Against “Majestic Pride and Overbearing Arrogance”   1 comment

Above:  A Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

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Isaiah 10:5-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Ha!

Assyria, rod of My anger,

In whose hand, as a staff, is My fury!

I send him against him an ungodly nation,

I charge him against a people that provokes Me,

To take its spoil and to seize its booty

And to make it a thing trampled

Like the mire of the streets.

But he has evil designs;

For he means to destroy,

To wipe out nations, not a few.

For he thinks,

After all, I have kings as my captains!

Was Calno any different from Carchemish?

Or Hamath from Arpad?

Or Samaria from Damascus?

Since I was able to seize

The insignificant kingdoms,

Whose images exceeded

Jerusalem’s and Samaria’s,

Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images

What I did to Samaria and her idols?

But when my Lord has carried out all his purpose on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, He will punish the majestic pride and overbearing arrogance of the king of Assyria.  For he thought,

By the might of my hand I have wrought it,

By my skill, for I am clever:

I have erased the borders of peoples;

I have plundered their treasures,

And exiled their vast populations.

I was able to seize, like a nest,

The wealth of peoples;

As one gathers abandoned eggs,

So I gathered all the earth:

Nothing so much as flapped a wing

Or opened a mouth to peep.

Does an ax boast over him who hews with it,

Or a saw magnify itself above him who wields it?

As though the rod raised him who lifts it,

As though the staff lifted the man!

Psalm 94:5-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  They crush your people, O LORD,

and afflict your chosen nation.

6  They murder the widow and the stranger,

and put the orphans to death.

7  Yet they say, “The LORD does not see,

the God of Jacob takes no notice.”

8  Consider well, you dullards among the people;

when will you fools understand?

9  He that planted the ear, does he not hear?

he that formed the eye, does he not see?

10  He who admonishes the nations, will he not punish?

he who teaches all the world, has he no knowledge?

11 The LORD knows our human thoughts;

how like a puff of wind they are.

12  Happy are those whom you instruct, O Lord!

whom you teach out of your law;

13  To give them rest in evil days,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

Matthew 11:25-27 (An American Translation):

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding all this from the learned and the intelligent and revealing it to children.  Yes, I thank you, Father, for choosing to have it so.  Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one understands the Son but the Father, nor does anyone understand the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The Assyrian Empire was brutal, a regime built on force, coercion, and violence.  There were, in fact, successive Assyrian Empires, so I must be precise in my language.  Mesopotamia has been home to neighboring civilizations and a succession of empires since ancient times.  Keeping track of them can be challenging.  The Assyrian Empire of this day’s text from Isaiah was the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  It had begun to expand its borders and influence by 856 B.C.E.  All of the hard work of conquering and oppressing people ended by 605 B.C.E., with the division of the empire between the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, the next great empire in that region, and the Medes, who, along with their senior partners, the Persians, eventually conquered the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians and formed an even greater empire.

Empires rise and fall, but life goes on, as does the work of God.  And, for us, living daily should constitute far more than merely completing a succession of tasks, errands, and chores; it should be prayer and a series of acts of worship.  This thought has been on my mind recently, as I have watched the video Canadian politician Jack Layton’s funeral repeatedly.  Layton’s pastor quoted the late leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition as saying that he (Layton) considered how he spent each day as an act of worship.  Such living leaves no room for the ruthless violence for which the Assyrians were notorious.

The text does require some explanation.  First, Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Samaria, and Damascus were cities the Assyrians had conquered.  And there is a bilingual pun in the text.  (I adore plays on words!)  We read “I have kings as my captains!” in verse 8.  The note in The Jewish Study Bible explains:

Heb[rew] “sar” is cognate to the Akkadian word for king.  Vassal kings did serve the Assyrian king as military commanders or captains.

Double entendres aside, the point of the reading is that hubris led to the fall of Assyria.  Hubris, of course, is that which goes before the fall.  It puffs one up unduly and leads one to become and remain overconfident.  It is something to guard against in the life of any empire or nation-state.

We, as individuals, ought also to avoid hubris.  We all need God; if we are wise, we will acknowledge and accept this without hesitation.  Jesus went to those who were ready to accept him and to embrace his message.  Pride did not hold them back, so they benefited from him.  More could have done the same if they just surrendered their hubris.

Pride can be difficult to surrender.  Sometimes circumstances leave us no choice, but it is better to live simply, humbly, and in the light of God voluntarily.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF GENOA, MYSTIC AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DANTE ALIGHIERI, POET

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-wednesday-year-2/

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Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah I: 1-39, Psalms II: 77-151

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One response to “Against “Majestic Pride and Overbearing Arrogance”

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 10: Wednesday, Year 2 | ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS

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