For this Sunday the Prophet Isaiah reading is from chapter 40, verses 1-11 (read them here). Listen with your heart for the comfort, listen to the call to hear that voice in the wilderness, listen to the assurance that “he will feed his flock like a shepherd.”
Those familiar with Handel’s Messiah know these verses very well as a good portion of his epic oratorio comes from the promises revealed to Israel (and us!) through Isaiah and the good news (Gospel) of their fulfillment.
Educators know the value of providing additional avenues for learning … reading (the book) … seeing (attending movies based on the book) … feeling (portraying the characters in a play based on the book) … hearing (listening to compositions based on the book).
Here are just some of the key Isaiah verses Handel put to music; read, see, feel, and hear the comfort:
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned … The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God… Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain…
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
Handel’s Messiah is considered the most famous piece of music ever composed. Who has never heard the Hallelujah chorus? (It also has its own back-story, saved for another day!) Yet this most famous of the choruses is just one of the 53 compositions making up the Oratorio!
Of those 53, the first 11 tell the prophecy, 1 is the birth, 4 tell of the annunciation, 11 relate the passion sequence, and the final 19 proclaim the Gospel (good news). It takes 2 hours to perform. And how long did it take Handel to compose it? 24 days.