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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 25:1–9

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (NRSV)

Years ago when I began my ministry studies at The Divinity School of The University of Chicago, I became very excited about the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the writings of the prophets. I was so enthused that I named my first cat Isaiah (quickly shortened to  Izzy).

One of the reasons for my passionate appreciation is evidenced in today's reading from this very prophet. The verses are filled with evocative imagery: "refuge," a safe, secure place for God's people.  Natural images follow; "shelter" from the rainstorms, and "shade" from the heat (both literal and metaphorical).

Then we are promised a gourmet meal with well-aged wines. The shroud that separates us from one another and from God will be destroyed. Echoing other ancient religions, we are promised that God "will swallow up death forever."

The prophet is on a roll, saving the most moving assurance for last. Our loving God will wipe away our tears and dismiss our disgrace. This is the just and compassionate One for whom we wait.

What words of grace for us, no matter how weighty our personal suffering. What words of deep hope for us in our divided, hurtful and even hateful social circumstances. God did not give up on our Hebrew forebears. And God will not give up on us.

Thank you, loving and just God, for the promising words of the prophets. Open our eyes and ears anew for your word in our present moments, strengthening our trust in you. Amen.
Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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