Equality, divinely inspired

About 27 centuries ago, a prophet named Isaiah lived in the Jewish home-city, Jerusalem. He spoke presciently to his  countrymen about the dire condition and future direction of their waning theocracy. Among the many figurative utterances that Isaiah spoke to his people during those turbulent times was this cataclysmic declaration:

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.”

Two and a half millenia later, the composer George Frideric Handel appropriated this mountainous prophecy for the the introductory elements of his classic musical oratorio, The Messiah.

In any venue where the piece is performed, Handel’s masterpiece of Messianic fervor begins with a dynamic, stringed baroque overture. Then, in clear, declarative recitative, the bold tenor voice announces that Jerusalem’s warfare is done, divine absolution is on the way, and now is the time to “make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Since a highway requires some earth-moving preparatory work, the tenor’s exposition continues with Isaiah’s earth-shaking analogy that I mentioned above:

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.”

But there is much more going on here in the scriptural proclamation than a proposal for highway construction. Isaiah was enunciating a foundational principle of Jewish identity, and later Christian hope: Justice. And not just any old legal notion of justice, but a divinely-appointed equality among God’s people that is achieved when their societal field is providentially leveled and everyone has opportunity to live bountifully.

Now, what I’m wondering is: Will this God-sanctioned hope for justice on earth be accomplished through the Almighty’s soverign mandate upon his people,  or do we, as God’s people (if you count yourself among that group as I do) need to get busy and make the righteous vision happen?

If Isaiah’s echoing, metaphorical call to level the playing field resonates in your soul– if you can glean from his prophetic vision a possibility that someday the lowly will be raised up, and the high and mighty humbled–if you can catch a glimpse of a coming kingdom in which  mercy and grace obliterates oppression and injustice–then you may someday be singing that Hallelujah chorus with Isaiah and Handel in the Messiah’s  grand finale.

I Hope to see you there.

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