Archive for the ‘Isaiah 11’ Category

Living the Incarnation   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the First Sunday after Christmas, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, whose glory angels sang when Christ was born:

grant that we, having heard the good news of his coming,

may live to honor thee and to praise his holy name;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-9

Colossians 1:9-20

John 1:1-18

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Without resorting to the errors of Pietism, I ponder the Incarnation and ask a basic question:  So what?  That is an essential question in many fields, especially history, my chosen discipline.  “So what?” is also germane to theology.

Answering that question with regard to the Incarnation is easy:  The Incarnation is something we have an obligation to live.  Grace is free yet not cheap.  Living the Incarnation can prove costly; just consult accounts of persecutions and martyrdoms from antiquity to the present time.  The Word, having become flesh and having dwelt among us, requires us to respect the dignity of our fellow human beings.  Doing that and insisting that society do the same will offend many people all across the political spectrum.

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.

Archbishop Helder Camara (1909-1999)

To have enough imagination and trust in God to ask how much better–more charitable, equitable, peaceable, et cetera–the world can be is one way to live the Incarnation.  Society is merely people; when enough people change their minds, society changes, too.  We, in our collective lives, can come closer to living the Incarnation, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHOROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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A Higher Unity   2 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For Christian Unity, Years 1 and 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Eternal God:  you have called us to be members of one body.

Bind us to those who in all times and places have called on your name,

so that, with one heart and mind, we may display the unity of the church,

and bring glory to your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 159

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Isaiah 11:1-6

Ephesians 4:1-16

John 15:1-11

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Christian unity has long been an illusory goal.  Divisions were already evident in the days of the New Testament, for example.  Denominations have merged over time, but I have noticed a pattern:  Whenever two or more denominations have merged, two or more denominations have usually formed.  For example, the three-way U.S. Methodist reunion of 1939 produced four denominations, the merger that created The United Methodist Church in 1968 led to the formation of at least two denominations, and, over a period of eleven years (1972-1983), the 1983 reunion that created the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) resulted in three denominations.

The quest for doctrinal purity has long been a leading cause of schisms and continued separations.  The problem with the quest for doctrinal purity has been that the human definitions of such purity have frequently been erroneous–depending chattel slavery, for example.  Such misguided, false orthodoxy has often officially been part of a debate over Biblical authority, as in the cases of arguments over chattel slavery in U.S. denominations during the 1800s.

Not surprisingly, most denominational mergers have occurred to the left, just as the majority of schisms have occurred to the right.

Despite the scandal of denominational inertia, there remains a higher unity in God–in Christ, to be precise.  There one can find the Christian center, with heresies located to the left and the right.  A dose of theological humility is in order; each of us is wrong about certain theological matters, many of which are minor.  There is, however, a core we must never violate.  We must believe (in words and deeds) the existence of God, the Incarnation, the resurrection of Jesus, and the atonement, for example.  If we do not do so, we are not Christians.

Generally, many denominations stand separated from each other because of minor differences while they the core of the Christian faith.  In the core there is a path to a higher unity; we should follow it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Building Up the Common Good, Part I   1 comment

Above:   Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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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 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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Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12

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In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) the first word of the reading from Isaiah 11 is “but.”  This is an invitation to back up into Isaiah 10, where one reads of God cutting down arrogant Assyrian forces.  The metaphor at the end of Isaiah 10 is cutting down the cedars of Lebanon.  That makes sense if one knows the background of that portion of scripture.

The prophet uses the term Lebanon trees ironically:  Assyrian kings boasted in inscriptions that they cut down these mighty cedars on their heroic journeys to despoil the forests of Lebanon to obtain wood for their building projects in Mesopotamia, but here Assyrians themselves become the ax’s victim.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 789

Then we arrive at our reading from Isaiah 11.

But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

it begins.  This is a prophecy of a time when an ideal king will rule justly and the society will be peaceable.  This is similar to the high hopes in Psalm 72.  Matthew 3:1-12 evokes this prophecy of Isaiah (in spirit, at least) and has St. John the Baptist apply it to Jesus, whom he baptizes in 3:13-17.

Romans 15:12, which follows a call to think about others first ad to work for the common good, quotes Isaiah 11:10.  The Pauline point is plain:  God seeks for all people to praise, follow, and set their hope on Him.  The family of God is diverse; some branches of it dislike other branches–even consider some of them to be heretical at best.  Some individuals within that family cannot or will not get along with other members thereof.

This has always been true.  Nevertheless, the divine mandate to work for the common good, to put other people before oneself, has never ceased to be relevant.  For nearly two millennia we have had a role model–Jesus, who went so far as to die.

May we love one another as we love ourselves, recognizing that the common good is indeed that to which God calls us in society.  Building ourselves up by exploiting others violates divine commandments and provokes the anger of God, as it should.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this Post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a-humes/

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The Gestation of Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  The Annunciation, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, by patience, and comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and ever hold fast

the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Lord God, heavenly Father, we ask that you so rule and guide us by your Holy Spirit

that we may receive your holy word with our whole heart,

that through your word we may be sanctified,

and may learn to place all our trust and hope in Jesus Christ your Son,

and following him may be led safely through all evil,

until through your grace we come to everlasting life;

through the same Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 69

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Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 23

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Luke 1:26-35

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Psalm 23 is a familiar text.  One problem associated with familiar texts of the Bible is that one might not be as familiar with them as one imagines, so one might go into unfortunate autopilot mode.  In Psalm 23 the author (allegedly David), although surrounded by enemies, expresses confidence in divine protection.  The enemies cannot keep up; only divine goodness and steadfast love pursue the author.  They do not merely follow; no, they engage in hot pursuit.

The setting of Isaiah 11:1-10 was shortly after the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel and a generation before the fall of the southern Kingdom of Judah.  Threats to the continued existence abounded and bad monarchs were the rule, not the exception.  The description of the ideal king put the actual monarchs of Judah to shame.  The majority of Davidic kings did not build up the realm; no, they tore it down.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the Thessalonian church circa 51 C.E., did so in the context of widespread expectations of the imminent second coming of Jesus.  Some of the faithful had already died, however.  St. Paul, in Chapter 4, comforted his audience by telling them that the faithful deceased would not miss the great event.  In Chapter 5 the Apostle to the Gentiles urged the members of that church to encourage and build each other up.  The imminent end of days was no excuse to slack off morally, he insisted.

As of the writing of this post we are still waiting the second coming.  St. Paul’s advice from 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 remains current, however.

The presence of the reading from Luke 1 on the Second Sunday of Advent makes sense liturgically.  Its strongest connection, as best as I can tell, is to Isaiah 11:1-10, for Jesus is the ideal king.  He is not, however, a monarch in the sense of any human model–certainly not from the time of the Bible.  No, Jesus breaks the royal molds, as he should.  We read in John 6:14-15 that, after the Feeding of the 5000, Jesus withdrew to the hills by himself when he realized that a crowd wanted to declare him king in opposition to the Roman Empire.  No, the visions of Jesus as an ideal ruler put all earthly national leaders to shame.  Thus discussion of the Kingdom of God contains a strong element of social and political criticism of the status quo.

The Kingdom of God, which only God can usher into full reality, provides a lofty standard for the time being.  It is useful to remember that, as long as reality falls so far short of the ideal, that divine goodness and steadfast love continue to pursue the servants of God all the days of their lives and that enemies must look on as God sets a banquet table for the faithful.

Meanwhile, hope gestates.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS

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Authority and Grace   1 comment

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jews, Gentiles, and Gentiles’ Gentiles   1 comment

Abraham and Melchizedek Dieric Bouts the Elder

Above:  Abraham and Melchizedek, by Dieric Bouts the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth.

Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom,

and make us desire always and only your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 14:17-24

Psalm 91:9-16

Romans 15:7-13

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Because they have set their love upon me,

therefore will I deliver them;

I will lift them up, because they know my name.

They will call upon me, and I will answer them;

I am with them in trouble,

I will deliver them and bring them to honour.

–Psalm 91:14-15, Common Worship (2000)

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Who was Melchizedek?  He was a mysterious figure, the King of Salem (Jerusalem) and a “priest of the Most High” (Genesis 14:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures).  “The God Most High” might have been Yahweh; the text is ambiguous.  So Melchizedek, to whom the victorious warrior and patriarch Abram (Abraham) paid a tithe might have belonged to a pagan cult.  If so, the patriarch paid homage to a pagan deity.  On the other hand, Melchizedek might have been a Gentile devotee of Yahweh.  Sometimes one wishes that certain Biblical texts were unambiguous.

Interpreting “the God Most High” to mean Yahweh meshes well with Romans 15:7-13.  St. Paul the Apostle, who quoted, in order, Psalm 18:49, Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 117:1, and Isaiah 11:10 (all from the Septuagint; sometimes that translation contains some words crucial to his point and absent from other versions), argued that God calls both Jews and Gentiles.  The Gospel is therefore inclusive.

Romans 15:7-13 brings up issues far beyond Jewish-Christian relations.  During the time of St. Paul Christianity was a Jewish sect, albeit one open to Gentiles.  Furthermore, the Apostle was always Jewish.  He dealt with issues of identity, some of which went back to the time of Abraham.  Would permitting uncircumcised Gentile men to convert to Christianity without first becoming Jews threaten Jewish identity?  Many Jews (including Christians) thought so.  Passages such as the pericope from Romans took on greater and different significance after the formal split of Christianity from Judaism during the Second Jewish War in 135 C.E.

Within Christianity the pericope remains significant.  We, the Gentiles, have our own “Gentiles,” whom we define according to a variety of standards, including race, ethnicity, gender, language, culture, and physical capabilities.  Labeling as outsiders those whom God calls insiders is sinful.  It harms them and hinders the community of faith while making those who label narrowly feel good about themselves in the context of their imagined exclusive status.  And most of us who call ourselves Christians have engaged in this unfortunate behavior or will do so, given sufficient time.

May God forgive us, help us to do better, and create a more inclusive community of faith, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-24-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Ideal Kingdom   1 comment

Above:  Tree of Jesse from St. Peters’ Cathedral, Worms, Germany

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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 11:1-12:6

Psalm 50 (Morning)

Psalms 14 and 16 (Evening)

2 Peter 2:1-22

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All this shows that the Lord is well able to rescue the good from their trials, and hold the wicked for their punishment until the Day of Judgement.

–2 Peter 2:9, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 11-12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-22/

A Prayer for Compassion:

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

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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The lovely and familiar reading from Isaiah flows immediately from the end of Chapter 10.  God will topple mighty cedars of Lebanon (poetic stand-ins for Assyria),

But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

–Isaiah 11:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The twig will be the ideal king who will mete out justice, punish the wicked, and raise up the downtrodden.  God’s peace will reign and exiles will return.

The state of affairs was not nearly as rosy when exiles did return; read Ezra and Nehemiah for details.  What, then, are we supposed to make of this prediction?  That time has yet to come; this is my proposed answer.

We read in Isaiah 11:1-12:6 of what God will do.  By the time of 2 Peter 2, Jesus had come and gone, having fulfilled his mission.  That was another thing God had done.  Yet the Roman Empire remained firmly in control.  The ideal kingdom was still in the future tense.  The author of 2 Peter reminded his audience of some more of God’s past deeds, namely sparing Noah and family as well as destroying the equal-opportunity would-be rapists (heterosexual and homosexual) of Sodom of Gomorrah.  God had rescued the just then; God would do it again.

So we continue to wait for the ideal kingdom of God.  The evil still oppress the good.  Those who act righteously still suffer because of unintended consequences of well-intentioned laws and of flaws in legal systems.  Many people who think that they are righteous actually oppress the righteous.  Maybe even we have committed evil unwittingly while trying to perform good deeds.

The most basic good deed I know is one consistent with compassion and measured objectively according to results.  We can know a tree by its fruits.  This is a matter of results, not ideology, which is often oblivious to evidence.

So, as we do our best to act compassionately, may we not lose hope that divine promises of deliverance of the good are reliable.  God’s timing, after all, is not ours.

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-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 2, Isaiah 11, Psalm 14, Psalm 16, Psalm 50

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