January 2024

‘This is the way; walk in it’ Isaiah 30.21 (NRSV)

This saying is a good place to start the year.  Isaiah lived in Jerusalem and was writing this prophecy some 700 years before Christ.  It was a time of decline for the nation of Israel.  To the north lay the threat of the powerful Syrian nation and to the south another powerful nation, Egypt.  Instead of remaining firm in the faith that God would be their strength and defence, they turned in on themselves and relied on their own strength. Such a human failing!

Isaiah receives an amazing vision of God and finds himself compelled to speak and prophesy into the situation.  He cannot hold back from telling the people what will happen if they go in the wrong direction; the dire consequences that will follow.  In this chapter, Isaiah is not only speaking words of warning but also encouraging the people and exhorting them to listen to God who tells them which way to go and what to do: ‘And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it”, when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left’.

The prophet is saying ‘your ears shall hear a word behind you’.  This implies that we need to ‘listen’ for the word, which is why ‘listening’ and contemplative prayer are so vital to our lives.  The word may often be surprising and unfamiliar as the Psalmist puts it in Psalm 81.5.

Decisions about the ‘way’ may be simple or complicated.  We need therefore to be very open and attentive to the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit.  We might easily miss the right pathway if we are too preoccupied or busy with our own agendas and deadlines.  So the words ‘walk in it’ may well be a key to the forthcoming year.

Three Mile an Hour God is the title of a thought-provoking book by a Japanese Christian, Kosuke Koyama.  In it he argues: ‘Love has its speed. It is a spiritual speed.  It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed.  It goes on in the depths of life, whether we notice it or not, at three miles an hour.  It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed the love of God walks’.

‘This is the way, walk in it’.