And you will say in that day:
"Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
"Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel."
When Isaiah prophesied these words to a lost and fearful people, God's promises struck like a stone through thin ice, shattering their terrified expectation that nothing could be good ever again.
God called them to be strong and courageous to face the times they endured, and he gave them a reason to be strong and courageous: he is in their midst.
They have two tasks, two divine assignments: to make known God's deeds among the peoples, and to shout and sing for joy in praise of the Lord.
Make known God's deeds among people who don't believe and among those who do:
God made the whole world and has it in his hands.
God loves and calls people to be a blessing to the world.
God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt.
God rescued his people from sin.
God rescued his people from death.
God saved my life.
So shout, sing for joy, inhabitants of Zion, citizens of the city of God, because God is in your midst and everything he does is wonderful.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?
Lord, through all the tumult and the strife, let your music ring on, and find an echo in my soul, that I can't keep from singing. Amen.
Being disbursed is a familiar feeling now. We're been spread out, quarantined, socially distanced, and we can't gather together.
Hundreds of years before Christ, God's people, the Jews were disbursed into the surrounding nations. Some lived in exile in Assyria, some in Egypt, some elsewhere. They were spread out and kept from gathering together.
Since Christ too, God's people are spread out to all the corners of the globe. Our citizenship is in the kingdom of God, but we live in all the countries of the earth.
But God promises that, as he extended his hand to bring the Jews back to the promised land 450 years before Christ, he "will extend his hand yet a second time" to gather his people forever. The "root of Jesse" - the new king in David's line - will be a beacon to everyone, and where he dwells, God's people will experience God's glory.
This is none other than Christ. God gathered us together once, and though we must practice social distancing now, God will gather us together once again.
Lord, we are disbursed. Extend your hand to recover us, to gather us together. Amen
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that according to the riches of his glory
he may grant you to be strengthened with power
through his Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith -
that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
In English classes growing up, I often ran into trouble for run-on sentences. But I kept writing sentences that, even if they weren't run-ons, just went way too long. "Don't have a sentence more than two lines", they said. Mine were usually pushing five lines.
I knew I wasn't doing it right. I knew this was a problem. They're not supposed to be that long! And then I read a novel by one my favorite authors, Michael Chabon, and half-way through a chapter, I began to notice something. There hadn't been a period yet.
A twelve page chapter was entirely one sentence.
I still don't think that's the best way to write or speak. It made the chapter awkward to read. But I could still understand what it meant, even if it sounded a little rambling.
Paul does something similar in Ephesians 3. It's not twelve pages, but if I were editor, I would circle it with a note, "Too long. Break up into multiple sentences." But praise God, he doesn't need me to edit his scriptures. Maybe the rambling is part of the point.
When we bow our knees before the Father, we don't need to be eloquent or precise. We don't need to say just the right words, or keep talking until we hit the magic phrase that makes God do what we want.
We pray that the Holy Spirit would give us inward strength, that Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith. We look to the magnificence of God, and pray that we would comprehend the love of Christ even though it's so great that it's beyond knowing.
Father, we bow our knees before you and pray that we would be filled with your fullness. We pray that we would be rooted and grounded in your love. Amen.