Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea and a path through the mighty waters, who brings forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power (they shall lie down together, they shall not rise; they are extinguished, they are quenched like a wick):
“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field will honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise.”
God speaks to the prophet Isaiah: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing,” he proclaims; “now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” The people of Israel have been captives in exile in Babylon, and now, through Isaiah, God sends them word that he will secure their return to their home in Palestine. “I will make a way in the wilderness,” God promises, “and rivers in the desert.”
And so it happens. In the words of the psalmist, “the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion.” In 539 BCE, Babylon falls to Cyrus, King of Persia, much celebrated by our ancestors, because he arranges for their return. For our ancestors, this will become a second exodus—a new chance to escape captivity, and to make their way back across the desert to their home in the Promised Land.
In Lent we are put in mind of “the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.” Lent provides each of us with a new opportunity each year: to extricate ourselves; to get out of Egypt; to escape from Babylon; to escape the things that enslave us and from which we long to be liberated. It provides us with a new exodus; a new opportunity to pack up our belongings and strike out across the desert, in the company of other pilgrims, in the sure and certain knowledge that God will be with us by day and by night, by fire and by cloud. And secure that there lies ahead of us a new land, a new Garden of Eden, a Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey.
Carol Cole Flanagan
Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, John 12:1-8