As of this writing we have commenced the Advent season. We turn to the book of Isaiah more than any other Old Testament tome this month. Perhaps there is good reason. The positive message of mercy is that God will rescue us from a situation less than ideal. Sometimes far less than optimal.
The thirty-fifth chapter of the book is suggested as a whole unit for proclamation at an anointing or viaticum. Maybe that’s a lot for someone with healing or dying on their mind. Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t mind. Even outside of the Advent observance. This is one of my favorite Bible passages–definitely a top-thirty.
For the purpose of an extended reflection, I’d like to break up the text and comment over three posts in the next few days. Today, let’s read just the beginning two verses
The wilderness and the parched land will exult;
the Arabah will rejoice and bloom;
Like the crocus it shall bloom abundantly,
and rejoice with joyful song.
If this seems an echo of a later section in the book, you are right. Verses 41:18-19 describe another blossoming of plant life in a desert. It’s not as miraculous as one might think. The phenomenon of a brief rainstorm will spark desert plant life into a frantic growing season, as is the case in Western Australia:
Perhaps appropriate for the desire of a seriously ill person that the experience of God’s glory comes after a long fallow period. Verse two references the country north of Israel, as well as highlands (Carmel, imaged below) and the plains to the south of it (Sharon).
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
(image attributed to Abreek Pano, Wikipedia commons here)
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.