Archive for the ‘Isaiah 24’ Category

The End of Days   Leave a comment

Above:  Ahriman (from Zoroastrianism)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART II

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Isaiah 24:1-27:13

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Babylon is not mentioned even once.  Rather, the eschatological focus of these chapters has raised their sights to the ultimate purpose of God in portraying the cosmological judgment of the world and its final glorious restoration.  Moreover, the redemption of Israel is depicted as emerging from the ashes of the polluted and decaying world.  Not just a remnant is redeemed , but the chapter recounts the salvation of all peoples who share in the celebration of God’s new order when death is banished forever (25:8).

–Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah (2001), 173

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INTRODUCTION

Isaiah 24-27 constitutes the Isaiah Apocalypse.  They also constitute an early and not full-blown example of Biblical apocalyptic literature.  Some books I read inform me that the Jewish apocalyptic form emerged in the wake of the fall of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire–in the late sixth century (early 500s) B.C.E., to be precise.  These books also teach that full-blown Jewish apocalypses emerged only in the second century (100s) B.C.E., as in the case of Daniel 7-12.

Isaiah 24, in vivid language, depicts the divine destruction of the natural order and the social order.  I recommend the translation by Robert Alter, in particular.  Regardless of the translation, we read that people have violated the moral mandates embedded in the Law of Moses:

And the earth is tainted beneath its dwellers,

for they transgressed teachings, flouted law, broke the eternal covenant.

Therefore has a curse consumed the earth,

and all its dwellers are mired in guilt.

Therefore earth’s dwellers turn pale,

and all but a few humans remain.

–Isaiah 24:5-6, in Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary, Volume 2, Prophets (2019)

The timeframe is sometime in the future, relative to both Third Isaiah and 2021.  in this vision, high socio-economic status provides no protection against God’s creative destruction.

Within the Book of Isaiah, in its final form, chapters 24-27 follow oracles against the nations (chapters 13-23) and precede more oracles against nations (chapters 28-33).  This relative placement is purposeful.

SWALLOWING UP DEATH FOREVER

Returning to the Isaiah Apocalypse, the establishment of the fully-realized Kingdom of God entails the defeat of the enemies of God’s people, the celebration of an eschatological banquet, and the swallowing up of death forever (See 1 Corinthians 15:54; Revelation 7:7-17).  The divine swallowing up of death echoes the swallowing up of Mot (the Canaanite god of death) in mythology.

Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19 refer to divine victory over death.  Given the temporal origin of the Isaiah Apocalypse, is this a metaphor for the divine vindication of the downtrodden, likened to the dead?  Such language, in Book of Daniel (100s B.C.E.) and the Revelation of John (late 100s C.E.), refers to the afterlife.  The operative question regarding Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19, however, is if the author knew about and affirmed the resurrection of the dead.  We know that Ezekiel 37 (the vision of the dry bones) is a metaphor for the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian Exile.  But what about Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19?  Even the Jewish commentaries I consult do not arrive at a conclusion.

I understand why.  The Isaiah Apocalypses comes from a time when Jewish theology was changing, under the influence of Zoroastrianism.  Satan was moving away from being God’s employee–loyalty tester (Job 1-2) and otherwise faithful angel (Numbers 22:22-40)–and becoming a free agent and the chief rebel.   The theology of Ahriman, the main figure of evil in Zoroastrianism, was influencing this change in Jewish theology.  Jewish ideas of the afterlife were also changing under Zoroastrian influence.  Sheol was passing away.  Reward and punishment in the afterlife were becoming part of Jewish theology.  By the second century (100s) B.C.E., belief in individual resurrection of the dead was unambiguous (Daniel 12:2-3, 12).

I do not know what Third Isaiah believed regarding the resurrection of the dead.  I suppose that he could have affirmed that doctrine.  The historical context and the symbolic language of the apocalypse combine to confuse the matter.  So be it; I, as an Episcopalian, am comfortable with a degree of ambiguity.

DIVINE JUDGMENT ON ENEMIES OF THE COVENANT PEOPLE

Isaiah 25:9-12 singles out Moab, in contrast to the usual practice of not naming enemies in chapters 24-27.  One may recall material condemning Moab in Amos 2:1-3; Isaiah 15:1-16:13; Jeremiah 48:1-47; Ezekiel 25:8-11.

In the divine order, the formerly oppressed rejoice in their victory over those who had oppressed them.  Oppression has no place in the divine order.

Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance in Isaiah 24-27.  Divine deliverance of the oppressors is frequently catastrophic for the oppressors.  And the contrast between the fates of the enemies of God (27:11) and the Jews worshiping in Jerusalem (27:13) is stark.  As Brevard S. Childs offers:

In sum, the modern theology of religious universalism, characterized by unlimited inclusivity, is far removed from the biblical proclamation of God’s salvation (cf. Seitz, 192),

Isaiah (2001), 186

GOD’S VINEYARD

Neither do apostasy and idolatry have any place in the divine order.  And all the Jewish exiles will return to their ancestral homeland.  Also, the message of God will fill the earth:

In days to come Jacob shall take root,

Israel shall bud and flower,

and the face of the world shall fill with bounty.

–Isaiah 27:6, Robert Alter (2019)

The face of the world will be God’s productive vineyard, figuratively.  The people and kingdom of God, figuratively, are a vineyard in the Old and New Testament.  (See Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19).

CONCLUSION

Despite ambiguities in the texts, I am unambiguous on two germane points:

  1. Apocalyptic literature offers good news:  God will win in the end.  Therefore, faithful people should remain faithful.
  2. Apocalyptic literature calls the powers and leaders to account.  It tells them that they fall short of divine standards when they oppress populations and maintain social injustice.  It damns structures and institutions of social inequality.  It condemns societies that accept the unjust status quo.

Regardless of–or because of–certain ambiguities in the Isaiah Apocalypse, chapters 24-27 speak to the world in 2021.  Some vagueness in prophecy prevents it from becoming dated and disproven, after all.  And structural inequality remains rife and politically defended, unfortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Introduction to Third Isaiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART I

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Isaiah 24-27, 56-66

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Haggai prophesied in late 520 B.C.E.  First Zechariah, commissioned as a prophet in late 520 B.C.E., prophesied in 519 and 518 B.C.E.  Sometime after Jewish exiles began to return to their ancestral homeland in the late 530s B.C.E., Third Isaiah prophesied.  He grappled with difficult circumstances and ubiquitous disappointment, just as Haggai and First Zechariah did.  The reality on the ground did not match the descriptions of prosperity and paradise on Earth that some previous prophets had offered.  For example, the contrast between the pessimism of many returned exiles and the optimism of Second Isaiah (from circa 540 B.C.E.) was a gaping chasm.

Third Isaiah spoke of divine sovereignty and divine compassion for Israel.  He did this between 537 and 455 B.C.E., in the context of matters remaining difficult for Jews in their ancestral homeland, part of the Persian Empire.  The reforms of Nehemiah and Ezra, starting in 445 B.C.E. (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8:1-9:55) greatly improved the civic and spiritual life of the population.  Third Isaiah prophesied before these reforms.

Designating Isaiah 56-66 as Third Isaiah and Isaiah 24-27 as part of First Isaiah is commonplace.  Yet I follow the determination in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), for I define the prophesies of Third Isaiah as encompassing Isaiah 24-27, 56-66.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF FRIARS MINOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS I OF NAPLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., AND HIS SON, DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, JR.; EPISCOPAL BISHOPS OF MISSISSIPPI, AND ADVOCATES OF CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE TYRRELL, IRISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WNCHESTER

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Apocalypses   1 comment

Destruction of Jerusalem by Ercole de' Roberti

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Titus, A.D. 70, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 24:17-23

Psalm 23

Mark 2:18-22

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Psalm 23 presents a pristine, pleasant picture of verdant pastures, safety in God, and an overflowing cup.  That is the opposite of Isaiah 24, in which God pronounced judgment on the sinful Earth.  Leading up to that chapter we read of divine judgment on various nations (including the Kingdom of Judah) and a condemnation of official corruption.  Divine redemption of Judah and human thanksgiving for God’s deliverance of the people from oppression follow Isaiah 24 immediately.  Destruction of the wicked order makes room for the new world of righteousness.

I detect an apocalyptic note in Mark 2:18-22 also.  The disciples of Jesus will not fast until

the bridegroom is taken away from them

–2:20a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985).

The canonical Gospels contain openly apocalyptic sections, especially in proximity to the Passion of Jesus.  That seems appropriate, given the nature of crucifixion and the Roman imperial use of violence.

I have noticed two unhelpful extremes in theology and Bible-based art.   One is fixating on the pleasant, so that Jesus usually smiles, for example.  The other is to focus on doom, gloom, destruction, and judgment.  Both contain true elements, of course, but the error is fixating on one extreme so as to deny or minimize its opposite.  So, avoid extremism, I note that the rescue of people from oppressors is good news for the oppressed and bad news for the oppressors and their allies.  May none of us be like those who mourn the fall of Babylon in Revelation 18.

Sometimes we mere mortals find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, so we suffer and lament.

Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days!

–Mark 13:17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That is the unfortunate reality of many people in parts of the world, is it not?  Yet we humans may hope for a better time.  We might even function as partners with God to improve circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUNYAN, PROTESTANT SPIRITUAL WRITER

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-23-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Community Holiness   1 comment

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Above:  A California Vineyard

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011634739/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16546

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 24:1-16a

Psalm 21

1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 24:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Thessalonians 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/week-of-proper-16-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/proper-27-year-a/

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Your hand shall mark down all your enemies;

your right hand will find out those who hate you.

You will make them like a fire, even in the time of your wrath;

the Lord will swallow them up in his anger

and the fire will consume them.

Their fruit you will root out of the land

and their seed from among its inhabitants.

Because they intend evil against you

and devise wicked schemes which they cannot perform,

you will put them to flight

when you aim your blow at their faces.

–Psalm 21:8-12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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As I have written recently (http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/), holiness in the Law of Moses was for the community, not isolated individuals.  Indeed, what one person does affects others directly and indirectly?  We social humans live in a web of mutual responsibility.  Any impression to the contrary is mistaken.

Most recent lections in this series have focused on divine mercy following divine judgment.  The reading from Isaiah 24 gives us a dose of judgment explained as what follows long-term, rampant, and communal disregard of the covenant.  Communal life and holiness is also a prominent theme in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.  Adultery, for example, is not a solitary act.  So it, by definition, affects those involved directly and indirectly, frequently damaging or destroying marriages and breaking up families.  But even what we do in private affects others.  That understanding prevents me from becoming a wholesale Libertarian.

I used to be more individualistic, especially during my adolescence.  But, as I have aged and learned, I have realized that rugged individualism is a great lie.  It is a popular cultural and political force in my nation-state.  But it is still a great lie.  We all depend on God for everything.  And we all depend on each other in matters material and spiritual.  May we, by grace, take good care of each other.  That is our covenant with God.  If we break it often enough, destruction will result.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/devotion-for-monday-after-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Good News for the Righteous   1 comment

Above:  Second Coming Icon

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 24:14-25:12

Psalm 90 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 72 (Evening)

1 John 2:15-29

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Some Related Posts:

1 John 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/seventh-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/ninth-day-of-christmas/

Isaiah 24-25:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-b-principal-service/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/proper-23-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/feast-of-all-souls-november-2/

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The future judgment continues in Isaiah 24:14-25:12.  Not only will the wicked face destruction, but the righteous will survive and God will destroy death itself.  Amid judgement for some, one who is righteous will find good news.

1 John exists in the context of the expectation of the imminent return of Christ.  Most of this day’s reading from 1 John 2 consists of a warning not to follow Antichrists.  It is appropriate to read such texts during Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas.  ’Tis the season for apocalyptic lections.

The righteous, both lessons tell us, must remain so.  And they who obey God will find God faithful to them.  These are words of comfort for the upright.  May you, O reader, and I be among their number until our ends.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 2, Isaiah 24, Isaiah 25, Psalm 72, Psalm 80, Psalm 90

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The Imperative of Acting Compassionately   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, Looking Unhappy

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 24:1-13

Psalm 102 (Morning)

Psalms 130 and 16 (Evening)

1 John 1:-2:14

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Some Related Posts:

1 John 1-2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/sixth-day-of-christmas/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

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In this way we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

–1 John 2:3, The New Jerusalem Bible

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What is the test of holiness?

Isaiah 24 speaks of an undated, future doom people will bring upon themselves by violating the Law of Moses.  1 John places obedience and disobedience in the context of Jesus, who has fulfilled the Law.  If we love Jesus, we will keep his commandments.  The summary of his teachings and lived example is compassion.  We must identify with others as best we can and seek their good.  Any economic or legal system which bases one person’s improvement upon the detriment of another or others is inherently sinful.  And such systems thrive today.

I know what Jesus would say about them.

Any religious system which teaches hatred instead of compassion as a virtue in inherently sinful.  One need not restrict the list of examples to jihads, Crusades, and excuses for racism.  Such religious systems thrive today.

I know what Jesus would say about them.

For that matter, I know what St. John the Baptist would say about them:

You brood of vipers!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 1, 1 John 2, Isaiah 24, Psalm 102, Psalm 130

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