Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Much of popular Western culture is quick to condemn Christianity as a religion of bigotry and oppression, of powerful people using their power to hurt others, of dictatorial authority. Aside from the fact that those condemnations have only been true at a few times in history, in relatively isolated situations, standing in contrast to the historic Christian emphasis, revolutionary in nature, of caring for the poor, the needy, the sick, the weak, and the dying, we find a picture of a very peculiar army of God in our reading from Isaiah 49.
In this passage, God is promising to gather people together to himself. Those he is gathering are prisoners, people who have been in darkness, people who are not able to carry on as normal people. Prisoners throughout much of human history have been kept chained or in very confined spaces, normally poorly fed, subject to neglect. When they are released, they are doing well to be able to walk away from the prison. Those who have been kept in darkness will be temporarily blinded by the light of the sun. They are not ready to go anywhere on their own. God is going to level out the pathways and provide guides. This is done because the people need assistance. They can’t move as the rest of society does.
Not only does God get the people out of prison, he prepares a road for them, a safe escort which goes slowly enough for them, protection from the hot wind (an unfamiliar item in my climate, but common in many), from blazing sunshine, from hunger and from thirst. When God gathers His army, it looks more like a procession of disabled people who need to be fed.
If we are weak, sick, old, or infirm, God calls us together to his side. He will care for us when we recognize that we are not strong on our own. And, if we think about it in those terms, that’s all of us, all the time. If we can name one thing we are not able to manage, we have just given reason to trust in the Lord. He can manage it all.
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