What a stark contrast as we turn from the page from Isaiah 34 over to chapter 35. Death and destruction gives way to life and salvation. We read words of hope that “[God] will come and save you”. And when he does,
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
Perhaps like me this reminded you of Matthew 11:2-6
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
It’s not hard to see Jesus in Isaiah’s prophecies. They speak both of Judah’s geopolitical context at the time, reminding the people of God’s covenant with them, and also about God’s plan to save all nations through a coming messiah. The highway referred to in verse 8 as the Way of Holiness reminds me that Jesus said He was the Way to the father.
Yet while God’s messiah has come, and He has come to save us, it doesn’t seem that we are living in the full realisation of verse 10.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Indeed our reading second reading, in Acts 23 describes Paul being transported to the Governor, Felix, under guard. Paul who has been shown how much he must suffer for the name of Jesus. Is this suffering part of the everlasting joy, mentioned above, where all sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The theological term for this idea that Jesus ushered in the “end times” and God’s kingdom is here but not fully experienced, is Inaugurated Eschatology, but personally I like thinking of it as living in “the now but not yet”.
If we hear Jesus’ words and believe God who sent him, we have eternal life and have already passed from death to life (John 5:24). We are already experiencing resurrection life. Yet Jesus was also clear that His kingdom is not of this world–to fully experience it and the everlasting joy declared by Isaiah, we will need to wait until we see it.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” – John 18:36
And it’s in the Now but not Yet that Paul begins years of imprisonment for the sake of the gospel. Years in which he hopes to be able to use his circumstances, before governors and even Caesar to declare that God’s kingdom has come in the form of Jesus – the messiah foretold by Isaiah, who was always part of God’s plan to save not only the people of Israel, but the entire world.
May God bless you today, as you live in the now but not yet, with a taste of his Kingdom that we will one day fully enjoy.