Hallelujah – a Reflection on the Isaiah 19 Highway

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah speaks of an International Highway with the words: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth.” (Isaiah 19: 23,24) The words were spoken more than twenty-seven centuries ago but as we look at the Middle East today they seem as though they could not be farther from the truth.

The area which was a cradle to civilization, and the area to which Jesus first preached his Good News manifests chaos. Syria lies in ruins because of civil war; Iraq emerges from years of conflict even as anti-government elements take control of some key cities; the failure of reconciliation between the sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael inflicts suffering on many Palestinians and insecurity on many Israelites; Egypt seems only saved from similar chaos by the prayers of God’s people; while Lebanon, itself ruined by civil war thirty years ago, continues to suffer a stream of political assassinations.

I recently watched an interview with a young man called Timothy. He grew up as a missionary kid in the Middle East as his parents served at a Christian medical facility. Two years ago he joined the marines and was sent to Afghanistan. A month into his tour of duty he was blown up by an IED. He lost both legs and the use of his right arm. Yet he still has his voice. As a member of MusicCorps, a band developed from the US military Wounded Warrior Project, he recently performed alongside Roger Waters, founding member of Pink Floyd. The song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen has become his signature.

In the interview he was asked what the word “Hallelujah” meant to him. He said: “I thought I understood it, but the next thing you know my whole life’s coming down around my ears. Every dream, every hope I ever had for the future is broken around me and I don’t know where to turn. It was in that place that God said: Do you still trust me? Do you still believe that I have what’s best for you? It was at that moment that I understood Hallelujah”.

The last line of the song runs “Even though it all went wrong, I stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”. Timothy concluded the interview with the words: “I may be more whole now than I have ever been in my life!”

Hallelujah literally means – Praise the Lord! A broken young man, broken by the sin of the world, has learned to Praise the Lord despite his circumstances. He has learned that he may be more whole now in his brokenness than he has ever been before.

God came into the world in human form to bind up the broken heart, and to heal the wounded soul. Every broken heart, every wounded soul, continue to carry their scars, but surely in Timothy’s testimony there is inspiration for all along the Isaiah 19 Highway. A young man grew up a product of this region and was then broken by the conflict between competing worldviews. So many souls in the region have also been broken by that same age-old conflict.

I am in a month of prayer. Today I was praying for the Highway region. I found a prayer rising within me that the same wholeness that Timothy has experienced in his Hallelujah, might bring restoration along the highway and bring the Isaiah promise into being.


The TV interview can be viewed at: http://cdn17.castfire.com/video/305/2242/8032/1973166/cbsnews_2013-11-10-101206-4077-3-0-0.1100.mp4?cdn_id=26&uuid=4a0a9a24e1b88676a3fe527a52380159&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fm.cbsnews.com%2Fpostwatch.rbml%3Fvideoid%3D50158847%26feed_id%3D35&track1=CBSNews&track2=MobileWeb

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