How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace and brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, they shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes when the LORD restores Zion.
Isaiah 52: 7-8 NIV
Points to Ponder:
“What ever became of the donkey?”
It’s a questions I’d like to ask Jesus at some point, because I think of this donkey who – according to tradition – carried Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem every time I read the passages associated with Isaiah 40 and 54. While Scripture makes no direct reference to their method of transportation, we do know that Mary made the trip with Joseph to Bethlehem for the census (Luke 2:5). In their day, culture and social class, travel typically occurred by foot or on the back of an animal. Since the 85-mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have taken four-to-six days to complete – if no wild animals or robbers delayed the journey – logic tells us that a very pregnant Mary wasn’t exactly up to the hike. Economic history of the time also tells us that this donkey would have been an affordable and reliable means of making the trip.
So what on earth does this donkey have to do with highways or deserts? Or Isaiah’s call to us as messengers, for that matter? I’m glad you asked. This donkey was a messenger in his own right. Perhaps he was unaware of his role, but in his own way he answered Isaiah’s call to carry the Good News – the soon-to-be-born Son of God – as literally as we should answer that call.
Isaiah’s call, as spelled out in the passages from these two days of study, leaves me feeling humbled and honored as a servant of God. What a joy it is to realize that God esteems us so highly that He has privileged us with the awesome role of sharing the Greatest Story for His own glory! And yet amid the humility, honor and thanksgiving, I think of the responsibility that has accompanied that call since Isaiah’s first announcement of it; truthfully, at times it can seem a bit overwhelming. Each time I read the texts I think of the messengers who actually carried or carry this particular message – especially those of Isaiah’s day who would have traveled on foot from city to city. Think of the physical and emotional exhaustion they surely felt at day’s end.
But humor me for a moment and think about this donkey. He carried the Good News, but with all due respect to Mary, he carried a load in more ways than one. Unless there was some supernatural element to Mary’s pregnancy – and we’re given no reason to believe there was – he was saddled with an expectant mother in the latter stages of her third trimester and all the symptoms that go along with those stages. I expect that exhaustion or just plain stubbornness caused him to stop from time to time and dig his hooves into the ground as donkeys are prone to do. Have you ever tried to prod or coax a donkey to move when he didn’t want to move? It’s no fun and nearly impossible.
As it turns out, I’m prone to much the same reaction from time to time when I feel exhausted or just plain stubborn, even where sharing the Good News is involved. When no one seems interested in the message. When my desire to obey God and honor His holiness are dismissed as legalism. When Christians in other countries are being beheaded for their faith. When life seems to be spinning out of control and my heart is in my throat and Isaiah is still prodding me to go with joy and proclaim to others, “Your God reigns!”
In those times – those deserts – though, my thoughts somehow turn back to this donkey and specifically what awaited him at the end of his journey. Presumably a good rest amid the warmth of the stable, a good meal of hay, water, of course. But more importantly, the chance of a lifetime. This donkey would have been there when Christ came into the world in His glory as an infant King. Likewise, we as carriers of the Good News will be there when Christ comes back into the world to reign for eternity as a mighty-yet-gracious King. That idea prods me in the most exhausting days in the desert to loosen my hooves from the ruts and shout to a dry and dusty world, “Your God reigns!
– Copyright 2016, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.
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Focus for Reflection:
What is the longest distance you’ve ever traveled on foot to deliver good news? How did you feel physically once you arrived at your destination and delivered the tidings?
Do the words of Isaiah 52:7-8 draw you toward any specific actions to take during and beyond this Advent season as you wait expectantly for Christ’s return?
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