by Rev Hilda Warwick
We continue the journey in chapter 25 of Isaiah, where we find a spectacular vision of a banquet on Mount Zion, to which all people are invited and at which death will be swallowed up forever. It includes a prayer of thanksgiving as God exercises His power over ruthless nations and prophesies about the fate of these nations. Mount Zion is at the centre of this scene of unrestrained rejoicing, a symbol of life and salvation. This is a place of hope, and strength, a place of trust in the God who has come to save. The prayer is a confident expression of faith in God, derived from the Psalms, but also rooted in the Isaianic tradition.
The palace of aliens, refers to the foreign nations and the city of chaos is a symbol not of a real city, and its fall illustrates the vulnerability of civilisation as we know it.
The rest of the passage draws a sharp distinction between the strong and the ruthless on the one hand and the poor and needy on the other. When justice is finally established upon the earth, the ruthless nations will fear God and glorify His name. Again, we see God’s heart for all to turn to Him, not just Israel.
The images that describe God as shelter, refuge, a shade to the poor and needy, is very typical of the language of the Psalms, but speaks of the fact that no storm can prevail against God and His protection and intervention.
However, the passage also speaks of nothing less than radical, complete transformation. Biblical faith is not a moral system, it is not a mode of holding on or staying in control. It is rather an act of yielding in the present to the assurances given for God’s future. But what is this ultimate act of transformation that Isaiah speaks of? It is to remove the disgrace from this people, the disgrace of being powerless, exploited and the shame of being stepped on and not being able to resist the powers of death.
But this passage is dominated by hope, and a community that has hoped in confidence, in the face of very circumstance, never doubting that Yahweh would prevail, never doubting that the city of abuse is a temporary arrangement and cannot be sustained. The work of God is both positive and negative. The positive is a welcoming feast that signifies new governance of abundance and well-being. The negative is the elimination of that which threatens and precludes festivals of generosity.
Father may you lead us in the confidence of hope. Help us in our waiting time to realise You are working behind the scenes of grace, to bring freedom to the world’s suffering and salvation for all people who turn in faith to Christ.
In Jesus name. Amen