There Will Be a Canopy

Ken Asel

A Reading from Isaiah 4:2-6

2 On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. 3 Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, 4 once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. 5 Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed, over all the glory there will be a canopy. 6 It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.

Meditation

The prophet Isaiah enters into a troubled time. The Northern Kingdom of Israel loses its freedom through conquest by the Assyrians. King Hezekiah, ruler of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, retains a measure of independence by paying tribute to the Assyrian emperor. In the midst of this trouble, Isaiah responds to a call from God. He speaks up for justice and righteousness and a return to a vision of faithfulness.

We have become all too familiar with troubled times. COVID lingers still. Prices continue to rise, and inflation seems to be lasting, hurting many who struggle to pay their bills. Some advocate white power in the name of religion. And the people of Ukraine suffer the effects of a brutal war which appears to have no end in sight. Then, and now, there is desolation into which prophets such as Isaiah cry with a voice of consolation and hope: “In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel.”

Many hear and respond to the voices of the prophets, because it’s also clear that this renewal requires major change. Spurred by the prophet Isaiah, King Hezekiah embarks on a series of sweeping religious reforms, including a strict return to devotion to Yahweh and rejection of pagan deities. And Hezekiah is remembered after his death as a good king (even included in Matthew’s geneaology of Jesus). Worship and justice are being restored. Gradually a “canopy,” something beautiful and refreshing, is raised, as the people respond to the promises of God.

Isaiah’s words resonate, then and now. Justice and compassion will return to the land, and swords will be replaced with pruning hooks once more. May we know and be part of the raising of a refreshing “canopy” in our own day, until sin and corruption finally cease under the banner of peace.

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest of the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married more than thirty years and reside on the Front Range.

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