Archive for the ‘Sovereignty of God’ Tag

Human Agents of God, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jeremiah 20:7-13

Psalm 69:1-20 (LBW) or Psalm 91 (LW)

Romans 5:12-15

Matthew 10:24-33

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God our defender,

storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid. 

Rescue your people from despair,

deliver your sons and daughters from fear,

and preserve us all from unbelief;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O Lord, whose gracious presence never fails to guide

and govern those whom you have nurtured

in your steadfast love and worship,

make us ever revere and adore your holy name;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 66

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Following God is frequently a guarantee that one will experience rejection, often from devout people.  The Golden Rule exists in most of the world’s religions.  Yet, O reader, practice the Golden Rule and notice how much criticism you receive from some adherents to some of these religions, including your own.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Faith has the power to transform people.  Religion often reinforces positive and negative tendencies people have.  God or a deity frequently functions as a justification for what one wants to do anyway.  People often create God in their image.

Jeremiah did not create God in his image.  The Weeping Prophet struggled with God, complaining while obeying.  The authors of the assigned texts from the Hebrew Bible wrote of divine protection.  Divine protection kept Jeremiah alive yet did not prevent his involuntary exile in Egypt.  And Jesus died horribly via crucifixion.

Martyrs populate Christian calendars of saints.  This is consistent with various sayings of Jesus from the canonical Gospels.  Commandments to deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and follow Jesus dovetail with Matthew 10:24:

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Yet, in sovereignty, God makes unjust suffering work for a positive end.  Persecutions and martyrdoms water the church.  Redemption comes via the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Often, social injustice prompts a backlash in favor of social justice.  The New Testament depicts the violent, oppressive Roman Empire as an involuntary tool of God.  God works with what is available.

As much as I enjoy forces of evil functioning involuntarily as agents of God, I assert that being a voluntary agent of God is superior.  I try to be one of these voluntary agents of God.  To the extent I succeed, I do so by grace.  May you, O reader, succeed by grace, in that effort, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEFERINO JIMENEZ MALLA, SPANISH ROMANI MARTYR, 1936

THE FEAST OF ANGUS DUN, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WASHINGTON, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL MARTYSZ, POLISH ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEAN-MARTIN MOYË, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY IN CHINA, AND FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND THE CHRISTIAN VIRGINS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN HOUGHTON, ROBERT LAWRENCE, AUGUSTINE WEBSTER, HUMPHREY MIDDLEMORE, WILLIAM EXMEW, AND SEBASTIAN NEWDIGATE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1535

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisement

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to the Gospel of Luke   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LI

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 21:37-23:56

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Given that lectionary-based blogging projects have taken me through Luke 21:37-23:56, I refer you, O reader, to my other posts about the Lucan Passsion at this weblog.  In the meantime, I focus on a few big ideas in this post.

The Lucan Passion emphasizes the innocence of Jesus.  The text stresses that his crucifixion was a miscarriage of justice.  In chapter 23 alone, one finds this theme in verses 4, 16, 22, 41, and 47.

Jesus died as a scapegoat, to keep the Romans at bay.  The Roman army still destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E.; the authors of the canonical Gospels knew this.  This reality influenced how they wrote the story.

M (1931) is one of my favorite movies.  Peter Lorre portrays a man compelled by his nature to abduct and murder children.  (He murders them off-screen.)  The police in the city crackdown on crime yet take a while to identify the child murderer.  In the meantime, a panicked public provides inaccurate eyewitness testimony and attempts to scapegoat innocent people and petty criminals.  Finally, other criminals apprehend the child murderer; he is bad for their business.  The police ultimately arrest all the criminals, and the justice system goes to work.

(Aside:  I feel no compunction about revealing the storyline of a movie that debuted in theaters 91 years ago.  The spoiler alert on M expired long ago.)

The temptation to seek a scapegoat can be strong.  It is an easy way out of a difficult situation.  It may lead to a miscarriage of justice.  Yet, in the case of the crucifixion of Jesus, we have good news:

  1. Jesus did not remain dead for long, and
  2. The sovereignty of God made evil plans work for good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF CORNELIA HANCOCK, U.S. QUAKER NURSE, EDUCATOR, AND HUMANITARIAN; “FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE OF NORTH AMERICA”

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME EMILIANI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF THE SERVANTS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF MATHA AND FELIX OF VALOIS, FOUNDERS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINA GABRIELA BONINO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ESPERANZA DE JESUS, FOUNDER OF THE HANDMAIDS OF MERCIFUL LOVE AND THE SONS OF MERCIFUL LOVE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is post #2700 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Lucan Apocalypse   Leave a comment

Above:  The Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART L

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 21:5-36

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Each of the Synoptic Gospels includes an apocalypse in the context of Holy Week.  For the other Synoptic apocalypses, read Matthew 24:1-44 and Mark 13:1-36, O reader.  All three Synoptic apocalypses, from a temporal perspective, approach the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E. in the past tense.  The Synoptic apocalypses project the terrible events of 70 C.E. back in time, and create a prediction of them, framed by a present tense decades after the time of Jesus.  I do not rule out Jesus having predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple.  Neither do I deny the historical reality of the composition of the four canonical Gospels.

One purpose of such passages of doom and judgment is to inspire repentance.  Well-placed fear can go a long way.  If you doubt this, O reader, ask yourself when you last touched a hot stove.

Another purpose is to contrast the current human disorder with the divine order–the fully-realized Kingdom of God.  Perhaps this contrast, made so starkly will inspire collective and institutional change–revolution, really.  Or not.

A third purpose is to comfort the faithful.  God remains sovereign.  God will win in the end.  Therefore, remain faithful and do not lose hope.  Do not commit apostasy.

The signs of the advent of the fully-realized Kingdom of God are incredibly vague.  They sound like ancient history and current events.  Attempts to move from vague statements to detailed predictions for our time are foolish.

The loss of hope may be the greatest loss.  Death stings terribly; I know.  Yet life without hope is not worthwhile.  We need not lose hope; we can reasonably trust God, who is faithful.  And, by grace, we can retain and regain hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF CORNELIA HANCOCK, U.S. QUAKER NURSE, EDUCATOR, AND HUMANITARIAN; “FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE OF NORTH AMERICA”

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME EMILIANI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF THE SERVANTS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF MATHA AND FELIX OF VALOIS, FOUNDERS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINA GABRIELA BONINO, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA ESPERANZA DE JESUS, FOUNDER OF THE HANDMAIDS OF MERCIFUL LOVE AND THE SONS OF MERCIFUL LOVE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted February 8, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Luke 21, Mark 13, Matthew 24

Tagged with , , ,

The Sounding of the Seven Trumpets   Leave a comment

Above:  The Locusts of the Apocalypse

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING REVELATION, PART XI

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Revelation 8:1-11:9

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Symbolism is going full-throttle in Revelation 8-11.  I choose not to decode every symbol, but do opt to make some textual and historical sense of these chapters.

THE FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS

Revelation 8:1-6 depicts the opening of the seventh seal, which sets the stage for the sounding of the seven trumpets.

The first four trumpets round out Revelation 8.  The natural disasters–depicted as divine judgment–relate to human sins.  Actions have consequences.

Let us be careful, O reader.  May we not blame victims.  Those who live in Kansas will have to deal with tornadoes because tornadoes occur in Kansas.  Hurricanes and tropical storms strike the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  Earthquakes occur at fault lines.  Some events occur for natural reasons.  But sometimes collective human actions make matters worse.  Industrial pollution of a certain variety leads to acid rain.  Global warming/climate change makes weather more extreme, and severe storms more frequent.  Actions have consequences.

Revelation 8:8-9 contains echoes of Exodus 7:14-25, 1 Enoch, and the Sybilline Oracles.  In 1 Enoch 18:13, seven stars like great, burning mountains fall into the sea.  These are fallen angels (1 Enoch 21:3-10).  The Sybilline Oracles refer to stars (swords, figuratively) that will fall into the sea (3:672-684), as well as to a great star that will fall into the sea (5:158-161).  The great star will destroy Rome and Italy for Roman persecution of Jews.  In Revelation 8:8-9, the burning mountain represents a fallen angel expelled from Heaven to wreak destruction on the world.

THE DEMONIC LOCUSTS

The demonic locusts (Revelation 9;1-12) represent the Roman Empire, historically.  Echoes of the plagues on Egypt continue.  One may also detect allusions to Joel 1 and 2.

Revelation 9:1 depicts evil as functioning in the service of divine will.  This is not evil’s intention.  Yet the sovereignty of God makes evil work for good.

Members of each generation may identify contemporary demonic locusts.  Locusts come and go; the motif repeats.

ROMAN IMPERIAL PERSECUTION

The historical reference in Revelation 9:13-21 is the Roman Empire, persecuting Christians.  Recall, O reader, that “Babylon” is code for Rome in Revelation.  Again, the motif repeats with variations in the evil power of the time.

Also, the failure to learn lessons that history should have made abundantly clear is, depressingly, predictable.  Never underestimate human obliviousness, O reader.

EATING THE SCROLL OF DOOM

John of Patmos eating the scroll of doom ought to remind a serious student of the Bible of Ezekiel 1-3.

Revelation 10:1-11 contains many allusions to the Hebrew Bible.

SYMBOLISM AND NUMEROLOGY

Symbolism and numerology drench Revelation 11:1-14.  Imagine, O reader, being a Roman censor reading these verses.  You would experience confusion.  Cracking the code requires understanding parts of the Hebrew Bible.  Having a grasp of 1 Enoch 61:1-5 also helps.  In that text, angels with cords measure the righteous and the faithful, for protection against spiritual dangers.

Without getting lost in the proverbial weeds (easy to do), the time God will permit the Roman Empire to continue to rule will be like the time Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem and persecuted Jews (Daniel 9:27; 12:7).  Three and a half years–forty-two months–is a mystical and symbolic timeframe.  Emperor Domitian is like King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Revelation says.  Evil’s days of governing are numbered.

The Church will outlive its oppressors.  The Church–the seemingly dead two witnesses–will triumph.  God will destroy the oppressive powers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT E. R. BRAUER, AUSTRALIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTINE THEVARPARAMPIL, INDIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “GOOD SHEPHERD OF THE DALITS”

THE FEAST OF GASPAR CONTARINI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CARDINGAL AND AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT HEDWIG OF ANDECHS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRINCESS AND NUN; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT GERTRUDE OF TRZEBNICA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOZEF JANKOWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Introduction to Third Isaiah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART I

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 24-27, 56-66

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Eighth Vision of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah’s Vision of the Four Chariots

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Zechariah 6:1-8

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The eighth vision (Zechariah 6:1-8) is of four chariots, symbolizing the four winds of heaven patrolling the earth.  (See Isaiah 66:15 and Jeremiah 4:13 for the association of chariots with the winds of heaven.)  The chariots emerge from two mountains, in Babylonian mythology, the place of sunrise.  The four winds symbolize the sovereignty of God.

Oddly, Zechariah 6:8 reads, in part:

Take good note!  Those that went out to the region of the north have done my pleasure in the region of the north.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Given that “the north” was Babylonia (Jeremiah 6:22; 10-22), what does that mean?  One may recall some of the earlier visions of First Zechariah.  One may remember Zechariah 2:6/2:10 (depending on versification), in which Jews still living in Babylonia were supposed to flee the land of the north (Babylonia).  One may recall that wickedness moved to Babylonia in Zechariah 5:9-10.  Yet in Zechariah 6:8, God’s spirit dwells in Babylonia, too.  God is in charge of the Persian Empire, we read.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine Judgment Against Edom, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Icon of Obadiah

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING OBADIAH, PART II

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Obadiah 1b-21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the sake of succinctness, I will not repeat all I have written about Edom in posts based on the following passages:

  1. Amos 1:11-12;
  2. Isaiah 21:11-12;
  3. Jeremiah 49:7-22;
  4. Ezekiel 25:12-14; 35:1-15; and
  5. Isaiah 34:5-17.

I provide links to those posts instead.

Consider these words from a prophet after Obadiah’s time, whenever Obadiah’s time was, O reader:

I have shown you [Israel], love, says the LORD.  But you ask, “How have you shown love to us?”  Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? the LORD answers.  Jacob I love, but Esau I hate, and I have reduced his hill-country to a waste, and his ancestral land to desert pastures.  When Edom says, “We are beaten down, but let us rebuild our ruined homes,” these are the words of the LORD of Hosts:  If they rebuild, I shall pull down.  They will be called a country of wickedness, a people with whom the LORD is angry for ever.  Your own eyes will see it, and you yourselves will say, “The LORD’s greatness reaches beyond the confines of Israel.”

–Malachi 1:2-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Edom not only rejoiced at the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), but moved into former Judean territory afterward.  These points came up in Obadiah 12-14.  The sentence of judgment followed:

You will be treated as you have treated others;

your deeds will recoil on your own head.

–Obadiah 15b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Turnabout seems to be fair play in divine justice.

Obadiah 17-21 contrasts the restoration of the Jews to the fate of the Edomites.  Historical evidence indicates that many Edomites assimilated with the Nabateans and that others became Idumeans.  Historical evidence indicates the existence of survivors (contra Obadiah 18).  Yet hyperbole is a rhetorical device, so one can may legitimately abstain from being overly critical of the line about there being no Moabite survivors in Obadiah 18.

The book concludes:

…and dominion will belong to the LORD.

–Obadiah 21b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

This element is commonplace in visions of restored Israel/Judah in its homeland after the Babylonian Exile.  In a broad sense, dominion always belongs to God; God is always sovereign.  One may recall C. H. Dodd‘s theology of Realized Eschatology:  The Kingdom of God does not come; it is.  Certain events, from a human, temporal perspective, make it more evident than it was.  One may also recall that, in the New Testament, the Kingdom of God is both present-tense and future-tense; it is partially realized (at least from a human, temporal perspective), with the fully-realized version yet to come (at least from a human, temporal perspective).

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the brief Book of Obadiah.  I invite you to remain by my side, figuratively, as I continue to the composite work of Haggai-First Zechariah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MYLES HORTON, “FATHER OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUMENIOUS AND PARTHENIOS OF KOUDOUMAS, MONKS AND FOUNDERS OF KOUDOMAS MONASTERY, CRETE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF DAMASCUS, SYRIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1860

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS SPIRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF RUED LANGGAARD, DANISH COMPOSER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Vindication and Rejoicing of the Hebrew Exiles, With the Third Servant Song   Leave a comment

Above:  Inconsolable Grief, by Ivan Kramskoi

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART VIII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 50:1-52:12

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In Second Isaiah, YHWH is the father and Jerusalem is the mother of the covenant community, metaphorically.

The Third Servant Song is Isaiah 50:4-9.  The audience this time is the covenant community–especially those members thereof who have fallen away.  The Third Servant Song occurs in the textual context of divine frustration with Hebrew exiles (50:1-3, 10-11), many of whom remained rebellious.  Reading the Third Servant Song on Christian autopilot identifies the servant as Jesus.  This is overly simplistic and ahistorical.  The servant here speaks the message of God to disheartened Hebrew exiles.  The theology of Isaiah 50:4-9 is that the exiles deserved the Babylonian Exile (40:1-3), but that YHWH was about to vindicate them anyway.

Some of the despairing exiles relied on God and accepted this message.  Others rejected it and, poetically, laid down in pain.  They did not respond favorably and faithfully to God, mighty, strong, and sovereign.  They rejected grace.  They rejected God, in whom judgment and mercy exist in balance.

In Jeremiah (8:11; 27:8-11; 28:1-17), false hopes and prophets of peace and restoration belied the upcoming Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) and its aftermath.  The truth was hard to hear.  Words of comfort were mostly lies.  Those words of comfort that were not lies focused on seemingly distant restoration, eventually.

In contrast, in a different time, words of imminent divine deliverance and consolation seemed, to many, ridiculous.  After so many years of the Babylonian Exile, that response was predictable.

When populations have been poor, oppressed, discriminated against, et cetera, the hope of a better future may seem ridiculous.  Yet there is always a better future with God.  How many people want to embrace that hope?  How many people think they can embrace that hope?  And to what extend is the continued state of poverty, oppression, discrimination, et cetera, a self-fulfilling prophecy?

The answers to the these questions vary according to circumstances, of course.  Machinery of oppression, discrimination, and the maintenance of poverty exists.  Most people over the course of documented time have lacked the agency that proponents of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps assume many people have.  Telling someone without shoes,

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,

is cruel and unrealistic.  Yet other people are fortunate enough to possess agency.  But do they know this?  And do they know how to use that agency most effectively?

Second Isaiah addressed a population, of course.

Above:  Bonny Thomas (1965-2019), Whose Death Broke My Heart and Shattered My Life

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

On the individual level, grief can be as crippling as it is on the collective level.  I know this grief.  I know the grief over the death of dreams and aspirations.  I also know the grief that lingers after someone has died.  I know what life-shattering grief is; I deal with it daily.  I talk to God about it.  I remain broken, and I talk to God about it.  Doing that is what I know to do.  I am broken and shattered, but I am not alone.

We–collectively and individually–are all broken.  The fortunate are less broken that others.  Leaning into the strength and faithfulness of God is the way of healing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MYLES HORTON, “FATHER OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUMENIOUS AND PARTHENIOS OF KOUDOUMAS, MONKS AND FOUNDERS OF KOUDOMAS MONASTERY, CRETE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF DAMASCUS, SYRIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1860

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS SPIRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF RUED LANGGAARD, DANISH COMPOSER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Power of the Divine Word, With the Second Servant Song   Leave a comment

Above:  Martin Luther

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART VII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 48:1-49:26

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Before I get to the meat of this post, I must clarify one point:  the meaning of “word of God,” in the context of Isaiah 48:1-49:26.  Pay attention to the difference between “word of God” and “Word of God” in writing, O reader.  I live in the Bible Belt of the United States of America.  Here, many fundamentalists (fun-damn-mentalists) and Evangelicals mistake the “Word of God” for being the Bible.  I, with my Barthian tendencies, affirm that Jesus is the “Word of God” and that the Bible is the “word of God,” in the broad sense.  Yet, in the narrow sense–in the context of Isaiah 48:1-49:26, for example–the “word of God” is whatever God says in a particular setting.  One of the highlights of Reformed (Christian) theology is the concept of the “book of nature,” by which God also speaks.

In Isaiah 48, Hebrew exiles (in general) were faithless people who swore insincerely and falsely in the name of YHWH.  Their word was not reliable and powerful.  The people were stubborn and prone to commit idolatry.  Yet God’s word was faithful and powerful.  And, as in the Book of Ezekiel, God was faithful not for the sake of the covenant people, but for God’s own sake (48:11):

For My sake, My own sake, I do act–

Lest [My name] be dishonored!

I will not give My glory to another.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

We also read the Babylonian Exile was punishment the population earned, and that God (for God’s own sake) balanced judgment–and mercy–did not destroy the rebellious Hebrews (48:9-11).  We read that the exile was a form of education in the ways of heeding divine commandments (48:17-19).  We read, too, that the Babylonian Exile was about to end (48:20-22).

What I wrote while blogging through the Book of Ezekiel holds.  I still find this self-centered God-concept repugnant.  I understand the cultural-historical context.  I know that Ezekiel and Second Isaiah asserted the sovereignty of God in the context of the widely-held assumption that Marduk and the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian pantheon had conquered YHWH in 586 B.C.E.  Yet I am also a Christian.  As one, I affirm the Incarnation, that Jesus of Nazareth (who lived, who breathed, and who dined with people) was God with skin on.  I affirm that the real, flesh-and-blood person, Jesus, being God (however the mechanics of the Incarnation worked) revealed the character of God.  I recall reading in the four canonical Gospels about Jesus healing and feeding people out of compassion and pity, not concerns about burnishing his reputation.

Isaiah 49:1-6 is the Second Servant Song.  The servant speaks.  The servant’s mission predates the servant’s birth.  The servant’s mission is to announce the divine restoration of the covenant relationship with YHWH, by YHWH, that the covenant people may be a light to the nations.  Salvation will, therefore, reach the ends of the earth via the covenant people.  As with the First Servant Song, the identity is not a matter of unanimous agreement.  Most likely, as in the case of the First Servant Song, the servant is the covenant people–the exiles, about to be free to go home.  The idea is that the end of the Babylonian Exile will lead to all the (known) world recognizing YHWH.

That prediction proved to overly optimistic.

The covenant people’s mission is to model a just society grounded in divine law.  The Law of Moses contains timeless principles and many culturally-specific examples of those principles.  Legalism results when people mistake culturally-specific examples for timeless principles.  Context is also crucial, as it always is.  Many people neglect or misunderstand context when interpreting verses and passages.  They mean well, but miss the point(s).  Mutuality, in the context of the recognition of complete dependence on God, informs many of the culturally-specific examples in the Law of Moses.  We human beings are responsible to God, to each other, and for each other.  We have a divine mandate to treat one another accordingly.  Creating and maintaining a society built on that truth is a high and difficult calling.  It is possible via grace and free will.

The prediction of the Jewish homeland as paradise on Earth after the Babylonian Exile also proved overly optimistic.  Dealing with disappointment over that fact was one of the tasks of Third Isaiah (24-27, 56-66).

The people were faithless, but God was faithful.  Martin Luther, counseling practicing, baptized Christians concerned they would go to Hell for their sins, advised them to trust in the faithfulness of God.  he was correct about that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS TOLTON, PIONEERING AFRICAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN RUDOLPH AHLE AND JOHANN GEORG AHLE, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF GORKUM, HOLLAND, 1572

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GRANT, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Universality of God, the Fall of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, and More Diatribes About the Folly of Idolatry   Leave a comment

Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-13231

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART VI

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 45:1-47:15

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I started this this long-term project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order (with some exceptions), months ago.  I have learned much along the way.  Mainly, I have learned how repetitive the Hebrew prophetic books are.  I have learned that they are like people who tell the same stories again and again.  I have read so many assertions of the sovereignty of God, the folly of idolatry, the sin of social injustice, and other matters before arriving at Isaiah 45:1-47:15 that I choose not to beat too many proverbial dead horses in this post.

I hope you, O reader, understand.

God works through human beings much of the time.  Isaiah 45:1 calls King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) the “Anointed One,” or Messiah.  We know that his army defeated the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  We know that Cyrus II permitted Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland in 538 B.C.E.  And we know that Cyrus II was a Zoroastrian, not a Jew.  We know, too, that the shape of Jewish theology changed during the Persian period, and that Zoroastrianism influenced these changes.  I, as a Christian, owe a theological debt to Zoroastrianism, via Judaism.

The city of Babylon survived for a long time after 539 B.C.E.  It was an ancient city then, and it remained important for centuries.  Yet the city became less important than it had been.  Babylon’s time as an imperial capital had ended.  The city became a regional administrative center within the Persian Empire.  King Seleucus I Nicator (r. 305-281 B.C.E.), looking for a capital for his Seleucid Empire, chose not to base the empire at Babylon.  He founded a new city, Seleucia, nearby.  Over time, the population of Babylon dwindled, until it the ancient city became a village, and a source of bricks for construction elsewhere.  Eventually, nobody lived in Babylon any longer.

Likewise, Seleucia, built on the Tigris River, had its day in the sun.  The course of the Tigris River shifted, however, and Seleucia eventually became a set of ruins, too.

Everything–empires, cities, et cetera–has it its time.  That time may be long.  However long that time lasts, it ends eventually.  Do not get too attached to anything, O reader.  If you outlive your “stuff,” others will have to decide what to do with it.  Trust in God, who is forever, and (in the Johannine sense), eternal.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS TOLTON, PIONEERING AFRICAN-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN RUDOLPH AHLE AND JOHANN GEORG AHLE, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANISTS AND COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF GORKUM, HOLLAND, 1572

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GRANT, BRITISH MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++