Prelude to the Rhapsody of 'Zion Redeemed'
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; that she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
[Voices carry on the tidings across the desert to Jerusalem
A VOICE OF ONE CRYING
Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the LORD,
Make straight in the desert a high way 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.
A SECOND VOICE (in the distance)
A DESPAIRING VOICE
What shall I cry?
All flesh is grass,
And all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth,
The flower fadeth,
Because the breath of the LORD bloweth upon it:
Surely the people is grass!
THE SECOND VOICE
The grass withereth,
The flower fadeth:
But the word of our God shall stand for ever.
FOURTH VOICE (still more distant)
O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion,
Get thee up into the high mountain;
O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem,
Lift up thy voice with strength;
Lift it up, be not afraid;
Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Behold, the Lord GOD will come as a mighty one,
And his arm shall rule for him:
Behold, his reward is with him,
And his recompence before him.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,
He shall gather the lambs in his arm,
And carry them in his bosom,
And shall gently lead those that give suck.