“For the palace will be forsaken, the populous city deserted, the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, the joy of wild asses, a pasture for flocks; until the spirit from on high is poured out on us…”
In my prayers and thoughts for the nation this morning, I was drawn to the witness of Isaiah 32, in which the prophet dares to declare a certain vision of life that was not yet realized by the people of God. There was a lingering hope somewhere out on the horizon, but as is often the case for most of us, the children of Israel knew in that moment that where and how they were was not at all as they aspired for things to be. And given the multifaceted experience of their sin—both individually and communally—the best they knew to do was to lament whenever possible, repent whenever necessary, and to walk humbly from there on.
But would that allow them to heal? Would it be enough to transform the situation of the people? In their longing and anxiety, they thought about renewing their old relationship with Egypt, “to trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong,” (31:1) but the Lord had already advised against it. So, if their help was not to be found in the usual tendencies and dependencies, then what?
It was into this oppressive state of dismay that Isaiah spoke an impactful Word, one that was (and is!) made all the more promising by its use of the future tense: “See, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind…like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land” (vv. 1-2). For all who have ever known their souls to be parched, exhausted, or unusually calloused by the effects of recent events and the experience of their own stories, this is good news.
With an awe-inspiring view of the big picture, Isaiah goes on to say that there are at least three things in our public life together that depend on the Spirit—the palace, the city, and the tower. The acknowledgment is that to be a king in God’s sense is to be a servant of all. To be a citizen in God’s sense is to be a sister or brother of all. To be a soldier in God’s sense is to be the defender of all—the defender of that righteousness which is at last the universal interest. These three, said Isaiah, are vocations that must function with justice in order for the fullness of God’s blessing to be realized.
And so we pray…
Lord of the nations, bless our native land. Let your divine Spirit be incarnated in its threefold life—in its rulers, in its citizens, in its soldiers. Impress its rulers (our elected officials and other persons of influence) with the responsibility of being great, and the position of being ministers to all. Impress its citizens with the multitude of their claims, and to consider the vastness of that fellowship of which they are members. Impress its soldiers (police, law enforcement, and other such defenders of the common good) with the fearlessness that is born of duty, the courage that comes from devotion to the just and true. Purify its palaces, cleanse its streets, strengthen its protection. Teach its rulers to say ‘Thy will be done,’ its citizens to cry ‘hallowed be thy name,’ its soldiers to pray ‘Thy kingdom come.’ Let its kings be priests unto Thee; let its citizens be (mothers and) fathers to the multitude; let its soldiers be peacemakers of the world.
(Prayer adapted from the writing of George Matheson, 1890)
Grace to You,