“Sing O Barren one!” This is the word God speaks to the beleaguered people of Jerusalem whose hope had gone and who felt that all they had dreamed of and striven for was over. In this powerful message, (Isaiah Chapter 54,) they are told, “The Lord has called you back from your grief, as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will take you back. The mountains and hills may crumble but my love for you will never end.” God is urging his beloved to sing. It may seem to us at the moment that we are barren, that what we have known, dreamed of and striven for is over. The world lives under the threat of devastation and destruction. What seemed as secure and eternal as the mountains and hills is crumbling and we are powerless to stop it. But the one indestructible force, more powerful than any other, is love, God’s love for us, for humankind. So, in this present moment, God urges us to sing. What sort of song can come from such a barren place? The way ahead is uncharted but we are returning to Love, to God. At the moment, we are on the very cusp of stepping over the threshold, out of that liminal space we have experienced during the pandemic, not back to what we have known, but into an unknown future, into a wilderness journey. It will require of us a huge refocussing of trust, an ever expanding vision of who God is, a willingness to let go, and, above all, a remembering who we are.
But we start with gratitude. That must be part of the essential rhythm of our song; gratitude, overflowing wonder and praise to the God who continually calls us out of darkness, who rescues us, challenges us, moulds us and shapes us for a purpose far greater than we can ever know or even imagine. As I reflect on that I remember David, called from being a humble shepherd boy tending sheep to become a King. At one point, when David is established in Jerusalem, Nathan the prophet shares with the King God’s covenant promise for the future. David’s immediate response is to worship. He begins his prayer with these words of gratitude and praise, “Who am I, O Lord God, that you have brought me thus far?” And he ends his prayer, “When you grant a blessing, O Lord, it is an eternal blessing!” In this moment he has a heightened awareness of who God is, of his loving purpose, and, in all humility, of who he is. There follows a refocussing of trust, for no matter what happens or how many times he wanders from that covenant promise, having feet of clay like the rest of us, God’s love draws him back and God’s calling of him will urge him on. Can we see how it is so important at times to pause, and remember the infinite love that first drew us and we found ourselves on a journey that you could never have planned or engineered? In these days, whenever I pause to remember, these words of David come to me loud and clear, “Who am I Lord that you have brought me thus far?” It is somewhat overwhelming. It follows that if we believe that it is God who has brought us to this very time that we find ourselves in now, as part of humankind, as a person of faith, then we have no option but to affirm and trust that when God grants a blessing, it is forever. That does not necessarily mean that the blessing is a neat package that would secure our comfort and keep things the way we would like them to be. God is a God of surprises. The blessing may often be shrouded in mystery or disguised as something less, even anguished, but it is my limited experience that enough of it unfolds at those times when it is desperately needed to keep us trusting and hoping. Our song has to be one of gratitude for that ‘love unknown’ that has brought us thus far.