"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." –Isaiah 55:12 (NIV)
This must be one of the most delightful and poetic promises God ever made to his people. But to feel the joy and peace promised in this verse, I needed to suspend disbelief. And that I could not do. Bemusement was all that came to me. Nothing more.
I kept recalling a conversation I once had with theologian Walter Brueggemann. He was talking about the chariots of fire God sent when Elisha was threatened by an army of his enemies. He said God would do the same for us.
“You don’t really believe that do you?” I asked Brueggemann. “Not literally.”
He replied: “I expect them to arrive any minute.”
His answer delighted me. I knew he was saying, “Step out of your anxiety. Live into the peace and joy of the promise.” So I tried that with this verse. I tried expecting the hills and mountains to burst into song. I tried imagining the trees clapping their hands for me. But such lavish expectations felt unseemly. Presumptuous.
Then this summer while walking, I stopped under a huge tree. I looked deeply into those green leaves and branches arching over and around me until it seemed as though there was nothing else. The wind started to rise like a song. I could hear it coming, and when it reached the tree- tops, the leaves and the branches began to sway and to clap into one another. That sound, first faint, then rising and dying away, was all I could hear. I felt swept up and part of the whole of creation. The peace and joy I longed for was there. Just waiting for me. Right outside my door.
Christine Wicker is a member of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, an author and former religion reporter for “The Dallas Morning News.”
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