Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1, NKJV
Today, was the second of two sermons on Isaiah 40. As we started today’s portion, I reflected on the remarkable nature of the message of the Chapter. Prospectively, the nation of Israel was headed for the seventy-years long Babylonian Captivity, and the first message God had for them was “Comfort!”
I pondered that as the Pastor started with today’s message. Isaiah knew that Babylon was coming to take all that Israel had…its riches, its livelihood, and its people. And still his word for them was “Comfort!”, knowing that there would be 70 years of bondage. My mind kneaded this message in the face of what was coming to them, and in light of portents that seem all too frequent, such as the modern harbinger of bondage that I read about this morning, in which a Virginia lawmaker has floated the idea of making doctors accept Medicaid and Medicare patients. The commonality was striking. The common denominator of both is the concept of bondage…the centuries-old nemesis of freedom. Putting aside the cruel irony of a nation that will still recoil with an obvious shock and horror from things even remotely associated with a past regarding slavery based on the color of skin, and the belief in the ability to own everything about another human being, but almost enthusiastically advocate for government to own the labor of a person, without any corresponding responsibility to them, I think that we, like Isaiah’s Israel are heading for dark times.
So much of what the world knows about bondage is rooted in the physical. I suppose that is to be expected, as with the nihilism that comes with it. When all you have is only what you can see, it gets very easy to believe that it is all there is, and more importantly, to become very hopeless about it. But the truth is that bondage is first a spiritual condition. And often, those so deeply held in the grips of it spiritually are the least able to recognize it. This also makes it ok to urge it on others. We see this at work in a culture that preaches tolerance, but holds its darkest contempt and hatred in reserve for those who do not see the world as they do. We see it in a culture that creates grand designs on the idea of diversity, but ruthlessly hounds those who do not believe as the majority does. It works overtime in a culture that exhorts a private right to murder the most innocent among us as the ultimate expression of “choice”, when only one choice is given any consideration. In such a culture, the leap to the “right” to that which your neighbor has worked for isn’t as much a leap as it is a slow inevitability.
Still, by the time we get to the end of the chapter, we have the reminder that we too can be brought up on the wings of eagles. And as I considered that, and 2 Kings 6:16-17, I found a calmness in the idea of trust…even when not all is revealed, enough already has been to know that bondage is what Christ came to break, and while we may have to suffer it for a time, it will not be eternal.
16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. –2 Kings 6:16-17 NKJV