Lenten Reflection - Thursday, March 26
Here we come to the 25th day of our Lenten journey, God bless you as you travel the path to the Cross and to our Lord’s resurrection. Our reading from scripture is Isaiah 28:14-22. Therefore hear ye the word of the Lord, ye afflicted men, and ye princes of this people that is in Jerusalem. 15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with Hades, and agreements with death; if the rushing storm should pass, it shall not come upon us: we have made falsehood our hope, and by falsehood shall we be protected: 16 therefore thus saith the Lord, even the Lord, Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious stone, for its foundations; and he that believes on him shall by no means be ashamed. 17 And I will cause judgment to be for hope, and my compassion shall be for just measures, and ye that trust vainly in falsehood shall fall: for the storm shall by no means pass by you, except it also take away your covenant of death, and your trust in Hades shall by no means stand: if the rushing storm should come upon you, ye shall be beaten down by it. 19 Whenever it shall pass by, it shall take you; morning by morning it shall pass by in the day, and in the night there shall be an evil hope. Learn to hear, ye that are distressed; we cannot fight, but we are ourselves too weak for you to be gathered. 21 The Lord shall rise up as a mountain of ungodly men, and shall be in the valley of Gabaon; he shall perform his works with wrath, even a work of bitterness, and his wrath shall deal strangely, and his destruction shall be strange. 22 Therefore do not ye rejoice, neither let your bands be made strong; for I have heard of works finished and cut short by the Lord of hosts, which he will execute upon all the earth. What is God’s response to His people making a “covenant with Hades and an agreement with death”? He responded by laying a cornerstone, so that “he that believes on him shall by no means be ashamed.” As the gospel writer says (St. Matthew 16:18): “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” See that this is not an actual rock, a stone sitting in some place, but it's a person, St. Peter, and the faith he held in Jesus Christ. And what does this rock defeat? Death. Death will do battle against the rock, but will by no means prevail. Notice in today’s reading from Isaiah that the storm that has come upon the people and the rock sent by God are two different things having two different purposes. The storm describes God’s punishment that brings the people to see the folly of their rejection of God: “the Lord shall rise up as a mountain of ungodly men … he shall perform his works with wrath, even a work of bitterness, and his wrath shall deal strangely, and his destruction shall be strange.” I’m not sure what all those words mean, but it doesn’t sound good. On the other hand, the rock does not add to this by crushing them, but crushes the bad decisions the people have made, and brings them to salvation: “And I will cause judgment to be for hope, and my compassion shall be for just measures, and ye that trust vainly in falsehood shall fall.” Brothers and sisters, the message of Isaiah is clear to us, presented again and again with different illustrations and metaphors so we can understand: God allows us to be punished by our bad decisions so that we return to Him. And when we do, we find Him waiting with outstretched arms, mercy and forgiveness, and a unshakeable rock of salvation.