Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Isaiah 60
On the surface this seems like a hopeful and peaceful poem. On the surface these words can bring a smile to our face. On the surface these words can bring back memories of moments when your grandmother would say, "Rise and shine," to wake you up in the morning. Or at camping singing, "Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory." Dig deeper. These words are not being spoke or sung to people who have overslept but have been captured, carted off to live in exile. These words are offered in a time when the people were not being woken from a peaceful slumber, but living a nightmare. And in the long book of Isaiah - often divided into three parts of pre-exile, during exile, and then post exile - we are now entering the third and final part.
For fifty years people lived in exile in Babylon. Then another military power conquered Babylon and gave the Israelite people a permission slip to roam about the country. But...and this is important... this may not have been the. best. news. ever. Fifty years is a long time. Some of the people who had been captured and carted off died in Babylon. Others had grown weak, weary with age. Others had been born there and it was the only home they knew.
Consider each of those realities.
Sure, some might have been all in on heading back ~ bags packed and singing Eddie Money's I've Got Two Tickets to Paradise. ~ feel free to click on the link and relive the glory days of the 1980s!
Sure, some might be reluctant but ready to go, dragging their feet a bit ~ like my kids Christmas shopping last weekend.
And we will never know how many were in those two camps...my hunch is there are people who were uncertain and unclear if they should go back.
Fifty years is enough time where a foreign land quits being so strange. Fifty years is enough time to stop feeling like a captive and more like a local. Sure, you can live somewhere fifty years and never fit in or feel at home. But for some in the captured and carted off crowd of Israelites, they weren't sure a road trip was the best idea.
So, stop with me here.
What journeys in the coming year are you excited about and anticipating?
What journeys are you dreading?
These need not be moments when you pack your bags, because some journeys we don't even leave home for. Some journeys involve trips to the hospital for treatments. Some journeys are of the soul struggling ~ processing the pain ~ trying to find peace. Some journeys take us nowhere only we feel like we have traveled a thousand miles.
See how a simple poem can be pastoral and prophetic for the present moment?
And may you see/sense more than a trace of God's grace in the journeys you are on right now.