Thursday, December 06, 2012

Trust or Straegize?

Thursday, December 6, 2012 -- Week of 1 Advent, Year 1
Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, c. 342

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Note:  We are now in Year One in the Daily Office Lectionary.  We are using the readings on the left side (even numbered) pages starting in the Prayer Book on page 936.

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 936)
Psalms 37:1-18 (morning)     //     37:19-42 (evening)
Isaiah 7:1-9    
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Luke 22:1-13

Martin Buber uses an interesting word to describe the prophet Isaiah's perspective:  "theopolitics" -- that is, the attempt to bring Israel in a specific situation so completely under the divine sovereignty that Israel accepts its historical task "to become the beginning of the kingdom of God."  Today's passage from Isaiah is a great illustration of one of those specific situations.

The setting is around 750 BCE.  Israel and Judah are separate countries.  The youthful king Ahaz has just come to the throne of Judah, and he is no match for the political crisis he faces.  The power of Assyria is rising, and it threatens the entire region. 

The northern kingdom of Israel had avoided invasion by paying high tribute; Syria had done likewise.  The payments were unpopular among the rich, because they were the ones taxed for the tribute.  An elite group managed a coup to place an Army captain (Pekah) on the throne of Israel.  He joined with a traditional rivals to try to create an allied army that they hoped might halt the Assyrian advance as they had at the battle of Quarqar (853 BCE).  In an effort to force Judah to join their alliance, Kings Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Damascus invaded Judah in an attempt to replace Ahaz with a puppet king of their choosing.

Young Ahaz was in a difficult position.  The heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people "shook as the trees of a forest shake when there is a wind," says Isaiah.  Second Chronicles tells us that in terror Ahaz burned his own son as a sacrificial offering in the Valley of Hinnom.  It looked like Ahaz had to choose between accepting defeat at the hands of these invaders or appealing for outside help, probably from Assyria.

As Ahaz is inspecting the city's water supply in anticipation of a siege, Isaiah confronts him, accompanied by the prophet's young son Shear-jashub ("a remnant shall return").  Isaiah's message was simple: trust in God, be quiet, be calm.  Underneath Isaiah's advice is his attitude of "theopolitics."  Isaiah tells Ahaz that Pekah and Rezin are nothing -- "two pieces of smoking torches."  Isaiah was figuring that God would take care of Israel, and Assyria would take care of Pekah and Rezin's revolution.  Isaiah closes with a play on words:  "If you don't believe this (ta'aminu), you cannot be trusted (te'amenu)."  Scholar Bernhard Anderson paraphrases:  "Abandon human alliance, exclaims Isaiah, and place your reliance on Yahweh, whose sovereign will controls in human affairs!"  The name of his son implies in this context that if Pekah and Rezin invade, they will be so unsuccessful that only a remnant of their armies will return.

Ahaz was unable to believe Isaiah and to trust God.  Tomorrow we will see another "sign" that Isaiah will offer the king while he and his advisers are strategizing.

Trust God, be quiet, be calm. 

Or strategize. 

It is an eternal dilemma.


Lowell
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Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to: http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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