Recently I have been reminded that God’s work is not limited to any particular scale; He is Lord over the geopolitical, the world-historical, the rise and fall of nations — just as He is Lord over our daily lives. The big and the small — He is in all of it.
One of the most powerful places where I see this in Scripture is in 1-2 Kings. At this point in Israel’s history, a series of failed judges have led the people to demand a king, even though God has shown them that everything they need as a nation can be found in Him. Nevertheless, God gives them a king — Saul — and what ensues is a series of political conflicts, including murders to usurp successors, wicked leaders, wars, and eventually the division of the nation into the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). This all culminates in the Kingdoms’ defeat and exile by Assyria and Babylon, respectively.
Right in the middle of this brutal history, there are several stories that read very differently from their surrounding texts — those of Elijah and Elisha. Both of these prophets perform miracles that feel like Gospel stories; Elijah raises a widow’s son from the dead (1 Kings 17:7-24), Elisha helps another widow repay her debts with oil that doesn’t run out (2 Kings 4:1-7), a barren Shunammite woman conceives a son (2 Kings 4:8-17), a Syrian commander is healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14). What do these stories have to do with the surrounding accounts of geopolitical upheaval?
These stories show us the stakes of Israel’s political crises. They remind us that God is concerned with who sits on the throne because Israel’s faithfulness has ramifications for the poor, the outcast, and the sick — those for whom God’s heart beats. The whole point of God making Israel His chosen people was to make them a conduit of salvation from sin and death to the rest of the world (Genesis 12:1-3). And this salvation entails restoration from the many ways that sin and death have ravaged the world, including injustice, illness, and suffering.
One of today’s lectionary readings comes from the prophet Isaiah, who proclaimed words of challenge and hope as the history recounted in 2 Kings was nearing exile. His words speak to the massive upheavals they were experiencing and the hope of salvation:
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
—Isaiah 35:3-7 ESV (emboldening mine)
In the bolded text, Isaiah powerfully states that God’s rescue would have ramifications for the disabled — the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute. We know from the Gospels that individuals affected by disability were often the outcasts of society, the least powerful. In spite of their marginalization in society, Isaiah shows that they lie at the center of God’s vision of restoration, that God cares deeply for their eventual healing. I think we can also apply this hope to the spiritual ailments we experience — our blindness to the needs of others, our inability to hear God speaking clearly, the paralysis that prevents us from moving towards others in love, and the mute tongues that keep us from sharing his Good News. Regardless of the nature of our struggles, we can take hope that God sees and cares about them just as he cares for the headline issues of our day.
In this season of Advent, may we remember that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem marked the entrance of Israel’s one true King — the King that cared for the least of society and defeated sin and death for good. Christ also made the way for God’s chosen people to extend beyond Israel to become the Church; followers of Jesus are now the conduits through whom his salvation and restoration are meant to flow. As we remember his birth and anticipate His second coming, we can trust that He is sovereign over the big crises of our time just as He works in the details of our every day lives, and is concerned for our physical and spiritual trials. And as we trust Him with the big and the small, we are freed to care for those who are most in need around us.
Ana Yee is a senior in Kirkland studying History of Science.