With the Word online Bible study: preparing peace

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Isaiah 40.1-11 (Common English Bible)

Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her
compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received
from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins!
A voice is crying out:
“Clear the LORD’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill
will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
The LORD’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the LORD’s mouth
has commanded it.”

A voice was saying:
“Call out!”
And another[a] said,
“What should I call out?”
All flesh is grass;
all its loyalty is
like the flowers of the field.
The grass dries up
and the flower withers
when the LORD’s breath blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass dries up;
the flower withers,
but our God’s word
will exist forever.
Go up on a high mountain,
messenger Zion!
Raise your voice and shout,
messenger Jerusalem!
Raise it; don’t be afraid;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
Here is the LORD God,
coming with strength,
with a triumphant arm,
bringing his reward with him
and his payment before him.
Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;
he will gather lambs in his arms
and lift them onto his lap.
He will gently guide
the nursing ewes.

What word, phrase, or image stands out to you in this passage? Sit with that for a moment. What does it bring up for you? What questions do you have? What connections do you hear (to other stories, images, art, movies, music…)?

What feelings come up when you think about this God?

How do you clear the way for the Lord, getting ready, making uneven ground level?

Later, John the Baptizer will say these same words, placing himself in the long line of the prophetic tradition. He will speak these old words into a new time and context–and so God’s word will again be involved in making something new out of something old. The command to “make straight the way of the Lord” is an old one. A commentator says “In every age only faithfulness to this command can make room for God’s dramatic entrance into the desert of our lives.” Do you agree? How does God make an entrance into the world? Into your life? What is required of you to make a way for God?

What word would you use to sum up this passage, its tone and undercurrent?

Read the passage again, this time through the lens of “peace”–what new things pop out when you read this thinking about peace?

What is the good news in this text? What is the challenge for us?

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