On the cusp of a great event

“I am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory.” (Isaiah 66:18 )

Here in Isaiah chapter 66 the Lord proclaim that a great event is coming; the bringing together of the nations and a show of the Divine’s strength and might. The writer of Isaiah in verse 15a proclaims this by saying, “See, the LORD is coming with fire” and in verse 19 confirms this by saying, “I will set a sign among them.” But it is interesting to note that verse 19 continues “and I will send some of those who survive to the nations .” The implication is that not all will survive the Lord’s glory, which is also the Lord’s judgment. This suggests to me that the Lord’s shalom is not necessarily a “touchy-feely” event. The earlier verses in chapter 66 bear this out.

I am also struck by when in time this is supposed to happen, it is about to. Not “it will happen in a time to come” or “at an appointed time”; but “about to”, imminent. As Christians we live in this tension of time, the “not now” but soon. And we live on the edge of this cusp from the time we are born to the time our bodies give out, and our Christian ancestors lived in this way too. If we would ask “when” though, we would be told “in God’s time.” So I suggest instead of asking when, we ask how. And more precisely how can we be a part of this event. Because, we may be part of the sign, and we may be one of the survivors who are sent forth. In fact, if we take Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection as the fulfillment of the “about to” (and perhaps as the sign) we may will be those who are sent out.

May you gentle reader be ever ready to see God’s glory and be sent out as a witness to it. Selah!

Von Herzen woll’n wir singen In Fried und Einigkeit

I am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory.  (Isaiah 66:18)

God declares that all tongues will be gathered, and by this, metonymically, all human cultures. The Tower of Babel is the metonymic opposite: a story in which human cultures are divided because humans stop speaking the same language (people from Carrolton County, Georgia; County Cork, Republic of Ireland; Mumbai, India; New York, New York; and London, England would agree that speaking the ‘same’ language doesn’t guarantee a non-divided human culture).

As a linguist of sorts, I would like to believe that God will maintain and encourage human language even as God gathers all people together. Human language both calcify and extend the human capacity for understanding; this must surely be true of God’s glory as it is of other things. When Charles Wesley wrote, “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemer’s Praise,” he captured some of this delight in and need for new ways of expression.

As an example, I’ve been working on a translation of song 119 from the Amish Ausbund, which I believe is used in Amish foot-washing services. The first half verse is:

Von Herzen woll’n wir singen
In Fried und Einigkeit,
Mit Fleiß und Ernste dringen
Zu der Vollkommenheit.

Literally, this is something like:

From the heart, we desire to sing
In peace and unity,
With diligence and earnestness heading
Towards perfection.

The fact that “Einigkeit” (unity) and “Vollkommenheit” (perfection) rhyme in German makes it easier to remember that our unity is part of our becoming perfect. German’s tendency to use “Germanic” instead of “Latinate”  roots makes it easier, perhaps, to remember that “unity” is one-ness (Einig-keit) and that perfection is “coming to fullness hood.” These small facts about language and culture help glorify God in slightly new and different ways. God’s glory is so great. If we are to sing “in peace and unity/in Fried und Einigkeit,” we will need a lot of help.