Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 12

OT: Isaiah 10:1-11:16

After relaying more of the woes to come, as well as the reasons behind the punishment (1-4), Isaiah begins to discuss the role of Assyria. He makes clear that even though God is using Assyria as His instrument of punishment, that does not mean that Assyria is good or righteous. In fact, after discussing all of Judah's "woes," Isaiah says,

"Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!" (5).

He goes on to explain that because Assyria will arrogantly believe that they act out of their own power, they will also be punished. It would seem from the text that failure to acknowledge God's role in one's life is not good. If Assyria is indicative of the tendency, then it seems that the tendency comes from pride. I like God's rhetorical questions to Assyria that he asks in verse 15:

"Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it,
or the saw boast against him who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up,
or a club brandish him who is not wood!"

Well, when you put it that way....:)

To me, these verses really highlight the foolishness of forgetting that we are nothing without God and all that He has given us.

Chapter 11 focuses on the coming of the kingdom of God in its fullness. Some particularly vivid imagery involves animals:

"The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child shall lead them" (6).

This verse (and the next three verses, which continue the same thoughts) highlight three things to me about the kingdom of God. For one thing, they show that it will only come in its fullness at the end of time. As long as the earth we know is existing, the wolf will never lie down with the lamb. That's just not how nature works. And so, even though I firmly believe that Jesus instructed us to work toward the kingdom of God here and now, I also firmly believe that we will never "arrive" until Jesus comes back and establishes a new heaven and a new earth (or whatever is going to happen--I'm not great in my knowledge of Revelation).

Secondly, it makes me think that the "fall" affected more than just people. If these verses describe God's intentions for His creation, well, then His creation is currently broken or something. Even in nature, peace and harmony does not reign. Instead, self-preserving instincts reign. That reality suggests that as marvelous as nature is, and as reflective of God as it is, it still does not reflect His ultimate intentions, if that makes sense.

Third, these verses bring up the possibility that there are some things that are part of the ultimate picture of the kingdom of God that are simply not appropriate in this life. For example, the end of verse 6 says that, "a little child should lead them," and it would appear from the context that that would be a good thing. Just a few chapters earlier, however, Isaiah uses the image of child leadership as a way to convey the destruction of Israelite society:

"I will make boys their officials;
mere children will govern them" (3:4).

So, in this life, we probably shouldn't put children in charge. However, in the fullness of God's kingdom, that will no longer be a bad thing. Maybe that sounds like a weird point to make, but as someone who strives to take seriously Jesus' teachings, I struggle sometimes to understand how to apply them in this life. Take the idea of loving your enemies and turning the other cheek. By themselves, they do not explicitly command total pacifism, and yet I can see how that stance might be a natural conclusion from those teachings. On the other hand, I just don't see how total pacifism is a valid option in this world. Instead, I can see how a refusal to fight for the oppressed--physically, if necessary--would only result in more oppression and injustice, which is the opposite of God's kingdom. The image of a little child leading them, therefore, gives me an example of something that will be present and great in God's kingdom that would be inappropriate here. So yeah, in the fullness of God's kingdom, we will all live at peace, and there will be no violence. In this world, however, that is not an appropriate stance.

NT: 2 Cor. 12:11-21

Okay, I'm going to stop defending my views on Paul's emotionalism, because it is just getting so obvious that it is like beating a dead horse. I can't believe that it never struck me before.

Today, Paul continues emoting, and in one particularly dramatic statement, he even declares that, "what I want is not your possessions but you" (14). Honestly, he is beginning to sound more like a jilted lover than anything else. He is jealous, he is hurt, and he is fearful that the object of his affections is not all he hopes and dreams that they are (20-21). Again, I'm not quite sure what to think of the relationship, but I can at least appreciate the level of passion and commitment involved.

Psalm: 56:1-13

David asks God to save him from his enemies, the Philistines.

Prov. 23: 6-8

These verses help yesterday's verses make a little more sense. I'm kind of getting the sense that the possessions of the rich can be a trap. When kings (or stingy people, as in today's verses) share their stuff with you, you have to know that it comes with strings attached. And if you can't control yourself, then you shouldn't even begin to indulge in what they have to offer. You will only become entangled by it. At least, that was my take after today's reading.


  1. I think you are misreading the statement that "a little child should lead them". It seems to me that the verse is talking about leading the animals in the physical sense, like a shepherd leads a sheep to pasture or a rider leads a horse to water.

  2. Ooooo...yeah, that makes sense:).