Summary: In Isaiah 66 God gives his people a reason to rejoice when all signs pointed to despair. We need this kind of hope today
Happy 4th of July! I love the 4th of July because I can’t help but spend some time re-reading some Revolutionary War History. What a wild time in our nation’s history. And what bravery it took to declare independence from the preeminent military power of the day. Think about the courage it must have taken to put your signature on a document, which ended with these words:
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
Brave indeed. But the thing that took a long time for me to understand is that the 4th of July was only the beginning of what would be a long, and intense, and often time uncertain fight for freedom. And for much of the Revolutionary War, it has to be said, things did not look good at all for the Colonial Army and their General, George Washington. Do you know that George Washington actually lost more battles than he won? The 4th of July was a wonderful day, it is a wonderful day, but we can’t lose sight of the hardships and trials our nation endured following the Declaration of Independence. And we can’t forget that it was the promise and vision of freedom that emanated from the Declaration of Independence that drove the colonists to keep fighting and striving for freedom, even in the bleakest hours. The hope of a better future is what sustained them, even when their present was dark, and the bright future was impossible to see.
It is just that kind of hope, hope in the midst of uncertainty and hardship, that permeates our reading today from the very last chapter of the book of Isaiah. We join up with God’s people in a time when they were struggling as a nation. Now, to be sure, they were not struggling because they had declared their independence from Assyria, or some other nation. They were struggling as a people because they had, in essence, declared their independence from God himself.
They had turned to false gods, they had tried to rely on themselves to get through difficult times, they had trusted in alliances with other nations and kings, rather than relying on God, or calling out the Almighty when things got rough for them. And now they had only misery and fear, and uncertainty about the future to show for it. And this is where Isaiah come in.