I heard someone recently say that they were anxious for “things to get back to normal.” God does not want us to “get back to normal.” “Normal” often means self-indulgent greed. “Normal” in much of North America has too long meant racialized. For far too long, “normal” has been the systemic institutionalized legally sanctioned oppression, poverty, marginalization, and disenfranchisement of people of color designed to empower the (mostly white and mostly male) rich and powerful.   

Isaiah 35 speaks of restoration during Isaiah’s time, during the time of the Medo-Persian Empire, during this kingdom age (between Pentecost and the Second coming), and in the eternal age to come. Isaiah 35 is literal and it is symbolic. There are deserts where only cacti can grow, and there are deserts in hearts lacking empathy. Lions and jackals can kill you. So can poverty, racism, depression, and loneliness. 

After the death of King Solomon, the nation of Israel split into two countries. The northern part was called Israel and had its capital in the city of Samaria (not to be confused with the region of Samaria in Jesus’ day). The southern kingdom was called Judea. It’s capital was Jerusalem. Assyria violently crushed Israel in 722 BC and subjected most of Judea, but not Jerusalem, to bondage. Assyria also brutalized and conquered all the nations that surrounded Israel and Judea. Isaiah lived during this time.  Through him, God predicted the fall of Israel, and, later, that Jerusalem would not fall to the Assyrians. 

Eventually, (circa 612 BC) Babylon rose up and defeated Assyria. Babylon destroyed Judea and Jerusalem in 586 BC and carried away the remaining Jews into slavery. The Medo-Persian Empire in turn conquered Babylon (circa 539 BC) and slowly allowed some of the Jews to return to their land as subjects of the Empire. Isaiah chapters 40 through 66 were written about this period. 

Coming back to chapter 35, Isaiah predicts the restoration of all those who had been, or would be, oppressed by powerful empires. Regardless of whether the oppressor is Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Syria, Greece, Rome, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, American civil-religion, or the deep-seated racism of imperialist occidental culture, deliverance will come. 

Regardless of whether the oppressor is religion, white supremacy, capitalism, communism, addiction, greed, narcissism, anger, hatred, violence, depression, mental illness, poverty, marginalization, or political disenfranchisement, deliverance will come. 

The oppression may be my own fault. It may have unjustly imposed upon me. It may come from my past. It might be woven into corporate and political structures. It may be enshrined by law and championed from pulpits. Regardless, deliverance will come.

Isaiah 35 opens with a declaration that God will fully rescue, redeem and transform the natural world – deserts bloom, snow-fed springs like those in Lebanon will flow, the mountains will be lush like Mount Carmel, and radiant like the coastal plain of Sharon. Joy and singing will erupt.

In verses 3 & 4, we learn that not only will nature be renewed, but (being part of nature) humankind will be as well. Fear and anxiety are banished.

Then comes the central theme – the latter half of verse 4: Our God will come and save us! God’s great rescue operation! All of creation, all of humankind, redeemed and transformed. Perfect love descends into hell and rescues the damned.

Like a symphony, the melody repeats – humankind rescued (verse 5-6a) – nature transformed (verses 6b-7).

Salvation is past, present, and future. God saved us. God is saving us. God will save us. Justified. Sanctified. Glorified. 

The Kingdom of God is then – it came in a manger. The Kingdom of God is now – God is making all things new. The Kingdom of God is not yet – Jesus will come again.

God rescued. God is rescuing. God will rescue.

God did all the heavy lifting. The victory was won at the cross. Everything changed on Good Friday. The strong man is bound.

God invites us to participate with him as he makes all things new.

God beckons us spoil the strongman’s house. The gates of Hades cannot stand under the onslaught of the church. Setting captives free, declaring liberty to those who are bound, delivering the oppressed, making the world a gentler more just place through cruciform love – this is our calling and our privilege. 

How? Prayer, fasting, loving service, resisting empires, nonviolent resistance to injustice, loving enemies, forgiving others, washing feet, taking up the cause of the weak, willingness to die for Christ – we overcome the evil one by the word of our testimony (our testimony is what we do, how we live), and the blood of the Lamb (our willingness to live and die like Christ). Our sacrificial lives mingle with His, and freedom rings. 

Finally, here are some practical ideas from some of my African-American friends:

  1. Search your heart and ask God to help you love others – all others.
  2. Ask God to show you where you’ve been racist. Be honest. Admit it and make amends. 
  3. Don’t patronize, but ask where you can come alongside and help.
  4. Learn from African Americans. Learn African American history. Read books by African American authors. Learn about systemic racism. Listen.
  5. Hire black people, especially black men.
  6. Support black-owned businesses.
  7. Speak up and object whenever you hear a racist or disparaging comment made about a person of color.
  8. Attend marches for justice and equality.
  9. Donate to organizations supporting racial justice 
  10. Vote for candidates who will advance the cause of justice for all

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on June 28, 2020, in anabaptist, apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Poetry, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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