Friday, September 10, 2010

September 10

OT: Isaiah 6:1-7:25

Today, we read about Isaiah's famous vision of God. The God he sees is full of majesty and power, "seated on a throne, high and exalted" (6:1). God is surrounded by angels who are so powerful that, "at the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke" (4). As powerful as these beings are, they fly around in positions of humility and reverence, and they constantly cry out,

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory" (3).

Faced with this awe-inspiring image of God, Isaiah despairs. God is too great, too perfect, too different from him, and he deeply understands his unworthiness in God's presence (5). However, one of the angels touches a hot coal to his mouth, which purifies him and atones for his sins (6). Now that Isaiah is clean, he and God can talk. (Sidenote: I am so glad that I have the blood of Jesus and not a hot coal to cleanse me.) God asks for someone to send on a mission, and Isaiah volunteers before he even knows what the mission is (8). Turns out, the mission is tough. Isaiah is to be the bearer of bad news. Verses 9-13 describes God's plan for "this people," which is presumably Judah: because of their wickedness, He is going to harden their hearts in order to bring the full amount of punishment upon them. I think the fact that that logic does not bother me says something about the effect the Bible has had on me this year. As much as I still want to learn and know about God, I understand more and more that His will is beyond my grasp. If He thinks it is the right thing to do to harden people's hearts in order to punish them, then it is the right thing to do.

After he receives his vision and calling, Isaiah interacts with Ahaz, the current king of Judah. Ahaz is being threatened by Rezin, the king of Aram, and Pekah, the king of Israel. And apparently, the tribe of Ephraim has joined with Judah's enemies. (I can't quite remember if Ephraim is part of Israel or Judah, but I'm going to guess Judah, based on this context.) Anyway, God tells Isaiah to give Ahaz some double-edged news. For one thing, this present threat will come to nothing, which is good. For another thing, Judah will be conquered by Assyria, which is bad.

Out of curiosity, I looked up Ahaz to see what the history section had to say about this story. 2 Kings 16:5 gives an extremely condensed version of the story, which fits with Isaiah: "Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him." What is weird is that 2 Chronicles 28 sings a different tune. Verse 5 of that book says that because of Ahaz's wickedness, "the LORD his God handed him over to the king of Aram. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hands of the king of Israel, who inflicted heavy casualties on him" (5). The text specifically mentions that Pekah took a lot of prisoners, but then a prophet fussed at the Israelites, and they sent the prisoners back home to Judah. I'm not sure what to make of that. Any takers?

NT: 2 Cor. 11:16-33

Paul is out of his mind. He says so himself: "I am out of my mind to talk like this" (23). What I mean is not that he is literally crazy, but that he is really worked up. And as harsh as he sounds to the Corinthians ("You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise!"), I am getting more and more of a picture of his motivations. In verse 20, Paul claims that, "you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face." Now, obviously, I have no idea who these people are about whom Paul is talking. But when I read that verse, I did understand the feeling (and there are strong feelings here. Do you see that list? No commas, just conjunctions. That sentence structure is very emotional. At least, that's how I talk when I'm emotional:).) I have had the painful experience of watching friends in unhealthy relationships. That pain is often magnified when the person I'm watching is a younger person to whom I am trying to minister. When I see them let themselves be treated horribly by another person, I have a definite emotional response. And, like Paul, frustration is one of the emotions that you feel. It's hard to put it into words without sounding arrogant and defensive (hey--kind of like Paul sounds). But you feel like you are the one who really loves the person, who has their best interest at heart. You are the one who has invested in them, who has given and not expected to receive. And to see them throw that all away, to see them turn their back on God and their future and their physical and emotional health b/c they are chasing after another person who is entirely unworthy of their affections--well, it is frustrating. And honestly, it is much easier to throw your hands up in the air and say, "Hey, I tried," than to do what Paul does here and actually struggle with them. As frustrating as this letter is to read, it is a testament to Paul's commitment to the Corinthians that he does not give up on them. In fighting with them, he is fighting for them.

At least, that's how I'm reading it:).

Psalm 54:1-7

David asks God to save him from his enemies.

Prov. 23:1-3

No idea what this means:

"When you sit to dine with a ruler,
note well what is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to gluttony.
Do not crave his delicacies,
for that food is deceptive."


  1. Okay, this is weird. I just randomly clicked on your blog in my favorites list (I guess I was vaguely looking for something to read and my finger clicked the mouse before I saw what the site was), and I saw that you are in Isaiah 6. A month or two ago, I went to read my Bible (whatever passage I happened to open to), and it opened to Isaiah 7-8. I had to go back further, though, to get the context, so I ended up reading chapter 6 too. (I also ended up reading about the vine that doesn't bear fruit. That was just after David Henniger had preached about the vine and the branches and bearing fruit, so I was already a little weirded out then.) Then, a few weeks ago, I signed up for a thing where I get my daily bible passage in my e-mail (because I am such a slacker at picking up my physical bible these days; I know, I'm a lame-o), and I set it up to send me passages randomly instead of some chronological format. Well, I recently got Isaiah 6 there too. So, I can only conclude one or all of three things: 1) I need to come face to face with the holiness of God and realize His awesomeness. 2) I have unclean lips (or am otherwise "unclean") and I need to be cleansed. 3) God wants to "send" me somewhere and I need to be willing to say, "send me!" Okay, make that four things: 4) I can still read Kim's blog even when I haven't read the passages to go along with it. :) Seriously, though, how strange is it that I have been presented with the same passage three times within about a two month period?

    BTW, kudos to you for keeping up with this blog. It's nice to know it's still here when I am not busy being lame.

    Oh, and, for old time's sake, I think I will take a "stab" at that Proverbs passage: If you are given the honor of interacting with someone of higher standing than you (be it a king or just someone who is intimidating because they are richer or dress better than you, etc.), don't covet what they have. If you start to covet, it is better to get out of the situation entirely than to give in to greed and jealousy. If you do give in, you will find yourself miserable instead of being happy like you expected. That's what I get out of it, anyway. :)

  2. As much as I still want to learn and know about God, I understand more and more that His will is beyond my grasp. If He thinks it is the right thing to do to harden people's hearts in order to punish them, then it is the right thing to do.

    In other words, you are coming to believe that God is a moral relativist. Ends justify the means and all that.

  3. Erika,

    Nope, nothing so assertive as that. Or if He IS a moral relativist, that it is only from my position of limited understanding, and not from the reality of His goodness. Reading Ecclesiastes and discussing it with my professor reinforced to me that basic idea that I can never understand how or why God works. And as a finite human, I can pursue knowledge of God and still be at peace with the things about Him that I don't get. I know that His ways are perfect, so if He does something, it must be right, regardless of whether or not my little mind agrees with it.

    I know that reasoning might sound like an epic cop-out, but honestly, to me, it takes just as much a leap of faith to think that your mind COULD understand everything that goes on in the universe than to believe that you CAN'T understand everything that goes on. If anything, the first position is more of a leap to me.

  4. And Becky, good to hear from you again!