God With Us   1 comment

Above:  King Ahaz of Judah

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Isaiah 7:1-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the reign of King Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel marched upon Jerusalem to attack it; but they were not able to attack it.

Now, when it was reported to the House of David that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, their hearts and the hearts of the people trembled as trees of the forest sway before a wind.  But the LORD said to Isaiah,

Go out with your son Shear-jashub to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the Upper Pool, by the road of the Fuller’s Field.  And say to him:  Be firm and be calm.  Do not be afraid and do not lose heart on account of those two smoking stubs of firebrands, on account of the raging of Rezin and his Arameans and the son of Remaliah.  Because the Arameans–with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah–have plotted against you, saying, “We will march against Judah and invade and conquer it, and we will set up as king in it the son of Tabeel,” thus says my Lord GOD:

It shall not succeed,

It shall not come to pass.

For the chief city of Aram is Damascus,

And the chief of Damascus is Rezin;

The chief city of Ephraim is Samaria,

And the chief of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.

And in another sixty-five years,

Ephraim shall be shattered as a people.

If you will not believe, for you cannot be trusted….

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

Matthew 11:20-24 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] began to reproach the towns in which most of his wonders had been done, because they did not repent.

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago!  But I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than you will!  And you, Capernaum!  Are you to be exalted to the skies?  You will go down among the dead!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have stood until today.  But I tell you that the land of Sodom will fare better than the Day of Judgment than you will!

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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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2 Kings 16:1-20 tells of the reign of King Ahaz of Judah, which The Jewish Study Bible dates to 754/735-727/715 B.C.E.  Ahaz “did not do what was pleasing to the LORD his God, but followed the ways of the kings of Israel.”  We read in 16:4 that “He sacrificed and made offerings at the shrines, on the hills, and under every leafy tree” (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures).  We read also that King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel formed an alliance and attempted unsuccessfully to conquer Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah, and to install a compliant monarch not of the Davidic Dynasty.

This is the context for Isaiah 7.  As we keep reading past Isaiah 7:9, we find Ahaz putting on airs of holiness by refusing to ask YHWH for a sign of deliverance.  Yet the king received a sign anyway:  A young woman in the court would have a baby boy, to be called Immanuel, or “God with us.”  People would feast on curds and honey by the time young Immanuel could discern good from evil and choose the good.

This is the story as we have it in Isaiah 7.  Subsequent Christian tradition, embedded in the Gospel of Matthew, changes the meaning of this account.  And since the author of that Gospel quoted the Greek-language Septuagint, not the original Hebrew text, the almah, or young woman, not necessarily a virgin or even married, of marriageable age, became a virgin in Matthew’s Gospel.  Young Immanuel, of course, became Jesus of Nazareth.  ”Matthew” understood the story of Jesus in the context of the Jewish Biblical narrative.  So he sought foreshadowing and prophesies of Jesus in the old texts.  Sometimes he imagined things.

Ahaz’s story continues in 2 Kings 16.  He allied himself with the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pilesar, after bribing him with “the gold and the silver that were on hand in the House of the LORD” and “the treasures of the royal palace.”  So the Assyrians rescued Ahaz from the Aramean and Israaelite forces, capturing Damascus, the capital of Aram.  There, at Assyrian-occupied Damascus, Ahaz saw a pagan altar, which he replicated in Jerusalem.  This was bad, but his public sacrifice at said replica altar compounded his error.  And Assyria demanded high tribute payments, which he paid in part by removing various Temple furnishings.

Judah was on the fast track to losing its sovereignty, something which Ahaz had compromised already.

I wonder how different the story would have been if Ahaz had trusted in YHWH, not Assyria.  God reaches out to us, even and especially after we have strayed from the righteous path.  The offer to come back remains open to us .  How do we answer?

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-tuesday-year-2/

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Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah I: 1-39, Matthew 11, Psalm 48

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 10: Tuesday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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