Archive for the ‘Isaiah 11’ Tag

Devotion for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-75016

Eschatological Ethics

DECEMBER 4, 2022


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-14 (15-19)

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12


Stir up in our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way for your only Son. 

By his coming give us strength in our conflicts

and shed light on our path through the darkness of the world; 

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13


Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son

that at his second coming we may worship him in purity;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 11


For improved comprehension of Isaiah 11:1-10, O reader, back up to 10:32b-34.  There we read that God will destroy the Neo-Assyrian Empire, built on militarism, cruelty, and exploitation.  Isaiah 10:34 likens that empire to majestic cedars of Lebanon, cut down by God.  Then Isaiah 11 opens with the image of the Messiah, depicted as a twig sprouting from a tree stump.

The Messiah–the ruler of the fully-realized Kingdom of God in Isaiah 11–has much in common with the ideal king in Psalm 72.  Both monarchs govern justly.  They come to the aid of the oppressed and punish the oppressors.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance.

The ethics of the Kingdom of God–whether partially-realized or fully-realized–contradict the conventional wisdom of “the world” and its great powers.  The Roman Empire, built on militarism, cruelty, and exploitation, continues as a metaphor to apply to oppressive powers–not only governments–in our time.  Spiritual complacency remains a problem.  And how we mere mortals treat each other continues to interest God.

Real life is frequently messy and replete with shades of gray.  Sometimes one must choose the least bad option, for no good options exist.  Whatever one does, somebody may suffer or perhaps die, for example.  We live in an imperfect world.  But we can, by grace, make the best decisions possible then act accordingly.  We can, by grace, love one another selflessly and self-sacrificially.  We can, by grace, act based on mutuality and the Golden Rule.  We can, by grace, welcome those whom God welcomes.  We can, by grace, confront those whom God confronts.  We can, by grace, make the most good from an imperfect situation.

May we do so.





Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA



Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by the Deacon Philip, by Lambert Sustris

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of God

JANUARY 9, 2022


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Isaiah 12:1-6

Psalm 29

Acts 8:26-39

John 1:29-34


Isaiah 12:1-6 flows from Chapter 11.  The two chapters are the final section of a poem about the ideal king in a peaceful future.  As elsewhere in the Bible, divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

Psalm 29 praises God.  It is also an adaptation of a hymn to Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm god.  Rewriting pagan stories and texts for Jewish theological purposes was a fairly common practice.  Doing so was one way of asserting the sovereignty of God and affirming faith in the one true deity.  Rewriting pagan texts also constituted an argument against the original texts’ validity.  In this case, rewriting a hymn in praise of Baal Peor was rebutting the legitimacy of his cultus.

Acts 8:26-39 and John 1:29-34 point to Jesus, as they should.

The ideal future remains an unfulfilled prophecy.  Nevertheless, I, as a Christian, affirm that the Incarnation was a game changer.  I hold that the reality of God’s presence became obvious in a way it was not previously obvious.

The presence of God is evident in many ways in our deeply flawed societies.  There are no gods; there is God.  God is sovereign, despite all appearances to the contrary.

May we–you, O reader, and I–keep the faith and work to make the world resemble more closely the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Only God can save the world and usher in the fully realized Kingdom of God, of course.  Yet we–you, O reader, and I–have a divine mandate to leave the world better than we found it.  









Devotion for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (Humes)   3 comments

Above:   Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

Building Up the Common Good, Part I

DECEMBER 4, 2022


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Isaiah 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12


In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) the first word of the reading from Isaiah 11 is “but.”  This is an invitation to back up into Isaiah 10, where one reads of God cutting down arrogant Assyrian forces.  The metaphor at the end of Isaiah 10 is cutting down the cedars of Lebanon.  That makes sense if one knows the background of that portion of scripture.

The prophet uses the term Lebanon trees ironically:  Assyrian kings boasted in inscriptions that they cut down these mighty cedars on their heroic journeys to despoil the forests of Lebanon to obtain wood for their building projects in Mesopotamia, but here Assyrians themselves become the ax’s victim.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 789

Then we arrive at our reading from Isaiah 11.

But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

it begins.  This is a prophecy of a time when an ideal king will rule justly and the society will be peaceable.  This is similar to the high hopes in Psalm 72.  Matthew 3:1-12 evokes this prophecy of Isaiah (in spirit, at least) and has St. John the Baptist apply it to Jesus, whom he baptizes in 3:13-17.

Romans 15:12, which follows a call to think about others first ad to work for the common good, quotes Isaiah 11:10.  The Pauline point is plain:  God seeks for all people to praise, follow, and set their hope on Him.  The family of God is diverse; some branches of it dislike other branches–even consider some of them to be heretical at best.  Some individuals within that family cannot or will not get along with other members thereof.

This has always been true.  Nevertheless, the divine mandate to work for the common good, to put other people before oneself, has never ceased to be relevant.  For nearly two millennia we have had a role model–Jesus, who went so far as to die.

May we love one another as we love ourselves, recognizing that the common good is indeed that to which God calls us in society.  Building ourselves up by exploiting others violates divine commandments and provokes the anger of God, as it should.









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

Authority and Grace

DECEMBER 13-15, 2021


The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)


But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.






Devotion for December 5 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Tree of Jesse from St. Peters’ Cathedral, Worms, Germany

The Ideal Kingdom

DECEMBER 5, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 11:1-12:6

Psalm 50 (Morning)

Psalms 14 and 16 (Evening)

2 Peter 2:1-22


All this shows that the Lord is well able to rescue the good from their trials, and hold the wicked for their punishment until the Day of Judgement.

–2 Peter 2:9, The New Jerusalem Bible


Some Related Posts:

A Prayer for Compassion:

The Remnant:


The lovely and familiar reading from Isaiah flows immediately from the end of Chapter 10.  God will topple mighty cedars of Lebanon (poetic stand-ins for Assyria),

But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

–Isaiah 11:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The twig will be the ideal king who will mete out justice, punish the wicked, and raise up the downtrodden.  God’s peace will reign and exiles will return.

The state of affairs was not nearly as rosy when exiles did return; read Ezra and Nehemiah for details.  What, then, are we supposed to make of this prediction?  That time has yet to come; this is my proposed answer.

We read in Isaiah 11:1-12:6 of what God will do.  By the time of 2 Peter 2, Jesus had come and gone, having fulfilled his mission.  That was another thing God had done.  Yet the Roman Empire remained firmly in control.  The ideal kingdom was still in the future tense.  The author of 2 Peter reminded his audience of some more of God’s past deeds, namely sparing Noah and family as well as destroying the equal-opportunity would-be rapists (heterosexual and homosexual) of Sodom of Gomorrah.  God had rescued the just then; God would do it again.

So we continue to wait for the ideal kingdom of God.  The evil still oppress the good.  Those who act righteously still suffer because of unintended consequences of well-intentioned laws and of flaws in legal systems.  Many people who think that they are righteous actually oppress the righteous.  Maybe even we have committed evil unwittingly while trying to perform good deeds.

The most basic good deed I know is one consistent with compassion and measured objectively according to results.  We can know a tree by its fruits.  This is a matter of results, not ideology, which is often oblivious to evidence.

So, as we do our best to act compassionately, may we not lose hope that divine promises of deliverance of the good are reliable.  God’s timing, after all, is not ours.








Eighth Day of Advent: Second Sunday of Advent, Year A   33 comments

Above:  The Tomb of St. John the Baptist, Lower Egypt

Image Source = Lollylolly 78

The Approaching Kingdom of God

DECEMBER 4, 2022


Isaiah 11:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch will 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.

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.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give the king your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness,

and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,

and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,

give deliverance to the needy,

and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,

and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish

and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

Blessed by the LORD, the God of Israel,

who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever;

may his glory fill the whole earth.

Amen and Amen.

Romans 15:4-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,

and sing praises to your name;

and again he says,

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people;

and again,

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,

and let all the peoples praise him;

and again Isaiah says,

The root of Jesse shall come,

the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;

in him the Gentiles shall hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them,

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


St. John the Baptist was one of a line of prophets who spoke of the coming Kingdom of God on earth.  John, however, spoke of the short-term arrival of this kingdom.  And one of the concepts embedded in the canonical Gospels is that the Kingdom of God was present within and around people; God was active on the earth.  In historical context this constituted, among other things, a strong (and justified) criticism of the Roman imperial order.  Rome occupied the Jewish homeland, maintained order with fear, and encouraged slavery and economic inequity–even exploitation.  Much of this sounds contemporary, does it not?

Jesus was born, lived, died, rose again, and ascended.  And yet the Roman imperial order persisted.  So understandings of the Kingdom of God changed, becoming more abstractly spiritual than concerned with the present tense.  Yet I find the older understanding powerful; I cannot dismiss it.  If the Kingdom of God was present when Jesus walked the face of the earth, is it not still here?  Could it have faded away after the Ascension?  I think not.

So I leave you, O reader, with this:  How is the Kingdom of God an indictment of your society and government, perhaps even the dominant form of organized religion in your society?  And, when you have your answer(s), what ought you to do with this (these) realization(s)?  It cost Jesus his life, and St. John the Baptist before him.  What will it cost you?


Written on May 31, 2010


The previous post in this sequence:


Third Day of Advent   7 comments

Above:  Lascaux Caves Lions

The Justice of God


Isaiah 11:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Then a branch will grow from the stock of Jesse,

and a shoot will spring from his roots.

On him the spirit of the LORD will rest:

a spirit of wisdom and understanding,

a spirit of counsel and power,

a spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD;

and in the fear of the LORD will be his delight.

He will not judge by outward appearances

or decide a case on hearsay;

but with justice he will judge the poor

and defend the humble in the land with equity;

like a rod his verdict will strike the ruthless,

and with his word he will slay the wicked.

He will wear the belt of justice,

and truth will be his girdle.

Then the wolf will live with the lamb,

and the leopard lie down with the kid;

the calf and the young lion will feed together,

with a little child to tend them.

The cow and the bear will be friends,

and their young will lie down together;

and the lion will eat straw like cattle.

The infant will play over the cobra’s hole,

and the young child dance over the viper’s nest.

There will be neither hurt nor harm in all my holy mountain,

for the land will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD,

as the waters cover the sea.

On that day a scion from the root of Jesse

will arise like a standard to rally the peoples;

the nations will resort to him,

and his abode will be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

God, endow the king with your own justice,

his royal person with your righteousness,

that he may govern your people rightly

and deal justly with your oppressed ones.

May hills and mountains provide your people

with prosperity in righteousness.

May he give judgment for the oppressed among the people

and help the needy;

may he crush the oppressor.

May he fear you as long as the sun endures,

and as the moon throughout the ages.

May he be like rain falling on early crops,

like showers watering the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish,

prosperity abound until the moon is no more.

Luke 10:21-24 (Revised English Bible):

At that moment Jesus exulted in the Holy Spirit and said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and wise, and revealing them to the simple.  Yes, Father, such was your choice.  Everything is entrusted to me by my Father; no one knows who the Son is but the Father, or who the Father is but the Son, and those to the Son chooses to reveal him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


As a student of history, I know that we human beings, especially those in positions of power and prestige, assume that the status quo represents the will of God.  Such an assumption is quite convenient for those who benefit from their social positions, providing them with many benefits.  And if these people can convince those whom they exploit that the status quo represents the will of God, social injustice perseveres.  Perhaps these privileged people lie to themselves before they deceive others.

Yet I cannot grasp how anyone can read the words of the Hebrew Prophets then examine current events and not see social injustice.  How many of those who perpetuate economic injustice speak publicly of their faith, at least when campaigning?  Are they blind to this sin, or do they mock God?  This judgment resides with God alone, but the cries and pleas of the oppressed echo down the corridors of time, into the present day.

The justice of God overturns many, if not most, of our assumptions.  It establishes a new social order, converts enemies into friends and allies, makes the first last and the last first, exalts the humble and causes those who live by hubris to stumble.  It is a leveling force, for God does not regard us as we think of ourselves and each other.

The purpose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  Thanks be to God!


Written on May 31, 2010

Posted September 14, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023-2024, December 5, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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