Spoiler: The following is the devotion for Saturday, Dec. 4th. I am loading it early because Dan and I are going down to the Bay Area to see the Post-Impressionists at the DeYoung Museum and catch up with some old friends. I am not yet equipped to do a remote blog. Sorry! Have a great weekend, and check back in on Sunday as we light the Shepherd Candle.
December 4, 2010
It's the end of the first week in Advent, our week of "Waiting". Has it flown by in a flurry of activity or has it dragged on, slogging through frustrations and challenges? Or both? Whatever, it's Saturday and as the week of the "Prophet" makes way for the week of the "Shepherds" we arrive at that beautiful passage from Isaiah that foreshadows the Good Shepherd's arrival.
To prepare, place your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Sit tall and comfortably with hands at your side and shoulders back. While inhaling deeply, raise your arms up over your head, bringing palms together. Exhale, lowering arms back down to your side. Repeat for a total of 6.
Prayer: "Divine Love, guide me and reassure me with your word for your people today. Amen."
Isaiah 40:1-11 (New International Version, ©2010)
Comfort for God's People
1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins.
3 A voice of one calling:
"In the wilderness prepare
the way for the LORD[a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
6 A voice says, "Cry out."
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
"All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever."
9 You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,[c]
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
"Here is your God!"
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one calling in the wilderness: / "Prepare the way for the LORD
Isaiah 40:3 Hebrew; Septuagint make straight the paths of our God
Isaiah 40:9 Or Zion, bringer of good news, / go up on a high mountain. / Jerusalem, bringer of good news
In the days of Isaiah, back before CalTrans or any other huge highway authority, there were no public highways linking the towns and villages of Israel. People traveled by footpaths, slogging through mud or covered in dust depending on the season. Up hill and down dale they went, until frequent usage wore a track over the most heavily traversed trails. However, if a king planned to travel, a decree would be sent out and the populace would get busy cutting through hills and filling in dales, straightening the tricky animal tracks and footpaths, widening them out in throughways worthy of the chariots and horses of royalty.
Isaiah is telling us God has to travel on a wide path, a straight road. Why, when God's rule is not about chariots? God doesn't come with a body guard, a marching band, or ranks of nobles in tow. Our God doesn't travel in ostentatious limousines fitted with bullet-proof windows.
The God we await is the Good Shepherd, and brings his own reward with him. It is the place next to him, so that we can be in relationship with him, walking in his paths, guided by his hand. At once it is both glorious and intimate, and the road he intends for us runs straight along. It goes right alongside him. On that road he will moderate our intemperance, helping us to slow down, pause, and rest when we need to. He will keep us moving when we are slogged down.
In what ways have you made your path too tricky to follow? Are there obstacles you have placed that make it impossible for God to travel by your side? Isaiah would say to get rid of them.
Prayer: "Lord, in the wilderness, I pray that you keep your comforting hand on me so that I may stay on the road you have laid out, alongside you today and always. Amen."
Go in peace.
Further reading for Saturday, Dec. 4th:
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19