Can we have joy in COVID? The answer is yes and no. We might have joy during COVID, but our joy is not IN COVID. Our joy is in Christ! That’s a message Isaiah wanted us to know in Isaiah 55. I’ve never actually heard hills singing or seen trees clapping, but the Bible promises a day marked by such joy that the whole earth participates.
Isaiah 55 is comprised of two paragraphs both marked by invitations. The appeal to “come” in verse one is matched by the admonition to “seek” and “call” in verse six. In addition, both sections demonstrate a relationship between repentance and blessing (Cf. 1–3; 6–7); and both sections point to the fulfillment of God’s promise (Cf. 55:3 and 55:13 – “everlasting covenant” and “everlasting sign”). Moreover, the emphasis on the “sure mercies of David” is clearly Messianic in its application.
So, this chapter is an invitation to come before the Lord with a renewed heart. Those who respond find God’s mercy and experience the blessing of the Lord. Then, to add certainty to God’s promise, we are told two things—God’s ways are higher than ours (55:8–9) and His Word is certain to be accomplished (55:10–11). Those promises point to God’s Word and His character; He is and His Word is.
Then, because He is who He is and because His Word is faithful, Isaiah assures us there will be joy. You will go out with joy and be led by peace. In accompaniment, the mountains and trees will sing and clap. To be sure, this passage suggests a future fulfillment when God creates a new Heaven and a new Earth and finally restores creation to its original fertility. But there is also a sense of immediacy. Listen again to God’s call:
- Come to the waters (1)
- Come, buy and eat (1)
- Come, buy wine and milk (1)
- Come to Me (3)
- Hear and your soul will live (3)
- Seek the Lord while He may be found (6)
- Call on Him while He is near (6)
Those words depict a current reality. God, in Christ, is calling people to Himself today. His appeal is to exchange our sin for grace; our need for provision; our chaos for peace; and our sorrow for joy.
That’s the message of Christmas. Don’t let COVID, or anything else 2020 brought us, steal what God wants to give us. As Christians, we know that there will be a future more joyous than mountains singing and trees clapping. But, never forget that between now and then, God has given us his Word and His character. His ways are higher and His Word is faithful. In a year marked by uncertainty and confusion, that’s good news. And its reason for us and this year to go out with Joy.
Deron J. Biles is Professor of Preaching and Pastoral ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.