Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19
Upon first glance, it might seem that the Old and New Testament readings are making very different points today. Isaiah tells us that judgment is coming, that we have suffered often in vain and that the Lord does punish the unjust: "Oh Lord, oppressed by your punishment, we cried out in anguish under your chastising." This may seem like a lot to consider for a Thursday morning!
The key to unlocking this passage, I believe, comes at the end, "we conceived and writhed in pain, giving birth to wind." In other words, when we act as if we are alone, when we struggle and strive and work separately and distant from God, our suffering bears no fruit. Such independent efforts are wasted. Simply put, we alone cannot bring forth our own salvation. But faith in God brings deliverance from sin and death; "your dead shall live." This we can be sure of, those who live in the Lord will have eternal life.
Perhaps Christ shares his message a bit more gently than the prophet Isaiah. "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." (As Isaiah tells us, "Oh Lord, you mete out peace to us.") In today’s world especially, doesn’t this sound like an irresistible offer? I’m sure you can think of many burdens in your own life-anxiety, fear, self-doubt-that bring you much unrest. These are all burdens that distance us from God, that make us feel alone. But, we are not alone.
Jesus offers us rest from sin and all the conflict and instability that sin brings into our lives, "for my yoke is easy, and my burden light." His offer is not one of an easy out. Yes, there are obligations and responsibilities that come with accepting Jesus’ offer and following him. How much more burdensome though is a life lived under the pain of sin? Christ’s offer is one of lasting peace. May we have the courage to take up his yoke.