Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Morning Thanks--Isaiah

Image result for Isaiah

It's not fun. In fact, it's anything but fun. It's rough sledding, a few joyful moments, sudden splurges of the divine, and then, once again, fire and brimstone. Pack your asbestos.

It's a mess, really a grand mess. Mostly it's one black promise after another, in chunks that seem almost unrelated to each other. Most is flat-out vituperation, a symphony of screeds from a pen wielded by a OT troll who just can't stop spitting rage at his people.

The Book of Isaiah, scholars say, may well have three different writers, at least two of whom aren't Isaiah. All three stare at a dire apocalypse among the fractious Jews, post-Exodus, including the kings who lead them, some of whom are--in a word we use only for a Broadway musical--wicked, determinedly and purposefully wicked.

More than a few, in fact, which makes the Isaiahs of the book crank up the rage.

And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. (3:24)
It's a book of commands, of injunctions and visions, of God telling Isaiah(s) to damn the people of Israel:
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Get that? He says to tell the people not to listen to their God; thus their lives will be open wounds.

It's has caverns of sheer darkness and the occasional pinhole of light: "For unto us a child is born" (thankfully, some lines that can't be read without hearing Handel's spin on the matter).

Isaiah is dark and scary, full of lurid evil, even cannibalism, and just a few scurrying moments of blessed grandeur ("He shall be called 'wonderful,' 'counselor,' 'the mighty God,' 'the everlasting father'". . .) between arduous soliloquies of woe. It holds its pleasures, but not many.

We've been going through it for a couple of weeks now, trying to take it seriously, to understand why this long book of mostly woe is in the canon and what it suggests to us, if anything, thousands of years after its shipwrecks. 

There are no easy answers. 

This much I think I've learned. Those who use it to "prooftext" had better approach in abject humility. 

"Behold I tell you a mystery--you shall all be saved."

After more than a few hours of Isaiah's tirades, this Monday morning, I'm thankful that what we call "the holy scriptures" are, just as God almighty is, far bigger than we are or certainly will ever create ourselves to be.


Anonymous said...

I think you mean Isaiah 3:24 rather than 2:24.

J. C. Schaap said...

Oops. Got it. Thanks.