One week on the book of Isaiah; that’s not remotely fair, but then again if your only exposure to the Bible is what I preach on Sunday mornings it’s going to be hard to get the whole picture. So, anyway, one reading from Isaiah to capture all of Isaiah is silly.
Firstly, you may not know this, but the book of Isaiah is the work of at least three authors from three different time period. We know this because chapters 1-39 cover the prophet, Isaiah, who lived in the 8th century BC; chapters 40-55 tell us that Jerusalem has already been destroyed and take place either during the exile or just after, meaning we are talking about the 6th century BC, and finally chapters 56-66 are written after the exile. Rather than taking away from the book of Isaiah, this gives it some arc. The book shows a movement of history over the course of centuries, and it holds a common theme, moving inexorably toward Jesus. It is for that reason that Isaiah has been called the fifth Gospel. Isaiah couldn’t have known about Jesus, but they anticipated something they couldn’t quite put their fingers on—something that turned out to be a baby born in a manger.
So, with that context in mind, it’s important to note that our reading from Isaiah 55 is the end of 2nd Isaiah. It’s the conclusion of Book II if you want to think about this like Lord of the Rings or The Last Jedi or something; it’s the finale of the exile. Israel is coming home. But, as many of you know, you can never really come home again; at least home isn’t what it was before. In Israel’s case, the temple has been destroyed; the people residing in the land worship strange gods; their faith has been tested in exile and they have come back to the “Holy Land” with an understanding that God is no longer housed in a particular place. Their God went with them into the wilderness, so what does it look like for God to return home?
It’s easy to get complacent at home. Familiarity breeds complacency. We’ve all had this experience: We face a new thing in life—it’s scary; it’s stressful—and we can’t wait until it comes to some resolution. It might be a new job, a new project, a new business, a new child, or simply a new normal. We spend so much time stressing over the unfamiliarity of the situation, and often we discover some strength we didn’t know we had in the process of overcoming those new obstacles. The problem often comes in the new normal, because, having faced the obstacles of the past, we lose our edge.