The words from Isaiah today, scholars say, are not the words of Isaiah but the words of an unknown prophet writing centuries later to Jewish exiles in Babylon. He urges them to return to Jerusalem, but many have settled in the new land and have no taste for returning.
The journey’s long and hard, some say. Nothing to go back to. Forget Jerusalem and the One who called, others say. Our God has let us down, so we’ll sing the songs of this land.
Confronting them, the writer uses Isaiah’s name, a prophet long dead, lest the Babylonians charge him with treason for suggesting the Jews return. Still, the unknown prophet confronts them with God’s words:
“To whom can you liken me as an equal? says the Holy One.”
God knows every one of you and calls you all by name. Come back where you belong; you can make the journey.
“He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.” (Isaiah 40)
Is it still the same, a people estranged from God, unaware of God’s call, unwilling to consider a return? Why believe in the promise? Why return to a city or a world or a church in ruins? But Advent call. In Advent we pray for “us, poor banished children of Eve.”.