (maryscatholicgarden.com)
- For Whom Are You Looking: tell what you see and hear (friarmusings.wordpress.com)
- The One True Jerusalem! (charlestp.wordpress.com)
- 57. Isaiah sees the life and ministry of Christ in Galilee. (thelonghaulwithisaiah.wordpress.com)
- The Truth about Christmas (wehavebeencreated.wordpress.com)
- Sermon For The Second Sunday In Advent: The Revolution Of God (bigcircumstance.com)