The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with Joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for Joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting Joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain Joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
This week of advent, the focus is on Joy. One thing I learned about Joy came from my New Testament professor. Professor Paul Hammer said, “the difference between Happiness and Joy is that Happiness depends on one’s happenstance and Joy comes from the Lord regardless of what is happening.
This week’s text helps to explain why the Joy of the Lord is not dependent on our circumstances. Instead, the Joy of God that comes from having Faith and Hope in God’s redemptive work allows the person of Faith to see beyond the immediacy of their circumstance and have Faith in and Hope for the coming fulfillment of their deepest desires.
Isaiah is describing a promise to all creation that things will be made right. That healing and wholeness will overtake the imperfections of this world be they famine due to drought, fear due to political unrest, or injustice due to ignorance and greed. God is promising to make it all right.
And it is this expectation that we, the people of Faith, base our Joy on. Yet, while the hoped-for future has not happened, we live as though it has. Faith and Hope are the power of God’s Joy to live in God’s promises despite the chaos. Even so, not as some pie in the sky by and by, but as something to live in and for. Therefore, God’s Joy is a catalyst that prompts one to act in the present to bring about a future more aligned with God’s Kindom.
So we proclaim with the man of God Nehemiah 8:10 that the Joy of the Lord is my [our] strength.