Archive for the ‘Isaiah 34’ Tag

Building Up the Common Good, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Scenic View of Desert in Spring

Image in the Public Domain

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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 35:1-10

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

James 5:7-10

Matthew 1:1-17

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In Isaiah 34 we read of God turning the territory of the enemies of Judah into a desert.  In Chapter 35, however, we read of God transforming a desert–making waters burst forth in it–so that exiles from Judah may return to their ancestral homeland in a second Exodus on a highway God has put in place for them.  Judgment for some is an occasion of mercy for others.  The restoration prayed for in Psalm 80 becomes a reality.

Building up the common good was a theme in the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent.  That theme, consistent with the lesson from James 5, has never ceased to be germane.  When has habitual grumbling built up the common good or been even selfishly beneficial?  It certainly did not improve the lot of those God had liberated from Egypt.  The admonition to avoid grumbling has never meant not to pursue justice–not to oppose repressive regimes and exploitative systems.  Certainly opposing such evils has always fallen under the heading of building up the common good.

I do find one aspect of James 5:7-11 puzzling, however.  That text mentions the endurance of Job, a figure who complained bitterly at great length, and justifiably so.  Juxtaposing an admonition against grumbling with a reference to Job’s endurance seems as odd as referring to the alleged patience of the very impatient Job.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 is theological, not literal.  The recurrence of 14, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming David’s name, is a clue to the theological agenda.  The family tree, with surprisingly few named women in it (We know that women were involved in all that begetting.), includes monarchs, Gentiles, and three women with questionable sexual reputations.  That is quite a pedigree!  That genealogy also makes the point that Jesus was human.  This might seem like an obvious point, but one would do well to consider the other alleged sons of deities who supposedly atoned for human sins in competing religions with followers in that part of the world at that time.  We know that not one of these figures, such as Mithras, ever existed.  The physicality of Jesus of Nazareth, proving that he was no figment of imaginations, is a great truth.

We also know that the Roman Empire remained firmly in power long after the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  The promised reign of God on Earth persists as a hope reserved for the future.  In the meantime, we retain the mandate to work for the common good.  God will save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

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-third-sunday-of-advent-year-a-humes/

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Disturbing Imagery   1 comment

Above:  The Seven Seals

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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 34:1-2, 8-35:10

Psalm 33 (Morning)

Psalms 85 and 91 (Evening)

Revelation 6:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 34-35:

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/proper-18-year-b/

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Isaiah 34 tells the destruction of Edom, a traditional foe of Judah.  Then, in Isaiah 35, we read of the return of exiles from Judah.  There is bad news for some, but it is good news for others.

The reading from Revelation contains part of a vision in progress.  To read the chapter in isolation is to miss what precedes and succeeds it.  The Lamb (Jesus), worthy to break the seals on the scroll, does so.  War, pestilence, and death dominate much of the world.  The martyrs wonder when God will avenge their deaths.  And nature itself seems to come apart.

The imagery, which is disturbing, draws heavily from the Hebrew Scriptures and recent (for the initial audience) events.  The eruption of Mount Vesuvius might have informed the chapter, for example.  And pestilence and death were contemporary in the Roman Empire.  Revolutions erupted in Roman Palestine from time to time, so violence was a recent memory.

How do we interpret disturbing recent events?  Often we seek to see divine wrath in them.  Sometimes we are correct; at other times we are imagining things or adding two and two, arriving at the sum of five.  Yet some timeless lessons persist.  Among them are:

  1. God is in charge, and
  2. Perpetual disobedience to God will not go unpunished.

Especially violent imagery might appeal most to those experiencing oppression, for such imagery tells them that God will avenge them.  That analysis applies to the readings from Isaiah and Revelation.  Yet there is more.  All we need to do to find it is to continue reading.  May we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, YEAR B

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/