Summary: Epiphany of our Lord January 6th, 2002 Isaiah 60: 1-6 Heavenly Father, what makes us miserable is not so much the circumstances of our lives, but our expectations of what and how life should be. Empower us Lord to see your reality. Amen.
Epiphany of our Lord
January 6th, 2002 Isaiah 60: 1-6
Heavenly Father, what makes us miserable is not so much the circumstances of our lives, but our expectations of what and how life should be. Empower us Lord to see your reality. Amen.
Title: “We need to remember that God is in control of our lives.”
This is from the third section of Isaiah, chapters 56-66, sometimes called “Trito-Isaiah.” Like all prophets, this one is convinced of but one truth: God is faithful. If God promised salvation and all that goes with it, then God will deliver. That’s hope. But there is false hope and real hope; there is manufactured, humanly devised hope and true hope. In this text the prophet is looking at the reality, but in two ways, on two levels. On the earthly plane, with his physical eye, historically, he sees that not much is good or hopeful and describes what he sees in terms of darkness, abandonment, poverty. With his other, faith. eye he sees a glorious city, a magnet for all peoples, a bustling, prosperous center of life, luxuries and love. Now which version is real? Of course, one feels more real than the other. But the prophet’s standard of truth and reality is not what “feels” real, that is, the “feely-real,” but what is real, the “really real,” God’s truth. He knows full well that God’s truth is not completely apparent to the one-eyed jacks and one-eyed kings of this world. And he knows that God’s people need encouragement to open their other eye and see the other side of reality. So, he writes as he does, using poetry, his imagination, wits, and God’s inspiration to describe in human, historical, physical language and terms what is more-than-history, what is mystery, the mystery of God’s plan for his people. The entire chapter is a gem, a poem of contrasts between now and then. And because God is faithful “then,” is more real than “now.”
Historically, the time is after the return from exile, maybe as long after as the reign of the Persian king Artaxerxes (464-423BC). The Persian kings- Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes- have been favorable to the Jews and especially respectful of their God, Yahweh. They supported the rebuilding of the city and Temple, the return of the Temple’s treasures and even, see Artaxerxes’ decree in Ezra 7, ordered other officials in the empire to financially and materially aid in the effort to rebuild. Historically, this poem paints a picture of treasures, gold, building materials, and artisans, along with Israel’s dispersed citizens streaming into Jerusalem, transforming it from a desolate place to a bustling metropolis. Of course, historically speaking, none of that ever happened. Jerusalem never returned to her former “heights,” which were not that high in the first place. The prophet was actually referring to the “real,” Jerusalem, the one in God’s eyes and mind. That Jerusalem would not begin to happen until her king, the Messiah, was born. He would be the light that attracts all the nations to see and come to. Nonetheless this poem, this picture of the ideal situation, provided hope to a sagging and disheartened people whose hopes in the past have been raised so high and so often and just as often dashed, that the prophet’s task was harder than ever. Without denying the truth of what they can see out of one eye to be the case, he tells them what he sees out of his other eye and invites them to start behaving in a way to make that vision as real on earth as it is real in heaven.
In verse one, Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
The people came back to Jerusalem from exile, some from Babylon, others from other places where they had fled to, places like Egypt. If they expected to see the city as it once was they were sadly mistaken and sorely disappointed. Even a century after the return things were not much better. They still had not learned the difference between their expectations and God’s promises. The prophet-poet turns to a theme, a thread woven into the entire book, that of light, to capture what he sees with his “other” eye, his “faith,” eye. In chapter nine, verse two, First Isaiah said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” And in 42:16 Second Isaiah said, “I, God, will turn the darkness before them into light.” This is a call for the people to “heighten consciousness,” to look above and beyond the surface and see what is really there.
The glory of the Lord shines on you: The people are called to see, with their faith eye, the presence of Yahweh in their midst, expressed as light. This whole text is captured in what Jesus says in Matthew 5: 14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” The prophet is so sure of God’s delivery of his promise, of his fidelity, that he speaks of the divine reality that apprehended by one’s “faith” eye, as though it has already occurred within the physical world of physical sight and touch. His verbs are in the “prophetic” perfect tense, that is, future events spoken of as already having happened.