Saturday, February 17, 2007


Valentines?

On Wednesday, the Old Testament passage for the day in the lectionary was Isaiah 59, verse 15 to the end of the chapter. It's a little violent, which seemed kind of dissonant with the pink-and-frilly sentiments associated with the day. That's okay. I'm not that into pink and frilly anyway. And I kind of liked reading about a love that would fight for something. It seemed appropriate somehow.

In the context of Isaiah 59, there's a description of the state of the planet. Everybody's killing and lying and cheating and hating and just generally turning their backs on God and each other. In verse 11, Isaiah says, "We growl like hungry bears, we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice but it never comes . . ." (NLT). The verse struck me because I felt it this week--this growling, moaning, cranky, grasping society to which I contribute.

This depressing description continues from the beginning of the chapter to the middle of verse fifteen, and then suddenly God steps in:

The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So He Himself stepped in to save them with His strong arm . . .

The first time I read this passage to notice, it was paired in the lectionary with Philippians 2.5-11. It's a crazy juxtaposition, because when you read them together it feels like you're reading exactly the same and exactly the opposite thing. In Isaiah, God's mad and comes down with fury and vengeance because of the brokenness of the world, to save the people who are true to Him. In the Philippians passage, we see that the way He did it was to "make Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant" (verse 7, NIV), and becoming "obedient to death . . . on a cross!" (verse 8).

I guess because I noticed it like that first, I can't read Isaiah 59, even in its anger and violence, without a sense of the deep and affronted love of God. Reading it on Wednesday reminded me again of that love, and it felt like a better Valentine than the hearts and ribbons.

2 comments:

Annelise said...

Good commentary, Jenn. The women here are studying Philippians on Friday mornings and just studied Phil. 2:5-11 last week. Then this week we started with verse 12 in which Paul says, "Therefore" and follows with the fact that we're supposed to be carrying on this mission of Jesus--bringing that kind of servanthood to the world. Having just read it, I was especially interested in your insightful comments.

Jenn said...

Thanks, Mom. Also, stay tuned for something about the carrying-on-of-the-mission (or not).

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