Isaiah 35.1-10; Psalm 84; Luke 5.17-26
The book of Isaiah, the longest book of the Old Testament (apart from the Psalter, which is an anthology rather than a single book), is the work of at least two authors, probably three or four, possibly even more than that. Isaiah the son of Amoz introduces himself in 1.1 and says that he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Isaiah tells us that his public career as a prophet began in the year that King Uzziah died [6.1], perhaps 740 BC; he probably lived through the whole reign of Hezekiah, who died around 686 BC, giving the prophet a career of more than 50 years.
In Chapter 45.1, though, Cyrus, who came to the Midian throne in 559 BC, is mentioned. It is as if we were reading an account of 18th Century England and suddenly came upon a reference to the sinking of the Titanic! Conventionally, our book of Isaiah is considered in two halves, Chapters 1-39 and Chapters 40-66. Chapter 35, though, seems to belong to the second half and that complicates the picture. It doesn’t really fit into the narrative in its present context.
Whenever it was written, though, its central message remains pertinent: that out of present difficulties (difficulties which are always with us, whatever their names or descriptions) there is a highway that will lead us beyond them. Advent promises a way being cleared for the coming of God, coming to save us. But Advent also promises a future for us. The clarion of this season invites us to lift our eyes from the perplexities of the present to focus on a future which we cannot define but which we know belongs to God and is therefore not to be feared.