Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20

OT: Isaiah 33:13-36:22

I'm going to start this post with a phrase I have been studiously avoiding since we begun this book:

"In my Isaiah class at college..."

Yes, I took a class on Isaiah at college. No, I guess I didn't learn much. I must say, I have had many memories of class discussions come back as I have read, but they are always specific to a certain verse or section. I have no memories of anything I learned about the bigger, historical picture of Isaiah, the "who, what, when, where" of the prophecies and their fulfillment. Thus, none of the place names mean anything to me as I read, and I have been unable to put the prophecies together in my head to form some sort of clear, coherent picture of what Isaiah says is going to happen. Like I have said before, it's all a hodge-podge in my woefully ill-informed head.

That said, in my Isaiah class at college, I do remember learning about a concept called "sensus plenior." I've mentioned it before in this blog, but it is a term regarding prophecy, which indicates a deeper meaning intended by God that was not understood by the human author. Now, the only specific time I remember my professor applying it was in Isaiah 9, during the famous, "unto us a child is born" passage. If I remember correctly, my professor believed that the prophecy did have some kind of specific fulfillment in Isaiah's time. The deeper fulfillment, however, came with the birth of Christ.

Even though I don't remember my professor mentioning them, there have been so many other passages I've read in Isaiah that seem like candidates for sensus plenior interpretation. Specifically, many passages seem more applicable to the end times, or to the fullness of God's kingdom. The images of the lion laying down with the lamb and all the animals living in harmony would be one example, but I see sections in almost every day's reading.

Here is one of the candidates from today's reading:

"Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow" (35: 5-7).

The text then goes on to describe a large highway called, "the Way of Holiness," on which only the righteous will walk. Am I wrong, or do these verses seem ripe for symbolic interpretation? Although, come to think of it, symbolic interpretation is not the same as sensus plenior. Hmmm. Either way, I am very open to both sensus plenior or symbolic interpretation when dealing with the prophecies in Isaiah. In doing so, I'm not trying to dilute the message of the text, but rather to acknowledge that we cannot pigeon-hole truth. In our modern era (I know that it's really post-modern, but the church in America has as much modernism as post-modernism still in it--not that that's bad), we tend to view truth as being one way: literal. And yes, literal truth is important, and so much of the Bible is literal truth. But we have to be careful, I think, not to apply standards of truth to the Bible that the Bible does not apply to itself. God is not just God of our modern era. He is not limited to our ways of defining truth.

Or it could be all totally literal. I certainly don't want to rule anything out.

Today's reading closes with a prose section that seems lifted straight out of 2 Kings 18. If I remember the end of this story correctly, God keeps Assyria from conquering the people at this time.

NT: Galatians 5:13-26

This is a great section! I could seriously single out every single verse for specific discussion. Instead, I'll try to be a little selective--mainly for time purposes:

13--"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." Like 5:6, this is such a simple, classic verse. I love basic, all-encompassing instructions, and "serve one another in love," is a great one. An even more famous example is found in the next verse, when Paul sums up the law by saying, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Wow. After regularly being confused by the complexity of the Bible, it is so refreshing to hear that our ultimate instructions are distinctly easy to understand.

16-18--These verses describe the conflict between the Spirit and the sinful nature within us. Specifically, Paul says that "They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want" (17). In the past, I've always read the phrase "what you want" in one of two ways. Either I think of Romans 7 and think of "what you want" as the good things you want to do that the sinful nature is preventing. Or I think of it vice versa. Today, however, it occurred to me that it could be both. I mean, if we have the Spirit in us, and yet we also have some degree of our sinful nature, then couldn't you argue that as humans, we are never fully doing what we want? When I'm indulging in some kind of sin, I'm not doing what I want b/c I want to be pleasing God. And even if I am serving in some way that brings me great joy, isn't there a side of me that always wants to be selfish? Now, I know that verse 24 counters that, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires," but I would point out that crucifixion is a long, draw-out death. I still feel the pangs of that crucifixion, symbolically speaking, when my whole body yearns to just lay down and rest, for example, and yet the demands of loving and serving my family keep spurring me on.

22-23--Of course, I can't let this section pass without a shout-out to the fruit of the Spirit, especially since my kids love to sing about them:). It's such a simple list, and yet it has been a guiding force in my life.

Psalm 64:1-10

David complains (his words, not mine) to God about the success of the evil people around him, although he consoles himself with God's imminent judgment.

Prov. 23:23

I guess you could describe this proverb as general or generic, but I still like it:

"Buy the truth and do not sell it;
get wisdom, discipline, and understanding."


  1. Okay...I am way short on time this morning but I wanted to say "here here" to the Truth thing ..I have been totally thinking in those lines lately. I think we are bad about calling things"Truth" that God doesnt (I think that is exactly what you said..come to think of it :) ...doing so is what places us in positions of judgement that we dont need to be in, I think. I think that we NEED to challenge each other to Truth, and be willing to encourage someone who is not living it. But, I think that we look at people and question their Christian walk when they arent NOT living the Truth, but they are walking down their "highway" with a different swagger, or on the total other side of the road! ..not a different Truth, but a different walk to get there. Does that make any sense?

    About Galatians ..this "free" thought was a good one for me this morning because I have been feeling very much "free" as of late. It is a great reminder that despite our freedom, we cant let that freedom take away from our witness to people. I have to say I have always been a little confused by that passage, but now I can see exactly how being "free" can cause us to not act in love towards others, or be mindful of the way we interact with others.

    I can see how freedom from guilt or other negative feelings like that, can cause us to be less than compassionate to others. I can see pride creeping in, which can cause to not serve each other in love as we should.

    Its amazing to me how even the great blessing of "freedom" can be used by our weak selves to hinder the Spirit of God moving through those around us.

    Okay..I gotta run. Love you! :)

  2. Good morning, Court! Thanks for your thoughts!