In the NRSV translation verse four sounds odd: say to the “fearful of heart” God will come with vengeance (and save you).
In Hebrew the word for ‘fearful’ comes from the verb mahar which means “hasten” or “hurry” used a lot as “quickly”. As an adjective it might mean speedy, swift or hurried. I wonder whether the “hurried heart” is maybe an impatient heart that cannot wait for God to come? It could also be a heart like a modern diary so full that every thought and emotion rushes through it without having time to enjoy God’s presence. Maybe the “hasty heart” is a heart that has no time to stop and stare: to be attentive to what is actually happening. John Goldingay (2001, 197) in his commentary (NIBC) thinks it is a heart jumping in fear.
The reverse of this “speedy heart” in Isaiah 35 is joy. The passage brims over with delight having six different words to express joy, gaiety, gladness, rejoicing, making a joyful noise. And it does gladden the heart to hear what God’s vengeance is like: opening for the blind, unstopping for the deaf, leaping for the lame, singing for the voiceless, water in the wilderness and a highway: a road to go home on.
11 December 2016
This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anna-Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Coordinator for the Centre for Encountering the Bible and Director of Studies for the Centre for Formation in Ministry.