Lenten Reflection - Tuesday, March 24
Today is the 23rd 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 from the 25th chapter of Isaiah, verses 1-9. Yesterday’s reading was from the 14th chapter, so we’ve skipped 10 chapters. They are specific prophesies concerning places in the same general region as Israel: Moab, Damascus, Egypt, Idumea, Tyre, and a section that might cover Bedouin-type tribes simply entitled “the desert.” These prophesies all say the same kinds of things we saw in the reading yesterday. There are many colorful images and so on, but the lesson is much the same, and so it’s good we move on to chapter 25 or we wouldn’t finish the book before Holy Week. Here’s today’s reading: O Lord God, I will glorify thee, I will sing to thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, even an ancient and faithful counsel. So be it. 2 For thou hast made cities a heap, even cities made strong that their foundations should not fall: the city of ungodly men shall not be built for ever. 3 Therefore shall the poor people bless thee, and cities of injured men shall bless thee. 4 For thou hast been a helper to every lowly city, and a shelter to them that were disheartened by reason of poverty: thou shalt deliver them from wicked men: thou hast been a shelter of them that thirst, and a refreshing air to injured men. We were as faint-hearted men thirsting in Sion, by reason of ungodly men to whom thou didst deliver us. 6 And the Lord of hosts shall make a feast for all the nations: on this mount they shall drink gladness, they shall drink wine: 7 they shall anoint themselves with ointment in this mountain. Impart thou all these things to the nations; for this is God's counsel upon all the nations. Death has prevailed and swallowed men up; but again the Lord God has taken away every tear from every face. He has taken away the reproach of his people from all the earth: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. 9 And in that day they shall say, Behold our God in whom we have trusted, and he shall save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, and we have exulted, and will rejoice in our salvation. Does God have a plan? As Isaiah said at the beginning of today’s reading: “O Lord God, I will glorify thee, I will sing to thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, even an ancient and faithful counsel.” The word for “counsel” here is βουλὴν, which is a plan made after serious consideration. Does God have a plan like this, for the world, for you and me? Listen to St. Matthew’s gospel chapter 25 (verse 34), this is part of the separation of the sheep and the goats: “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…” So the answer to our question is yes, God does have a plan. It’s being worked out right now, and has been forever. St. Paul said it differently in Ephesians chapter 1 (v. 3-4): “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” That is to say, God had decided even before the world was created that He would offer salvation for our souls and forgiveness for sin. No one had committed any sin, but God was still planning what He could do to solve the problem when we did. Some interpret this as pertaining only to individuals, as if God specifically planned that you would be here, living in the time of the New Testament, and that others would have lived before Christ. I’m not sure if that’s accurate. I think that God has made His plans for humanity and human history, and we fit into those plans as part of the human race. This is not to say that God isn’t aware of us as individuals, or that He doesn’t love us. Not at all. God knows you and loves you, and as St. Luke (12:7) tells us, “even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” But the world does not revolve around any of us, and it helps us to understand that, as we go through life, we fit into the large-scale plan of God for all of human history. In the second verse of our reading today, Isaiah said, “For thou hast made cities a heap.” How can Isaiah praise God, thank God, glorify God when God has destroyed his nation? He thanks God because he knows that God has a plan. And so with all of us. God knows and loves us, and we rejoice to submit to His perfect plan.