Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. 7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
In the period of time that the book of Isaiah was written, the nation of Israel had many reasons to feel hopeless. Assyria and Babylon had taken captive the divided Israel. After seeing their nation conquered and being moved away from their homes, it is not difficult to imagine that the people had fearful hearts. Likewise, before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish nation again was in captivity, this time under Roman rule, and again we can be confident that the people felt weak and fearful. Thankfully, for the Jewish nation, in both instances, their story didn’t end with fear and captivity. God used a small remnant of holy and righteous individuals to build his numbers of faithful followers.
Although Jesus may not have delivered the Israelites in the manner in which they expected or hoped, his birth and death shifted the focus of his disciples and followers from fear and hopelessness regarding Roman rule into courage and bold love. We all have moments of fear and doubt in this life; times when we are weak in the knees and our hearts are filled with worry. Yet, if we remain faithful to our God, he will open our eyes, ears, and minds to the matters of eternal importance rather than to the everyday worries and troubles of this life. When we fill our lives with loving the Lord with all our hearts, minds, and strength, and we spend our time loving our neighbors, we can become the once speechless who now sing for joy. In this advent season of reflection, may we all focus on being the faithful remnant of followers in this time and place, that we might change the world for Lord our God.