John the Baptist, Alexandre Cabanel, 1849, Musée Fabre (France – Montpellier)
(click for more information about this painting)
December 8, 2019
Last week, we examined how (First) Isaiah understood the call of the Jews. He prophesied that they would be the means by which all nations were to know and worship the LORD. Speaking of the Temple on Mt. Zion, he wrote:
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’S mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways.”
He also had a glimpse of what the effect of the universal worship of the LORD would mean:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
This is the text of the Isaiah Wall in front of the United Nations. It is a beautiful statement of a desire for peace and harmony, but forgets that it comes from a specific time and place and must be read accordingly. Today then, we will look at what Isaiah meant by peace and how we can expect it to arrive.
Isaiah reflects the political and social reality of his time: from to c. 740 BC to 700 BC in Jerusalem. The rise of the Assyrian empire was the major political reality of his day and is the key to understanding both the national and international situation. Judah and Israel were in the middle between Assyria to the north and Egypt to the south. The leaders of both sought to play one empire against the other. Eventually though Judah (Jerusalem) became a vassal, client state, of Assyria. This means that a tremendous tribute was levied on the people. As is so often the case, the rich were able to pass these taxes on to the poor. When reading last week’s and this week’s passages, both the international and national causes and effects of injustice need to be remembered.
This is one of those cases when some of the most magnificent poetry and profound theology in the Bible arises from sorted and difficult circumstances. Here, we are basically given a meditation on the meaning of creation and re-creation.
Continue reading “2nd Sunday of Advent – Awaiting Re-Creation and God’s Harmony”