Traditionally, we surrender a creature comfort or habit as a way of associating our lives with the impending sacrifice and suffering of our Savior. We willingly give up a behavior, a food, or something similar in sacrifice, longing for Easter’s arrival not only to celebrate the resurrection but the freedom to return the sacrifice to our lives. I want to invite us to take a different approach to the coming 46 days this year and seek to grow in holiness, not through a temporary sacrifice, but through the rending of our hearts. Our reflections will move us from loss to promise, much as Isaiah’s prophecy brings his readers from exile to restoration. This passage sets the tone for our prayers to come:
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there,
nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and the ransomed of the Lord will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.