Henry Giles said, “A song will outlive all sermons in the memory.” I believe that’s true. Several years ago I was blessed to sit at the bedside of a precious friend’s mother as she lay dying. She had been unresponsive for several days and the family was already grieving as their mother was close to death. I knew she had been raised in a typical Southern town and a typical Southern church, so I started to sing an old hymn from my youth, and, sure enough, this precious lady began to sing along with me. The family was overjoyed at this sign of life in their mother. A few days later, she passed on.
It just brings home to me the truth of another old saying “He who sings, prays twice.” Why do you think the Church has always had chanters? It’s because singing drives the words deep into our hearts. That’s why music is so powerful AND so dangerous because bad ideas get driven deep into our hearts and minds as well.
Look at our lesson today in Isaiah 11:10-12:2:
Thus says the LORD: In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.
In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. But they shall swoop down upon the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the sea of Egypt; and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching wind, and smite it into seven channels that men may cross dryshod. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant which is left of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.
You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to thee, O LORD, for though thou wast angry with me, thy anger turned away, and thou didst comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
St. Isaiah continues encouraging God’s people to not become discouraged by the disciplines of wrong choices. Even though the discipline is bitter now, the fruit of that discipline will be sweet and a source of joy.
And the imagery St. Isaiah uses is a beautiful picture “the Lord will extend His hand.” If you remember in previous passages, this same imagery was used to also communicate God’s Judgement. The Lord extending His hand over Israel and over the kingdom of Assyria marked the moment God forced these unfaithful people to face the consequences of their unfaithfulness. And yet, the prophet uses the same imagery to communicate God’s healing and helping His people.
Why do you think this is?
It’s because both God’s Discipline and God’s Blessings flow from His love for us. If God was uncaring, He would simply ignore you traveling down a destructive and dangerous path. But God loves you too much to ignore your own foolish choices that lead to your destruction. So, in His love for you, He turns up the fire of consequences to shake you out of the delusion that your choices don’t matter. they do! And then God extends His hand again when you come to your senses to heal your wounds and comfort you and strengthen you for future temptations and trials.
No wonder Isaiah tells God’s people that their sorrow and sad laments will be turned to the revelation that “God is my salvation” and that the hearts of His people will sing for joy!
Today, are you suffering from the consequences of bad choices? Is your “song” sad and broken-hearted? Wake up from the temptation of despair and turn your heart to God and watch as He extends His hand to heal you and turn your song to joy. What a joy to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. O Lord of Mercy and Compassion, what joy and strength You give us when we turn to You for help, healing, and salvation. You put a song of joy in our hearts that strengthens us and keeps us focused on You. Amen.