Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pray Without Ceasing!

My friend has a facebook group called Pray Without Ceasing!. She invited me to it and every once in a while one of the posts really speaks to me. They do post a lot of things about saints and everything, being that she and her family are Catholic, which I don't always find super relevant to myself because I don't follow the Catholic Church, despite having been baptised confirmed and received my first communion in the Catholic Church my senior year of high school. The specific church I went to was fabulous and it was where God was leading me at that point in my life. Her reading she posted today really got me thinking though!

Today, her post read:

When time permits please read Isaiah 1:11-20 in its entirety, today!!
1) What struck you most about Isaiah 1:11?
2) What is the heart of Isaiah 1:11-20?
3) What part does obedience play in Isaiah 1:11-20?
And this got me thinking. First off, it reminded me of my Judaic studies classes in college. So I pulled out an old textbook I kept around for moments like this. The book of Isaiah is complex and most scholars believe it to be written in either two or three parts. The two part theory, when I was studying in school, being the most popular. The concept of a third Isaiah was not as common, but still a popular theory. Basically, the first 40 chapters are First Isaiah. The next chapters, till about 54 or 55 contain Deutero Isaiah, or second Isaiah. Some believe these to be done by two different authors, but that is another argument for another day. The first section is entirely pre-exilic, and that is where this passage takes place.

i like to know the historical context because much of the prophetic writings in the Bible were written during... times of "political insecurity abd crisis" (p.283) The first part of Isaiah (through chapter 40) is dated to the time in which the Assyrian Empire was expanding. "It is against the background of Assyrian Imperialism that the prophet Isaiah of Jerusalen attempts to provide counsel and support to the royal house of David in Judah."(p.298) It is important also to note that in this first section most of what Isaiah wrote contained many judgment statements against Judah itself and berates Jerusalem! (p.300) (i remembered most of this from when I studied it in school but i grabbed the book and page numbers so that I had support for my statements :-P)

this entire passage is Isaiah berating the Israelites for doing things that don't matter entirely. sure tradition is great and a good thing.but they are offering sacrifices just to offer sacrifices a...nd are actually becoming very legalistic in their views of what needs to be done. i believe personally, that while judaism as a whole claimed that you can be a jewish atheist as long as you keep up the traditions, that isaiah is warning against such a thing. Your heart does matter! They are coming as unclean (they have not taken part in a cleansing mitzvah) and are making these lavish sacrifices unto the Lord. They are also adding in things that the Lord never asked for! they are making extra days for things and are being false. They are only going through the motions and making a show of it to appear pious and holy to others, but in reality are not acting as such. their hearts are not in it and when your heart believes something is becomes evident through your outward actions and appearance.

politically speaking, they were being punished as a nation for their disobedience to what God truly asks of them. The Bible says that if you follow the word of the Lord, you will lead a long and prosperous life. they were being disrespectful (and in my mind much like the pharisees) and they were being punished for this which would result in a very long exile from their holy city. Isaiah is warning them very plainly to change their ways or face the consequences. This is very relevant today, especially when we consider that it was the whole nation who suffered. right now, the US is heading further and further away from any Biblical foundation and it is causing our society as a whole to crumble and fall apart! sorry for my soap box rant.

This is just one of the many reasons i believe that old testament writings are still valid to us today, even if we are not bound to follow all the laws therein. This is just a great example of how relevant passages can still be to us in our modern times.

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