Archive for the ‘Isaiah 35’ Tag

Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:   Scenic View of Desert in Spring

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up the Common Good, Part II

DECEMBER 16, 2018


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 35:1-10

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

James 5:7-10

Matthew 1:1-17


In Isaiah 34 we read of God turning the territory of the enemies of Judah into a desert.  In Chapter 35, however, we read of God transforming a desert–making waters burst forth in it–so that exiles from Judah may return to their ancestral homeland in a second Exodus on a highway God has put in place for them.  Judgment for some is an occasion of mercy for others.  The restoration prayed for in Psalm 80 becomes a reality.

Building up the common good was a theme in the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent.  That theme, consistent with the lesson from James 5, has never ceased to be germane.  When has habitual grumbling built up the common good or been even selfishly beneficial?  It certainly did not improve the lot of those God had liberated from Egypt.  The admonition to avoid grumbling has never meant not to pursue justice–not to oppose repressive regimes and exploitative systems.  Certainly opposing such evils has always fallen under the heading of building up the common good.

I do find one aspect of James 5:7-11 puzzling, however.  That text mentions the endurance of Job, a figure who complained bitterly at great length, and justifiably so.  Juxtaposing an admonition against grumbling with a reference to Job’s endurance seems as odd as referring to the alleged patience of the very impatient Job.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 is theological, not literal.  The recurrence of 14, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming David’s name, is a clue to the theological agenda.  The family tree, with surprisingly few named women in it (We know that women were involved in all that begetting.), includes monarchs, Gentiles, and three women with questionable sexual reputations.  That is quite a pedigree!  That genealogy also makes the point that Jesus was human.  This might seem like an obvious point, but one would do well to consider the other alleged sons of deities who supposedly atoned for human sins in competing religions with followers in that part of the world at that time.  We know that not one of these figures, such as Mithras, ever existed.  The physicality of Jesus of Nazareth, proving that he was no figment of imaginations, is a great truth.

We also know that the Roman Empire remained firmly in power long after the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  The promised reign of God on Earth persists as a hope reserved for the future.  In the meantime, we retain the mandate to work for the common good.  God will save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.









Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. John the Baptist

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part III

DECEMBER 7 and 8, 2021


The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming give to all the world knowledge of your salvation;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 19:18-25 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 35:3-7 (Wednesday)

Psalm 126 (Both Days)

2 Peter 1:2-15 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:18-30 (Wednesday)


When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then we were like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

They they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great thins for us,

and we are glad indeed.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go our reaping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

–Psalm 126, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


St. John the Baptist was a political prisoner.  The great forerunner of Jesus was having doubts, perhaps due in part to despair.  That was understandable.

Many Hebrews were exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Other Hebrews lived in their homeland, yet under occupation.  Hopelessness was understandable.

Yet God was undefeated and not in prison.  No, God was preparing to do something new.  Egypt was going to suffer, in part because its “sages” depended on their “received wisdom” (actually foolishness), not on God.  Yet after punishment, First Isaiah wrote, Egypt was going to turn to God and become an instrument of divine mercy.  Later, in Isaiah 35, the Babylonian Exile was going to end, the prophet wrote.  And sadly, St. John the Baptist died in prison.  He was a forerunner in execution also.  Yet at least John received his answer from Jesus, who went on to suffer, die, and not remain dead for long.

The Kingdom of God, partially in place since at least the earthly lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth, awaits its full unveiling.  Until then good people will continue to suffer and sometimes die for the sake of righteousness, if not the reality that they prove to be inconvenient to powerful bad people.  One Christian duty during this time of evil coexisting with the Kingdom of God is building up faithful community, thereby striving for justice and reaching out to those around us.  The church is properly salt and light in the world, not an isolated colony living behind barricades and living at war with it.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

–Matthew 5:13-16, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

God is faithful and generous, but that reality precludes neither punishment for offenses nor suffering for the sake of righteousness.  Those who expect God to be a cosmic warm fuzzy are in error, just as those who imagine that the existence and love of God lead to an end to suffering (especially of the godly) are wrong.  Yet, if we suffer for the sake of righteousness, God is at our side.  Can we recognize the reality that God loves us, sides with us, and has suffered for us?  How will that recognition translate into thinking, and therefore into living?









Devotion for December 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Seven Seals

Disturbing Imagery

DECEMBER 18, 2021


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 34:1-2, 8-35:10

Psalm 33 (Morning)

Psalms 85 and 91 (Evening)

Revelation 6:1-17


Isaiah 34 tells the destruction of Edom, a traditional foe of Judah.  Then, in Isaiah 35, we read of the return of exiles from Judah.  There is bad news for some, but it is good news for others.

The reading from Revelation contains part of a vision in progress.  To read the chapter in isolation is to miss what precedes and succeeds it.  The Lamb (Jesus), worthy to break the seals on the scroll, does so.  War, pestilence, and death dominate much of the world.  The martyrs wonder when God will avenge their deaths.  And nature itself seems to come apart.

The imagery, which is disturbing, draws heavily from the Hebrew Scriptures and recent (for the initial audience) events.  The eruption of Mount Vesuvius might have informed the chapter, for example.  And pestilence and death were contemporary in the Roman Empire.  Revolutions erupted in Roman Palestine from time to time, so violence was a recent memory.

How do we interpret disturbing recent events?  Often we seek to see divine wrath in them.  Sometimes we are correct; at other times we are imagining things or adding two and two, arriving at the sum of five.  Yet some timeless lessons persist.  Among them are:

  1. God is in charge, and
  2. Perpetual disobedience to God will not go unpunished.

Especially violent imagery might appeal most to those experiencing oppression, for such imagery tells them that God will avenge them.  That analysis applies to the readings from Isaiah and Revelation.  Yet there is more.  All we need to do to find it is to continue reading.  May we do so.







Fifteenth Day of Advent: Third Sunday of Advent, Year A   30 comments

Above:  The Visitation, from an Illustrated Manuscript

Stir-Up Sunday

DECEMBER 15, 2019


FIRST READING:  Isaiah 35:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the LORD,

the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.

He will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


Psalm 146 (New Revised Standard Version):

Praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,

in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose help is the LORD their God,

who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who executes justice for the oppressed;

who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers;

he upholds the orphan and the widow,

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever,

your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD!

Canticle 15 (The Magnificat), from The Book of Common Prayer, page 91:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed;

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

SECOND READING:  James 5:7-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

GOSPEL:  Matthew 11:2-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him,

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus answered them,

Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


The Third Sunday of Advent is Stir-Up Sunday, from the opening words of the collect.  The prayer asks to God to send divine power among us , to help and deliver us, who cannot perform either task on our own behalf.  The readings for this Sunday tell of what happens when God’s power is unleashed:  deserts bloom, the mighty fall, the humble are exalted, and exiles return home.  All this is wonderful, except from the vantage point of the mighty whom God has cast down from their thrones.

When I ponder these readings, especially the Magnificat, I cannot help but wonder how certain politicians and pundits with whom I disagree profoundly might handle the content.  Might they accuse the texts of engaging in class warfare?  Well, class welfare is part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For that matter, an unregulated or barely regulated corporate economy contradicts the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, from the Hebrew Prophets to Jesus.  I cannot escape the fact that the Bible teaches nothing less than Christian Socialism.

Here I stand; I can do no other.




The Episcopal Church’s lectionary for Advent lays out sets of readings as follows:

  1. The First Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  2. The First Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)
  3. The Second Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  4. The Second Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)
  5. The Third Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  6. The Third Week of Advent (Monday-Friday)
  7. December 17-24 (Readings designated per date)
  8. The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)

There can be as many as 29 days in Advent.  Consider the following facts:

  1. The First Sunday of Advent can fall no earlier than November 27 and no later than December 3.
  2. Ergo the Fourth Sunday of Advent can fall no earlier than December 18 and no later than December 24.

So the following statements are accurate:

  1. In all years the first fifteen days of Advent will fall according to the pattern:  First Sunday of Advent–First Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)–Second Sunday of Advent–Second Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)–Third Sunday of Advent.
  2. After that the variations begin to occur.   One might read all or some or none of the lections for the Third Week of Advent (Monday-Friday), depending on the dates of the Sundays of Advent.  Also, at least one Sunday will fall within the December 17-24 timeframe.

I will write and publish 29 (the maximum possible number) Advent devotions on this blog.  Some days will have two devotions, then, but that can only be good.

Pax vobiscum,


Written on May 31, 2010


The previous post in this sequence:


Ninth Day of Advent   13 comments

Above:  Jesus and the Paralytic at Capernaum

Who Was Really Paralyzed?



Isaiah 35:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Let the wilderness and the parched land be glad,

let the desert rejoice and burst into flower.

Let it flower with fields of asphodel,

let it rejoice and shout for joy.

The glory of Lebanon is given to it,

the splendour too of Carmel and Sharon;

these will see the glory of the LORD,

the splendour of our God.

Brace the arms that are limp,

steady the knees that give way;

say to the anxious,

Be strong, fear not!

Your God comes to save you

with his vengeance and his retribution.

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,

and the ears of the deaf will like deer,

and the dumb shout aloud;

for water will spring up in the wilderness

and torrents flow in the desert.

The mirage will become a pool,

the thirsty land bubbling springs;

instead of reeds and rushes, grass will grow

in country where wolves have their lairs.

And a causeway will appear there;

it will be called the Way of Holiness.

No one unclean will pass along it;

it will become a pilgrim’s way,

and no fool will trespass on it.

No lion will come there,

no savage beast go by;

not one will be found there.

But by that way those the LORD  has redeemed will return.

The LORD’s people, set free, will come back

and enter Zion with shouts of triumph,

crowned with everlasting joy.

Gladness and joy will come upon them,

while suffering and weariness flee away.

Psalm 85:8-13 (Revised English Bible):

Let me hear the words of God the LORD;

he proclaims peace to his people and loyal servants;

let them not go back to foolish ways.

Deliverance is near to those who worship him,

so that glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have come together;

justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness appears from earth

and justice looks down from heaven.

The LORD will grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its harvest.

Justice will go in front of him,

and peace on the path he treads.

Luke 5:17-26 (Revised English Bible):

One day as he [Jesus] was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting round him.  People had come from every village in Galilee and from Judaea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him to heal the sick.  Some men appeared carrying a paralyzed man on a bed, and tried to bring him in and set him down in front of Jesus.  Finding no way to do so because of the crowd, they went up onto the roof and let him down through the tiling, bed and all, into the middle of the company in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man,

Your sins are forgiven you.

The scribes and Pharisees began asking among themselves,

Who is this fellow with his blasphemous talk?  Who but God alone can forgive sins?

But Jesus knew what they were thinking and answered them:

Why do you harbour these thoughts?  Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But to convince you that the Son of Man has the right on earth to forgive sins”

–he turned to the paralyzed man–

I say to you, stand up, take your bed, and go home.

At once the man rose to his feet before their eyes, took up the bed he had been lying on, and went home praising God.  They were all lost in amazement and praised God; filled with awe they said,

The things we have seen today are beyond belief!

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.


God seeks to be gracious to us.  We read this message in both the Old Testament and the New Testament and we see it in the life of Jesus.  This theme permeates the three readings for this day in Advent.

In Luke 5:17-26 Jesus extends graciousness and healing to a very fortunate paralytic.  This man has good friends who lower him from a roof because that is the only way to get him to Jesus.  And our Lord and Savior heals the man with faithful friends.

I propose that the man was merely a bodily paralytic and that the critics of Jesus were spiritual paralytics.  The Sweet Hereafter is one of my favorite movies.  It depicts a small town of able-bodied yet emotionally crippled people after a school bus crash in which all but one of the students dies.  The survivor, Nicole, is paralyzed from the waist down.  Yet she is not crippled emotionally.  She is, in fact, the most whole person in the town.  In the healing story the true paralytics are the critics of Jesus, for their fear and preconceptions prevented them from following the path of righteousness.  They could not walk in the light because of their attachments to their traditions and status.

It is a rare and fortunate person who lacks any inner paralysis–emotional, psychological, or spiritual.  May we welcome God’s healing.  May we want God to make us well and whole.


Written on May 31, 2010