It is a difficult thing to see a place laid to waste. Where there was once life and laughter and activity, now there is nothing but a hollow chasm and the whistle of the wind chills the bones and the soul. It is a desolate thing, this place that once held such promise, but now offers nothing in the way of comfort or protection. The memories of what once was beautiful make the ruins more difficult to bare.
I have seen that place – in Kosova after the war – in Moscow after the fall of the Berlin Wall – on the road to IKEA in the movements of prostituted women who freeze their bare flesh by tire fires.
In the story of Isaiah (58:12) we are told that after 70 years of decay, the people of Israel now faced the ruins left behind by past generations. Not only the ruins of a city with buildings and streets and life, but the ruins of a culture, of a religion, of a way of life, of a lineage and a promise.
Who could carry such a heart break and stay the course of the journey? Who could look past the destruction and see a city in the future? Who had the strength of soul to see hope in the midst of decay?
For the heartbroken, for the weary, for the resourceless, Isaiah spoke of a beautiful hope that was hard to embrace as a reality. A someday hope, when the foundations would be raised up, not replaced. Rebuilt. Repaired. Restored. The old made new.
We read the prophesy of Isaiah from a 21st century cushion and recognize the Savior, who came to make all things new. He came to restore broken hearts, decaying souls, destroyed cities and families and dreams. We see the fulfillment of the prophesy in the incarnated Christ. Looking back, we see Jesus as the answer, the only possible answer, to the brokenness of Israel. There is no question of his faithfulness, his power, his love, his able-ness to restore his people.
But, let us be honest: Sometimes we struggle to believe God’s restoration power for our future.
Can he repair our broken relationships? Can he restore our cultures, societies and governments? Can he raise up the foundations of Christian ethics and holy hearts? Can he cure the decay of sin that is an everyday, uncontrollable predator of all that we love and hold dear?
The reality of our ruins sends a chill of fear into our bones and into our soul. The future can seem, well, hopeless unless we let Isaiah’s prophesy be true for our us as well.
Our story begins in a beautiful garden. It ends there too – in a garden; restored, repaired, raised up, healed from the bondage of decay. John writes of a new Earth restored from the old. He writes of a new Jerusalem. He meshes and blends and echoes the voice of the Prophet Isaiah with a promise for our future.
Today, will you believe Isaiah’s prophesy for your future?
It is true that we recognize your faithfulness in the past. Not only your faithfulness to us, but to those who came before us throughout history. Still, our human nature makes it difficult to leave our futures in your hands. We struggle to believe that you can restore, repair, rebuild that which has been destroyed. Help us, please, to give you our unbelief. Help us to submit to your restorative power in our lives, in our hearts, and in our world.
We give you the glory. Amen.