By Michael E. Brooks
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you’ ” (Isaiah 35:3-4 NKJV).
I like bridges. My father was a contractor who spent much of his life building bridges and culverts in Alabama. I loved to go with him to his job sites while I was a child, and as an adult still enjoy crossing bridges which his company built. Some of the world’s great engineering feats and structural wonders are bridges (as for example the Golden Gate Bridge in California).
There are bridges in Nepal however that are not quite so enjoyable to cross. I am speaking of the swinging bridges which span so many of the deep gorges in the Himalayas. Some are hundreds or even thousands of feet above the bottom of the chasm. Many are quite old with rusting cables supporting them, and broken or missing boards on the walkway.
All of them share the sense of instability that is inherent in their design (that is, they sway and tremble when you walk on them). It is not unusual for me to show one of these on a pictorial report and have someone in the audience respond, “I could never cross that!” I must confess that there have been a few times when I took one look and thought, “Am I sure I have to go there?”
Life is full of swinging bridges. That is, there are many occasions when we must attempt something that puts us at risk and makes us feel insecure. Dangers abound. Much of what we do involves placing ourselves in situations where support is dubious and threats are real. Unlike risks undertaken for thrills however, these are necessary and often unavoidable. I
n Nepal, there are no ways around the deep crevices between the mountain peaks. If one wishes to go from one place to another, there may only be one path, complete with its bridge(s). If the trip is essential, so is the danger.
Isaiah speaks to a people threatened by many enemies and also facing the promised judgment of God. Some dreadful things were due to be experienced by Judah over the next several decades. Yet beyond these God promised rescue and redemption. The Israelites would face difficult times, but if they endured God would bless them.
They must simply cross the bridge! So the prophet encourages them to strengthen their weak hands and feet and not to fear because God would be with them.
Later in this same chapter Isaiah elaborates on this theme.
“A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, though a fool, shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:8-10).
Nepal’s swinging bridges may seem unstable, yet one thing is sure; there are no wrong turns on them. The way is clear and one’s destination plain. You won’t lose your path or confuse your sense of direction.
One is reminded of Jesus’ description of the way of salvation. “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). Just as the bridge is the only way to a particular destination in Nepal, so Jesus is the only way to an eternal home with God (John 14:6). The key to successfully navigating either is to “be strong, do not fear”, and to trust in God who will sustain us.