Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11

OT: Isaiah 8:1-9:21

The craziest part of today's reading happened right at the beginning. God tells Isaiah to write, "quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil" on a scroll (8:1). Then, Isaiah goes "to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, 'Name him "Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil" (3; and actually, the name was in the Hebrew, which was Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz). God also makes a prophecy using the boy's life as a time marker (4). And later, Isaiah says, "Here am I , and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion" (18). Now, here is my question. In verse 2, Isaiah says that he went to the prophetess. He didn't say that he went to his wife. It doesn't say that they were married. And it seems as if the whole scenario was orchestrated by God to make a point. If that is the case, that is crazy! Sex and childbirth to make a point? Wow.

Now, of course, they could have been married, and maybe having a son was just a natural part of their lives that God used to send a larger message to His people. That makes more sense to me. For one, in verse 18, Isaiah mentions "children," plural, which suggests that this was not a one time thing, but a long standing relationship. In fact, now I'm wondering if "prophetess" meant "wife of a prophet" here. Maybe not (probably not), but anyway, I'm leaning toward the marriage angle at this point. Regardless, I thought the idea that Isaiah and his kids were "signs and symbols in Israel" was interesting. Perhaps it is off-putting for some to think of God having specific uses for our lives that are altogether outside of our own wills. I, however, find that idea to be in keeping with our roles as part of His creation, and I even find it to be comforting! It all goes back to meaning and purpose. The idea that God has a purpose for us, that our lives have a greater meaning than is found merely within ourselves, is a positive thing to me. And if the situation with Isaiah and the prophetess was that they were married and having kids and going about their lives, well, then I like it all the more. I like the idea that God can use the normal rhythms of our lives to send larger messages to the world. In fact, now that I think of it, that idea is clearly found in the NT. God uses us to be a light to the world, after all (Matt. 5:13-16).

Speaking of light, Isaiah goes on to prophecy that,

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned" (9:2).

He goes on to prophecy about the coming of a man whom we Christians take to be Jesus:

"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (6).

The rest of the passage focuses on God's upcoming punishment of Judah.

NT: 2 Cor. 12:1-10

Oh man, what is Paul talking about here? Apparently, he has experienced some kind of crazy vision in which he "was caught up to paradise" and where he "heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell" (4). I sure wish he could tell us more about that, not to mention more about what in the world the "third heaven" is.

And just when Paul's boasting starts to wear on me, he abruptly turns it all around and discusses his weakness, his "thorn in my flesh" (7). He doesn't mention what the thorn is, but there have been many guesses (blindness, lust, etc). Regardless, whatever it is, Paul prays for God to relieve him of his struggle, and God gives an intriguing answer:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (9).

I have to say, I love that answer. It works for me on so many levels, both shallow and deep. On a shallow level, as one drawn to paradox, I love the declaration made in the second half of the sentence. And on an emotional level, I love the first half of the sentence. It gives me comfort that God's grace is sufficient to cover our weaknesses. Lastly, I love that God reveals some of His logic in letting us suffer from various ailments and/or temptations. In a way, it kind of goes back to that "jars of clay" thing. We are but vessels through which God shows His love and power to the world. It is important that the vessel not be confused with the power and love itself. And I know that anyone who takes a close look at my own life could quickly surmise that any of the fruits of the Spirit in my life are just that--fruits of the Spirit, and not of me. And if my personal weaknesses serve to make the Spirit's work more clear in my life, then, like Paul, I will boast all the more in my weaknesses.

Okay, maybe I won't:). Maybe I'll continue to fight them, but I won't view them as a cause for despair, as I would otherwise be tempted to do.

Psalm 55: 1-23

David pleas for God to save him, this time from the treachery of a close friend.

Prov. 23:4-5

I love both of these and just have to type them out:

"Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
have the wisdom to show restraint.
Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
for they will surely sprout wings
and fly off to the sky like an eagle."

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