Many factors could be responsible for the demise of a city in biblical times. Famine, war, pestilence, invasion and captivity, to name a few.
During the period of Babylonian exile, Jerusalem basically disappeared.
Oh, there were a few stalwart souls who managed to evade their captors. Some weren't wanted for the journey to Babylon. Others came along later to take up residence in the abandoned city. Squatters and boudoins.
But, for all practical purposes, Jerusalem disappeared for about two generations beginning in the 6th century B.C.E.
The last third or so of the book of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah is devoted to hope-filled words about urban renewal in the abandoned city of David. At least two distinct voices seem to take up the cause of championing the rebuilding and renovation of the ancient city left in ruins.
As I listened to my preacher on Sunday reading from Isaiah 62, my mind moved quickly to my recent observations of New Orleans, America's lost city.
The words of the prophet provided me a vision of hope.
Maybe if you read the words with my modern adaptation thrown in for good measure, you'll see what I mean.
"For New Orleans' sake I will not keep silent, and for New Orleans' sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.
"The nations shall see your vindication, and all the world leaders and politicians your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.
"You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
"You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your region shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.
"For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builders marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
"Upon your city limits, O New Orleans, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes New Orleans and makes it renowned throughout the earth." (Isaiah 62:1-6)
Like Jerusalem, New Orleans can be vindicated if at least three things happen.
1) People of vision and faith must take courageous, risky action for the now "forsaken" and "desolate" city. Had people of vision and faith not taken action, Jerusalem would not have been re-populated or renewed. New Orleans waits for brave leaders to step up and take over.
2) People with power, influence and political and economic capital must invest sacrificially in the city's renewal. Again, in the case of Jerusalem, had the powerful of the day not taken decisive action, the city would not have come back.
3) People who love the city must become engaged at the level of the heart and soul. In other words, New Orleans will not be vindicated nor given a new name (read "lease on life" and "new identity") unless people who recognize the power of the spiritual get involved.
I am praying for the vindication of this great city.
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Larry James' Urban Daily
A repository of ideas, resources, commentary and opinions concerning the issues facing low-income residents of the inner cities of the United States and how mainstream America largely forgets or, worse, ignores the day-to-day realities of urban life for the so-called "poor." Written and edited by the President & CEO of CitySquare. Please visit CitySquare.
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