Today’s selection of reading has two faces of hope. The first comes from a vision of God’s return to the world. Consider this excerpt from Isaiah 35–a passage special to me as I once recited it during Advent at Chalice Christian Church:
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way
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.”
The following chapter has another face of hope. Irrational faith in the face of attack. It recounts the same events captured in 2 Kings of the Assyrian king threatening the people of Judah.
“‘This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? You say you have counsel and might for war—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? Look, I know you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. But if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”—isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, “You must worship before this altar”?
A couple of things worth point out. the “high places” and “alters” were to Baal and Ashera. So, the outsider is either mocking, or more likely, misunderstanding the religion of Judah. The King of Assyria goes further, when his messengers quote him as saying, “‘Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.’” YHWH told the Assyrian King to march against Judah, really?
As I think I’ve made clear, I see our current systems as deeply flawed. I believe that we cannot bring wholeness to the broken world without passing through a time of painful truth and reconciliation. Thus, I think we are like the Judeans standing on the wall of Jerusalem listening to the foreign invaders mocking their faith.
What are the characteristics of a hope or promise that is sufficient to enable one to willingly endure suffering to get to it? Surely we all have experienced deferred gratification; can those models be transferred to a society?