By Tom Elenbaas
All around the world, people commute to work or manage daily living in communities aching for grace.
In this passage, I hear promises that cause my heart to ache, longing for a harvest of grain, for ripe grapes to become new wine, and for a level path with boulders removed to make safe passage possible. We long to raise the festival banner, turn up the music, and sing, shout, and dance! But our mouths are dry, our tongues caked in the dust of drought. We see only cracked earth and fields parched, brown with death. We stumble through crooked pathways in the darkness.
“Listen,” it seems Isaiah is saying to those shouting from the walls. “Cry out—without quitting—and do not let the God of goodness sleep through your pain. Remind God of the promises he made to you—of new wine, new grain, and new grapes in the splendor of his house.”
This is an invitation into a new reality despite the difficulty of the day. Whether we are brick-makers in the baking sun of Egypt or sons and daughters slaving today in a consumer culture of our own appetites, here is the promise of a new city. One translation says, “Pass through, pass through the gates!” (NIV), while another says, “Go out through your gates … Go out! Prepare the way for the rest of your people to return!” (NIRV). Both are true. There is an invitation to us to both enter the gates of gladness from wherever we are in the kingdoms of emptiness and to go out, removing boulders and obstacles for others, raising a banner that proclaims, “This is the place of life!” Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Savior. Come, Redeemer, so that we will be called “Sought After” and “the City No Longer Deserted” (v. 12, NIV).
Prayer: God of promise, keep your promises to us who are waiting and longing for your coming again!
Tom Elenbaas is senior pastor of Harbor Churches in Hudsonville, Michigan. The 2016 Advent devotions were written by RCA church planters and parent churches.