Hesed – The Power of Pause

Sunday’s text from the Hebrew Bible is the first chapter of ‘second Isaiah.’ Let me explain: Actors and comedians know the power of the pause. Rather than immediately speaking the next line or joke, they simply stop speaking, waiting for just the right moment to speak again, catching the audience’s full attention with that silence. This is what happens in Isaiah. Chapter 39 of Isaiah speaks of the disaster that is to come, in the form of exile into Babylon, and then there is the pause. Not just a short beat of time, but one which lasts some 160 years. But the pause prepares the people for what God will say next, and it is completely unexpected!

After the pause, God speaks not more words of punishment, but of comfort. The words are no longer negative in tone, but overwhelmingly positive. To a people whose economic, theological, political, military institutions were destroyed, the promise comes that a new infrastructure will be built. God comes leading a massive construction crew to level mountains of fears, to use the rubble to fill in potholes, and to build new paths for folks to travel as they return home.

One of those “scarlet threads” woven in the tapestry of scripture is hesed, that love of God which is constant in times of uncertainty, is eternal even when we are limited by time and space. Let’s see how we can open ourselves to hesed in this uncertain time of Advent.

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