The themes swirl around again.
Judah and Israel are hard and deceitful, despite holy words.
The punishment, the exile, is God’s judgement
The return from exile will be God’s blessing. It’s a refining process.
He was before all the idols, and he is doing a new thing that will surpass them.
Again we get a hint, which will be fleshed out in further chapters, of the still mysterious third person of God “from the time it came to be I have been there. And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit…”
He calls Israel to listen. The chapter concludes with a reminder of the extravagant blessing in the wilderness, streams of water gushing from rock.
The last words are an encouragement or a warning “there is no peace for the wicked”.
Is it directed to the Israelites or the conquering armies?
Generally this section has made the case for God against the doubts and fears of the Israelites.
It is not a narrow question or a passive one. The case for God requires a response from us all.
Writing this on Christmas Day 2017, looking at the global phenomenon of Santa. Baby Jesus is still a more uncomfortable Christmas image, one that demands things of people that they aren’t sure they want to give.
It must have been frustrating to be Isaiah, it must have been frustrating to listen to Isaiah.
The things he talks about here were true about the pattern Israel would suffer.
Some of the last Kings were the best, just before Jerusalem was destroyed, there were godly Kings, Hezekiah, Josiah.
But destruction came anyway. And the Israelites had to understand that it was all part of God’s plan to pour out his spirit. And that was better by far, and also that the destruction was deserved.
It’s a complex message. There will be good times, but don’t get complacent because also the worst. But they will actually be good in ways you can barely understand.
What do you do with a message like that?
It’s still a message Christians struggle with. God has blessed is with good times, praise be. This disaster is God’s will. God has healed me. He is in heaven now. How can God let bad things happen? No one laughs at God in a hospital.
I was starting to get a bit annoyed with Isaiah, but maybe I’m getting annoyed with God.
That’s why I read this I suppose, to understand.
About Egypt and Cush. A very short little announcement that they will eventually be taken captive and their young men will be led away naked. Isaiah has a major commitment to making this message, spending 3 years himself naked as a sign. I’ll have to look at the commentary again. These passages are hard!
Ok. First he wasn’t actually nude, he was humiliated in underwear. And it may not have even been all day, it was a thing he did, regularly for three years.
The idea was Israel sees Assyria advancing, their neighbour falls. Like Britain in world war 2, watching France, they think “were next!”.
And it’s God’s judgement so they will turn to him. Isaiah is saying forcefully “don’t turn to Egypt!”.
There is no escape. So I turn to family, work, hobbies, money, my own strength to avoid God, avoid truth.
I’m avoiding lots of complex responsibilities for the people around me, my family at the moment. I’m burnt out, it’s all too hard. But there is no escape, I will have to just do it. It is my lot!
Judgement, protection, response.
Prophesy runs strong in Isaiah’s family. His wife is a prophet, his children are walking prophesies. He has “a remnant will return” already, and now he has “fast plunderers, running prey”. And while not his, he spoke of a child “God with us” in the last chapter.
These three living words of God are entwined into a prophesy in this chapter, of the Assyrian attack that will destroy the northern kingdom, and nearly engulf the southern too. He compares the invasion to a flooding river. These are the fast plunderers, Israel is the running prey.
He mentions Judah, the northern kingdom being Immanuel’s, ie: God will be with them in the near flood. It’s like a Noah’s Ark story.
But the remnant reminds them that God will be with them through their own invasion, to return to Jerusalem literally, and of course to be key to the plan for his salvation of all nations.
The chapter ends with Isaiah telling himself and any disciples who will listen to internalise their faith, bind up the testimony, seal the teaching in their hearts and wait for him, so they can resist the conspiracy theorists who say god has abandoned them when it all seems to have gone to pot, and resist the temptation to turn to occult God’s instead.
This is really the whole role of the prophets, to enlarge the truth of God’s saving nature and plans beyond the literal success or failure of the Israelite nation(s).
My response to learning this is still to bind God up in my heart.
The great correction.
A poem about greatness with a returning altitude metaphor.
The things that are high, lofty – rich, honoured, successful – false, will be put into perspective when all nations see God on the highest of all mountains and worship him.
Solomon wirh all his wives and false gods established “high places”, outside Jerusalem to compete with the temple and Jehovah. And god regularly spoke to people in mountains, it’s where Moses got the commandments.
The temple in Jerusalem was built on the site of an old high place.
Hence the talk of height and competing claims on our spirituality.
But the prophet’s role is to turn everything to metaphor, and he is standing on the outside of a successful society saying how God is going to turn the social order upside down. Bring justice and judge sin.
It’s where the church is rapidly moving today, to the outside. It’s a very relevant poem.
The central tragedy for me this week in a week of a lot of sad 2 is the death of one of my wife’s school friends from alcoholism. A sickness with a spiritual aspect to it.
How God’s judgement comes to Rehoboam, the northern king, of Judah.
It’s a strange tale of two prophets. One comes and gives a dramatic demonstration of God’s might and condemnation of Rehoboam’s false Gods. The altar turns to ash before people’s eyes. And when the king tells him to stop his pointing hand is withered on the spot.
Enter the second prophet who deceives the first into disobeying God, after which he is killed by a lion. The second, deceptive prophet seems to have regret and understands the extent of the kings failure, speaking words of condemnation from God.
The king continues to follow his made up rebellious religion. By the second prophets words, his house is doomed.
They are strange and terrible times. God’s is acting in them however. It’s tempting to feel abandoned when things go to pot.
I feel Australia is at a time when bad feeling towards the church is crystallizing, via the gay marriage plebiscite. Everyone is polarising into a yes or a no. A lot of people are poking a lot of fun at God and religion, often with quite good cause.
But it doesn’t mean God will give up, or that we are abandoned.
After the temple dedication, God appears to Solomon. It’s the second time, and he tells him he heard his consecration plea and his name, heart and eyes will be in the temple for all time.
Then he tells Solomon to remain monotheistic, success or disaster hangs on that.
The rest of the chapter is pragmatic. Solomons relationship with Hiram, the king to the north who supplied all the good and cedar, cold when Solomon gives him poor quality land as payment. They enslaved rather than destroyed many Canaanites, contrary to God’s command. He builds a sea fleet. Again, this slight sense of it being a bit off.
New section. We’ve had all the rules now committing to them and the transition of leadership to settle the holy land.
They take a moment of silence and the priests declare them to be God’s people.
First thing they will do is climb two mountains. Mountains equal meeting God.
One will be for curses, one for blessings.
The curse mountain has all the law written on some of its stones, and an altar for sacrifice also piled up of its uncarved stones.
They’ll do a fellowship offering, ie: one that celebrates God’s presence rather than removing sin. And they will formally declare that rejecting God, being greedy, unfair, uncaring to the vulnerable or sexually immoral will bring God’s curse.
It is a marker, a baseline, a resolution they will be able to look back on and test their society against. When they are deep in an argument about tribal boundaries, they will look back on this moment and remember declaring before God as a nation that they would be cursed if they ever did this.
I don’t remember becoming a Christian, I don’t have a moment of dedication of my life to God. Like the Israelites who would be born in the promised land, I have the choice to accept or forget every day the faith I was handed down by my parents. I pray for my children, and my witness to them.
We’re laying the ground rules for Israelite society. Last chapter law and government, now religion.
The priests are to be supported and honoured as full time ministers. They have no land, God is their inheritance. And prophets will continue Moses’ role of speaking the words of God.
This is compared to the occult practises already rampant in the land, and there is reference to why they are so detestable, child sacrifices etc.
They have the voice of God, they don’t need to consult the dead or search for truth by elaborate divination rituals.
Moses gives and elaborates on the commandment that Jesus would say is the greatest and contains all the law, love the lord your God with all your heart.
He elaborates on it in a way that does not read like a sermon, but rather a heartfelt plea. His fear is the same as previous chapters, that they will forget because they will be so prosperous and comfortable.
The irony that God’s grace and provision will be the cause of them forgetting is not lost on him, as they occupy large flourishing cities they did not build.
He pleads with them to remember the slavery that God rescued them from, and going forward to only love that God.
Picking though all the rules, some of which are ridiculously culturally specific, this one has a giant arrow pointing to a huge red flag as a keeper.
Daily, please father let my heart overflow with love for you, remember your goodness, from every cup of coffee to every sunset and keep you as the only lord of my life.