Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophecy Passage (Isaiah 32:9-20) transports me to a rural Georgia plantation, circa 1861, where southern belles with names like Suellen, India, Honey, Carreen, and Melanie still live the life of luxury and are complacent in the face of impending doom. The belle of all belles, Scarlett O’Hara, is the poster child for indulgent complacency, with lines like, Fiddle-dee-dee. War, war, war; this war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream. As the movie’s beginning words tell us, Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow… Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave… Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind.
Isaiah could have been anticipating Margaret Mitchell’s South when he wrote of the impending doom of the southern towns and cities in the kingdom of Judah. Sennacherib, commander of the Assyrian army, was to the southern kingdom what General Sherman was to the South. And like Scarlett and the other symbols of opulence portrayed in the novel and movie, Isaiah portrays the women of Judah as being complacent and at ease, enjoying the high life while the fabric of their society unraveled around them.
I can almost hear Rhett’s voice as the prophet foretells the disaster about to take place: Take a good look my dear. It’s an historic moment you can tell your grandchildren about – how you watched the Old South fall one night. The way Isaiah tells it, The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys. I can see Scarlett right before intermission, when she returns home to find Tara abandoned and overgrown, heeding the voice of Isaiah, Strip off your fine clothes and wrap yourselves in rags. Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vines and for the land of my people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers— yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry. There she lays on the ravaged land of Tara, silhouetted against the sunset sky, and she slowly stands, hair disheveled, holding the forsaken earth in her hand, pledging, as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again. She was echoing Isaiah’s dreams of the land’s recovery, a day when the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest.
In the disastrous times we are living through, we would do well to heed the words of the prophet, to swap our Sunday best for sackcloth, to beat our breasts in lamentation and pray for the Spirit to fall on our land. And not just any spirit, but the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit that would bring justice to our desert places, and righteousness in our fertile fields, the Spirit that would bear fruits of peace. This is the Spirit that resides in the least of these, in the hungry, the sick, the prisoner, the stranger. It is a prayer worth praying, a dream worth dreaming, for after all. . .tomorrow is another day.