Archive for the ‘Isaiah 32’ Tag

God’s Social Contract   1 comment

090806-N-6220J-004 SALINAS, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2009) Sailors and Navy Delayed Entry Program members serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Dorothy's Soup Kitchen in Salinas, Calif. during Salinas Navy Week community service event. Salinas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson/Released)

SALINAS, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2009) Sailors and Navy Delayed Entry Program members serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Dorothy’s Soup Kitchen in Salinas, Calif. during Salinas Navy Week community service event. Salinas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson/Released)

Above:  United States Navy Personnel Serving Breakfast in a Soup Kitchen, Salinas, California, 2009

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson, United States Navy


The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

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 36


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 32:11-17 (Thursday)

Isaiah 44:1-4 (Friday)

Psalm 104:23-34, 35b (Both Days)

Galatians 5:16-26 (Thursday)

Galatians 6:7-10 (Friday)


The portion of Psalm 104 speaks of divine generosity, as do the lections from Isaiah.  In Isaiah 32 and 44 God’s generosity follows the Judeans reaping what they have sown (to borrow a phrase from Galatians 6:7).  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

The social contract in the Law of Moses precludes exploitation and insensitivity to needs as it proclaims human interdependence as well as complete dependence upon God.  Yet the monarchies of Israel and Judah, scripture tells us, did not live up to that standard, among others in the Law of Moses.  I focus on the social contract because it segues nicely into the readings from Galatians, where we read to seek the common good (thus, for example, awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, which many people expected to be in the near future, did not constitute a valid excuse for laziness), not our selfish desires.  We are responsible for each other and to each other.  We are also responsible to God.  If we can avoid becoming a burden, we should do so, but we remain dependent upon God and our fellow human beings.  Likewise, one should not use the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude to justify the unjustifiable inaction of not providing appropriate help one can provide.  Attempting to identify the allegedly unworthy poor is inconsistent with Judeo-Christian ethics.

Even the hardest working person who plans well depends upon the labor of others and upon the grace of God.  Do we recognize this about ourselves as well as those near to us and far away from us?







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Nobility of Character   1 comment

Atlas Scan

Above:  Dougherty, Baker, and Mitchell Counties, Georgia

Image Source = Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor


The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:27-33 (Thursday)

Isaiah 32:1-18 (Friday)

Isaiah 33:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Thursday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Friday)

Matthew 15:21-31 (Saturday)



Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the Lord as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is no help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to the earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help:

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous

and cares for the stranger;

the LORD sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

The LORD shall reign forever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.


–Psalm 146, The Book of Common Worship (1993)


When I was a graduate student in history at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, my thesis director asked me one day to help a friend and colleague of his who lived on the West Coast.  I was glad to do so.  The simple task entailed conducting some research there in town.  I learned what I could about a notorious law enforcement official (John Doe, for the purpose of this post) in an equally notorious county immediately south of Albany, Georgia, from the 1940s through the 1960s.  My answers came quickly.  Doe, whom his white-washed profile in the county history described as a devoted family man, a faithful Christian, and a deacon of the First Baptist Church in the county seat, was the sort of police officer who gave Southern law enforcement a bad name, especially among African Americans.  The federal government investigated him after he threw acid into the face of an African-American man, in fact.  No charges or disciplinary actions resulted, however, and Doe served locally until he retired and won a seat in the state General Assembly.  His offenses never caught up with him in this life.

A few years ago a student told a story in class.  He had been opening doors at his family’s church.  In the process he opened a closet door and found Ku Klux Klan robes.  Older members of the congregation preferred not to discuss why the robes were there.  I know, however, that the Klan had much support from many churchgoers a century ago and more recently than that.

A composite of the readings from Isaiah and Romans says that, among other things, character matters and becomes evident in one’s actions and inactions.  As we think, so we are and behave.  For example, do we really care for the vulnerable people around us, or do we just claim to do so?  To use other examples, do we profess “family values” while practicing serial infidelity or condemn gambling while playing slot machines?  Few offenses are more objectionable than hypocrisy.

Among my complaints about the Bible is the fact that it almost never mentions one’s tone of voice, a detail which can change the meaning of a statement.  Consider, O reader, the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-27.  Was he being dismissive of her?  I think not.  The text provides some clues to support my conclusion:

  1. Jesus had entered the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile territory, voluntarily.
  2. Later our Lord and Savior expressed his compassion for people outside that region via words and deeds.  Surely his compassion knew no ethnic or geographic bounds.

No, I propose that Jesus responded to the Canaanite woman to prompt her to say what she did, and that he found her rebuttal satisfactory.  Then he did as she requested.

Jesus acted compassionately and effectively.  Hebrew prophets condemned judicial corruption and the exploitation of the poor.  One function of the language of the Kingdom of God (in both Testaments) was to call the attention of people to the failings of human economic and political systems.  That function applies to the world today, sadly.

What does it say about your life, O reader?  In Isaiah 32 the standard of nobility is character, especially in the context of helping the poor, the hungry, and the thirsty–the vulnerable in society, more broadly.  Are you noble by that standard?  Do you love your neighbor as you love yourself?







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The Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit   1 comment

Vineyard in Summer

Above:  Vineyard in Summer

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live.

Nourish our life in his resurrection,

that we may bear the fruit of love

and know the fullness of your joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-7 (Monday)

Isaiah 32:9-20 (Tuesday)

Psalm 80 (Both Days)

Galatians 5:16-26 (Monday)

James 3:17-18 (Tuesday)


O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

–Psalm 80:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The metaphor of the House of Israel as the vineyard of God works well in Isaiah 5.  God has done much that should result in a good vintage, yet:

…He hoped for justice,

But behold, injustice;

For equity,

But behold, iniquity!

–Isaiah 5:7b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The readings for these two days make clear that positive actions lead to good spiritual results and that negative actions lead to bad spiritual results.  Some of the consequences are also temporal, although the rain falls on both the just and unjust.  Also, righteous deeds lead to suffering sometimes.  Nevertheless, it is better to be on God’s side than to be elsewhere.

As for the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, I propose that the lists are not comprehensive.  One should focus on the big picture and not become lost in the weeds, mistaking the lists as mere checklists.  Checklist morality holds no appeal to me, for it tends toward a sense of works-based righteousness.

I have not committed x, y, and z, so I must be doing well,

checklist morality leads one to say.  Rather, focusing on the principles and pondering how to apply them within one’s daily situations is a better way to proceed.  The works of the flesh damage and destroy the person who commits them and the people around him or her.  In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit builds up people, communities, and societies.  This is consistent with mutuality–mutual dependence and responsibility–a core tenet within the Law of Moses.

May we, empowered by grace, work for the common good in our families, communities, and societies.  May we recognize and respect the image of God in others, especially those different from us.  May we value them and seek their best.  May fraternal love, grounded in love for God, prevail.  May it spread like a group of mustard plants.






Adapted from this post:


True Nobility   1 comment

Above:  The Vision of John of Patmos


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


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 32:1-20

Psalm 24 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 110 (Evening)

Revelation 4:1-11


A Related Post:

Revelation 4:


As for the knave, his tools are knavish.

He forges plots

To destroy the poor with falsehoods

And the needy when they plead their cause.

But the noble has noble intentions

And is constant in noble acts.

–Isaiah 32:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

–Psalm 24:3-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads.

–Revelation 4:4, The New Jerusalem Bible


Nobility, according to the standards of many traditional societies, is a matter of heredity or marriage.  One is a Lord, an Earl, a Duke, a Prince, a Lady, a Duchess, a Princess, a King, or a Queen because of who one’s parents are or one’s spouse is.  In this definition of nobility society is structured–ordered, really–with well-defined social barriers and with deference.  It is not, however, the standard in Isaiah 32.

Here I find the link between Isaiah 32 and Revelation 4.  There is far more going on in both texts, of course.  Revelation 4 is where the symbolism in that book begins to get hip-deep.  And Isaiah 32 also condemns those who exploit their fellow human beings.  That verdict appears earlier in Isaiah  and repeats throughout the rest of the Bible.  There are many rabbits I could chase, but the true standard of nobility is where I choose to dwell.

The aristocrats of God’s perfected Earth will be those who have noble intentions and who are constant in noble acts, Isaiah 32:8 tells us.  And the vision of John of Patmos echoes down the corridors of time to this day.  The count of twenty-four elders could mean several things; it might even mean more than one of them simultaneously.  The number might refer to twenty-four courses of priests, or to twelve Apostles plus twelve patriarchs, or simply to twelve doubled.  The latter option might indicate the combined company of faithful Jews and Gentiles.  But the elders represent faithful people, and they will be victorious in heaven.  The white robes of the elders remind one of the unstained robes of the faithful, as in Revelation 3:4; those who wear white robes are fit for the presence of God and Jesus in heaven.

As we read in 1 Samuel 16:7,

For not as man sees [does the LORD see];  man sees only what is visible, but the LORD sees into the heart.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

We are all imperfect, of course; God knows this.  What does God see (through grace-colored glasses) when looking at my heart  or at your heart?  May God see nobility.