By Dave Rinker
Student, MA in Theology
The book of Isaiah peaks in three summits throughout the story of Israel’s rise and fall and future hope. Each section (or climb) lands at a vision of joy, justice and peace. Notice Isaiah 39:5-8, 55:12-13, 66:22-24. At the end of chapter 39 this vision is stunted by the impinging reality of exile. But in Isaiah 55, the eternal covenant is reappropriated for a new tribe and a new day. This ragtag group will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
It stuck out to me that the people might be able to leave in joy. That their first steps toward freedom might be an exhale that exclaims…wahoo! They are able to celebrate in such a way that everything around them becomes enchanted with joy—with declarative chatter (Psalm 19). Leaving exile—reconnecting with the source of life—can only be expressed through the lighthearted joy that is tugged along by peace.
But what is this deep-seated joy that echoes through the trees? I had some great talks one night recently with some people I do life with. At the hip new coffee shop—which I think I am over—Michael described the way Jesus expanded the range of God’s love and presence. I started taking notes as he described who Jesus is for him—I felt like cheering at points. Another Michael—my housemate—composed a provocative song where he uses the word “hate” in the first verse and “love” in the last, and again, I felt joyful reflection was in order. Jonson just finished high school in Grand Rapids this year and moved to L.A., and he showed up at the bookstore where I work! I definitely hugged him over the counter—I just couldn’t wait.
What is this joy that breaks into days that seem at first to be a kind of desperate mundane? My neighbor Rich and I closed out the night thinking on what truth is and how it is rarely hyper-religiosity. Joy is wrapped up in truth because honest love is what allows us to be free beings caught up in the life of a free God.
Joy is found, then, not just in dancing through the days, but in noticing the trees’ song—the movement of love redeeming what was once cut off and enslaved. Our feet tap to the rhythm of an open day, a joyful applause—the echoes of a world set free.