Mountains Be Shaken and the Hills Removed

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“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10). This whole section of Isaiah attests to the assurances of God’s love for Israel and his protection from the various possible threats against her. It is the summation of all the positive aspects of the Hebrew word, Shalom, implying the fullness of blessing and protection from harm. Verse 10 is, of course, directed to the people of Israel. But it has both an external and and internal meaning for us as well.

With the utter devastation caused by the hurricanes that struck in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean in the last couple of weeks, the tensions on the world stage created by the North Korea’s missile testing and the ongoing War on Terror, and the latest terrorist bombing on a London subway train, we clearly have a sense of the threats that are all around us in our own time. The Israelites were always under the threat of outside enemies who wanted to destroy them. They knew the angst that comes with those threats on a regular basis. Through the prophets, in this case, Isaiah, God continually gave the people of Israel the assurance of his protective love for them. That love was, and still is, an active, not a passive love. God promises to be with us in the good times and in the bad. He assures us of his love and protection today just as much as he did during the time of Isaiah.

Yes, the consequences of sin abound both in the larger world and within our own lives. But when we recognize this and know that God’s covenant of love is more sure than the greatest of mountains, or all of nature’s blind and powerful forces, we can face these outside threats with faith, hope, and love and not be overwhelmed. Storms may devastate our immediate surroundings with terrible destructive power, but God’s covenant to be with us, to love us, and to protect us cannot be broken, shaken, or destroyed. We can trust his promise to be with us even more closely in the difficult times. How? He shows himself to us in the help of strangers, in the love, care, and commitment of our neighbors and the faith communities that join together to help us do the long, hard work of recovery. He shows himself in the forces that are backed by the nation in the form of aid, infrastructure rebuilding, and the necessary, immediate supplies, as well as the long term economic aide.

But we must also remember that God’s unshakable covenant of love for “the people” has a more intimate and individual dimension too. When the Israelites heard and read these words of Isaiah, they could take hope in their survival as a nation against all odds. But because of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, we know that God’s covenant love is also given to each and every one of us individually and personally. Though we often fail to be faithful to him or to his covenant with us, his faithfulness is never shaken. Though we may sin greatly and thereby threaten to destroy the most precious thing in God’s creation, our own eternal souls, which were made in his very image and likeness, he remains always ready and eager to wash us clean and to wipe away our shame with his covenant love and forgiveness. Believing in this covenant love and humbly and willingly submitting our entire selves to it is the source of our peace in the here and now, and the true path to heaven and eternal joy.

Lord, We are nothing without your love and your grace. Help us to know and to respond to your faithful love by learning to love this life, ourselves, and others in the way that you have loved us from the beginning of time. We pray these things in the holy name of Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.