It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Promises, a reflection on Isaiah 61:1-11

The prophet is proclaiming God's welcome to the returning exiles, "You are released from your captivity." He is echoing the words from Leviticus 25 that describe the jubilee, the point at which a debtor is freed from burden and allowed to return home.

We are reading this scripture during Advent;  so, we usually interpret these words during this season as predicting how much better off we'll be when Christ returns. This year, I'm struck by how they fit not only the Advent season but also the specific economic condition in which so many are finding themselves this day.

Isaiah has just said that he has been sent to preach and care for oppressed, broken-hearted, captive people. His message to these who had been mourners is renewal and restoration. John Goldingay comments on this promise, "Disgrace will give way to splendor and recognition as a people YHWH has made commitment to" (Old Testament Theology, Vol 2).

Moreover, this relationship with God will never end, "I will make an everlasting covenant with them."

Questions to consider:
What are the obligation inherent in being a blessed people? How frightened should we be to read the Lord's words, "I love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense." If the covenant is everlasting, can it be broken?

I saw a lot of ads for Christmas gifts in the newspaper this morning. We're in a season of thinking about (obsessing about?) what to buy for others and what we hope others are buying for us. And then I read this passage from Isaiah.

We're going to get new clothes but these garments are metaphorical. We're going to be clothed in salvation and righteousness. In addition to not requiring more closet space, these gifts are ones that we should have asked for, ones that will change our lives.

And not just our lives. These gifts are not just for us insiders. Read verse 11. These gifts are for all the nations.

On which list do you put salvation and righteousness higher than, say, a new big screen TV or one of those retro gamer crates? Do you think it is good news that God has promised salvation and righteousness to foreigners? Does it depend on how foreign they are?

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