While I was still a small boy, not old enough to go to school, when my grandmother came for her annual visit my father took me to the Union Pacific Station to meet the train. When the train was announced we would go out to the platform. The huge locomotive (to my eyes), would come into the station belching smoke and steam, and stop with a great screeching of brakes and hiss of steam. It always frightened me. I was able to take heart because my father was there holding my hand.
Our O.T. reading from Isaiah today began with the words, “I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Isa. 41:13)
Isaiah wrote these words at the time of the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem. (587-537 B.C.) I think we can also apply what he wrote to life in our times.
To whom was Isaiah writing this prophecy? To whom was God speaking through Isaiah? It was primarily to Jerusalem and to Israel. But I think as we read it, and hear it, we can take it as applying in many ways to us in the present age.
The references to mountains and hills can be considered as allegories. Meditating on this I quickly understood that the mountains and hills stand for our fears and frustrations. They are the things that threaten us. They hold us back from making a commitment to serve God.
At the heart of the prophecy we find God’s promise of help, and a challenge; “I shall make of you a threshing sledge”. He did not say, “I shall send you a threshing sledge”. He said, “I shall make you a threshing sledge.”
The threshing sledge is also an allegory. A heavy wooden plank, 2 or 3 feet by 5 or 6 feet, with sharp spikes on the bottom, when oxen pulled it over a grain field the grain was separated from stalks and weeds.
“You shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff.” (Cf. Vv. 14-15)
God gives us the responsibility of doing something ourselves about those “faithless fears and worldly anxieties” that are holding us back in whatever way. (Collect for Epiphany 8) We don’t have to do this alone. We have God’s promise of holding our hand and of helping us. By prayer we can know the assurance of God’s help at our right hand.
Stretch out your hand in faith and receive the strength and encouragement of God’s love to deal with your mountains and hills.
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