Dispatch One

Posted: December 22, 2013 in First Bundle
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

ISAIAH 11:1-10

11 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Because we in the modern West have so divorced religion and its concerns from the political sphere, it takes effort on our part to recapture the power of the kingdom of God as a biblical symbol of salvation.

The prophets especially were grasped by its imagery of equity and justice, righteousness and world peace. Their vision extended beyond the human plane and into the realm of nature, where the future reign of salvation would reconcile the deep antagonisms between predator and prey.

No level or corner of creation would be left outside and untouched by the transforming event. And all of it turned on the axis of the messiah-king, the descendent of David whose arrival and ascent to the throne would usher in the new age.

There is no going back to a time before critical reason, when the mythic imagination was the dominant mode of interpretation and understanding. Just as the development of intelligence in children approaching adolescence must transcend (but not abandon!) the creative magic of fantasy thinking and awaken the capacity for a more objective realism, so our task now is to take up the symbolism of the Bible into an historically responsible worldview.

                                                                        

Jesse was the father of David, the shepherd boy who became king of Israel. As king, David had made his share of strategic mistakes and moral blunders, but his humble and contrite heart before God had left an indelible impression in the Jewish imagination as a truly righteous and godly leader.

After his death, however, David’s magnetic example of leadership integrity was progressively lost on his heirs, as they allowed Israel to drift farther and farther from her intended destiny as a blessing to the nations. When his son Solomon reached the end of his life, the question of succession had become hopelessly complicated, with sons, stepsons, and army generals all vying with one another and hatching assassination plots to improve their chances of success.

By the time of Isaiah (eighth century, BCE) two hundred years of romantic nostalgia for a savior-king and son of David, who would restore Israel to her former glory, had produced a highly charged messianism that would still later become the culture of expectation in which Christianity was born.

For Isaiah, however, the day of God’s messiah would not be an entirely positive experience for everyone. If peace was to come to the earth, then perpetrators of injustice and oppression would have to be uprooted and destroyed. If the world is to be made safe, then every threat and danger must be removed.

This very commonsense logic would eventually turn apocalyptic in the coming centuries.

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