Archive for the ‘Isaiah 49’ Tag

Devotion for December 29, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jesus and His Apostles

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion, the Will of God, and Bad Theodicy

DECEMBER 29, 2020


The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

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 20


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 49:5-15

Psalm 148

Matthew 12:46-50


Let kings and commoners,

princes and rulers over the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Psalm 148:11-14, Revised English Bible (1989)


Excessive, selfish individualism–that which says, “every man for himself”–violates Biblical ethics.  Our Lord and Savior speaks of spiritual kinship in Matthew 12:40.  And the text of Isaiah 49:1-15 describes a society in which people look out for each other and the chosen of God function as a light to the nations.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the will of God.  Unfortunately, that concept has become fodder for detestable theology, run-of-the-mill bad theology, and merely shallow theology.  I have heard people invoke the will of God to make excuses for the inexcusable and read many other examples of people doing the same.  Slavery has allegedly been consistent with the will of God, as have genocide, epidemics, and wars of conquest.  Many people, out of misguided piety, have committed bad theodicy, describing God as a cosmic thug–a deity I do not seek to worship.

I have detected some consistent threads running through the Bible.  Among these is the idea that God cares about how we treat each other, hence the Golden Rule, the Law of Love, and many other passages.  The Baptismal Covenant in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) challenges the faithful to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (page 305).  So, while I recognize and stand in awe of the mystery of the will of God, I state confidently that loving my neighbor as myself is consistent with that will.  Honoring that promise is difficult, but grace is on hand to help us live compassionately.









Devotion for December 27 and 28, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   8 comments


Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter, by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun

God Our Mother

DECEMBER 27 and 28, 2019


The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

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 20


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:22-31 (December 27)

Isaiah 49:13-23 (December 28)

Psalm 148 (both days)

1 John 5:1-12 (December 27)

Matthew 18:1-14 (December 28)


You have lifted up your people’s head,

with praise from all your servants:

from the people close to your heart.

O praise the Lord.

–Psalm 148:14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Wisdom, personified as female in Proverbs 8, was with God the Father from the beginning.  Those who heed divine Wisdom are wise, happy, and blessed, the text says in verses 32-36.  That Wisdom, part of the Logos of God, is accessible to all, from the weakest in society to its most privileged members.  Those who love God obey divine commandments, which hang on the hooks of love for God and love for fellow human beings, who bear the Image of God.  This is active love, not just a warm, positive feeling.

The love of God is consistent with both punishment and deliverance.  Deliverance for some entails the punishment of recalcitrant others.  And sometimes we must suffer the consequences of our actions to learn lessons, but the possibility of confession of sin and subsequent repentance remains.  And, when we confess and repent, we will find God our Mother waiting for us:

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hand;

your walls are continually before me.

–Isaiah 49:15-16, The New Revised Standard Version

I recall that, when I lived in Statesboro, Georgia, a popular supply priest who visited Trinity Episcopal Church had a good sense of the maternal love of God.  Father Charles Hoskins, a delightful human being, spoke of mothers who spoke lovingly of their children who had committed horrible deeds.  God, Father Hoskins said, was “worse” than that.  In other words, our worst actions do not deprive us of divine love.  So may we respond lovingly in return.  May we make our divine Mother’s heart glad.







Devotion for December 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Joseph’s Dream, by Rembrandt van Rijn

The Insults of Men

DECEMBER 26, 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 49:22-26; 50:4-51:8, 12-16

Psalm 116 (Morning)

Psalms 119:1-24 and 27 (Evening)

Matthew 1:18-25


Some Related Posts:

Feast of Saint Joseph of Nazareth (March 19):

A Prayer for Shalom:


Listen to Me, you who care for the right,

O people who lay My instruction to heart!

Fear not the insults of men,

And do not be dismayed at their jeers;

For the moth shall eat them up like a garment,

The worm shall eat them up like wool.

But My triumph shall endure forever,

My salvation through all ages.

–Isaiah 51:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


 I maintain a holy family shrine in my abode.  This shrine has increased in size lately, mainly due to the addition of objects–bookmarks, Christmas cards, and various three-dimensional images of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, or two or more of them.  Some of these additions are items new to me, but mostly the growth of the shrine has been a matter of rearranging and repurposing items I have had for some time.  One of my favorite images in the shrine is of Joseph and his young son.  Such iconography is less common than images of Mary and Jesus.  I have plenty of the those but only one of Joseph alone with Jesus.

Joseph was in a delicate situation.  Yet he risked shame to spare Mary’s life.  And whispers followed Mary, Joseph, and Jesus for years, as the Gospels reflect.  But Joseph made the correct decision, and the triumph of God has endured to this point in time.

From the time of birth each of us has a set of purposes to complete in this life.  We can summarize them accurately and broadly as glorifying and enjoying God, living compassionately, and leaving our area of the planet better than we found it.  The particulars will vary according to our circumstances, or course.  May we focus on fulfilling our purposes from God and on encouraging each other, in doing the same, not on spreading rumors and questioning each other’s legitimacy.  There are no illegitimate people, whatever we may know or think we know about their parents’ timing.  We all have the same divine Mother and Father, who is God, beyond all human metaphors.









Devotion for December 25 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  Adoration of the Shepherds, by James Tissot

Seeming Paradoxes

DECEMBER 25, 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 49:1-18

Psalm 2 (Morning)

Psalms 98 and 96 (Evening)

Matthew 1:1-17


Some Related Posts:

O Blessed Mother:

A Christmas Prayer:

Blessing of a Nativity Scene:

A Christmas Prayer:  God of History:

A Christmas Prayer:  Immanuel:

Christmas Blessings:

A Christmas Prayer of Thanksgiving:

The Hail Mary:

O Little Town of Bethlehem:

Joy to the World:

Christmas Prayers of Praise and Adoration:

Christmas Prayers of Dedication:

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Christmas:

How Can I Fitly Greet Thee:


Divine agency binds the Isaiah and Matthew readings.  The Servant Song from Isaiah 49, set prior to the opportunity for exiles of Judah to return to their ancestral homeland, makes clear the theme that God is orchestrating events.  Furthermore, God’s love for Judah exceeds that of a mother for a child (verses 15-16).  We know that some mothers, especially drug-addicted ones, are inattentive sometimes.  So yes, a woman can disown the child of her womb; some have.  But God would not disown disobedient and punished Judah.

As for Matthew, we have a family tree for Jesus.  Most names are male, but notice the four women mentioned.  Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth was a foreigner, Bathsheba was so scandalous that the texts lists her as “Uriah’s wife” and does not use her name, and there were rumors regarding Mary.  There were, of course, unnamed and unmentioned women involved in all this reproduction, but the text points out only four, one of whom was a Gentile and three of which had justly or unjustly checkered sexual reputations.  If I were fabricating a story designed to make Jesus look as good as possible, I would not write the story this way.

The meaning I draw from the Matthew genealogy of Jesus today is that God works through us, regardless of our socially defined categories and stigmas, to work grace in the world.  Grace overpowers scandal, stigma, and scorn.  The “other” we despise might be an instrument of grace.  This is how God, whose love exceeds that of a mother, works among us; the first will be last and the last will be first.  Redemption arrives as a vulnerable baby.

 It is a great mystery; may we embrace it.  Merry Christmas!








Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   18 comments

Above:  Mother and Baby

(Image from here:

Each of Us is a Child of God’s Womb

(See the Isaiah reading.)

FEBRUARY 27, 2011


Isaiah 49:8-16a (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD:

In a time of favor I have answered you,

on a day of salvation I have helped you;

I have kept you and given you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages;

saying to the prisoners,

Come out,

to those who are in darkness,

Show yourselves.

They shall feed along the ways,

on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;

they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.

And I will turn all my mountains into a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.

Lo, these shall come from far away,

and lo, these from the north and from the west,

and these from the land of Syene.

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the LORD has comforted his people,

and will have compassion on all his suffering ones.

But Zion said,

The LORD has forsaken me,

my LORD has forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.

Psalm 131 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up,

my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother;

my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD

from this time on and forevermore.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

Matthew 6:24-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you– you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Did you notice the incongruity between the collect and the first reading?  The dominant gender image for God in the first reading is feminine, but the collect addresses God the Father.  These are just metaphors, so let us not become distracted by them, reifiying them and transforming them into idols.  Instead, may we look through them to the substance behind them.

Yahweh/God the Father is far removed from traditional concepts of the Mother Goddess, but the Judeo-Christian Bible contains images of God as mother.  And let us not forget the personification of divine wisdom as feminine.  Deity exists beyond gendered bounds, containing characteristics we humans associate with both males and females, with fathers and mothers.  So God is our parental figure, and we are as helpless as infants.  (This is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.)

And the truly excellent news is that God is better than any human mother or father, as the reading from Isaiah reminds us.  God is love, and love seeks reciprocation.  Love gives of itself to the point of self-sacrifice.  This describes the God I see in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Today has enough worries of its own.  I did not ponder this statement until early 2007, when the floor of my life fell out from under me.  I learned then that worrying was truly worthless, especially when life was more difficult than usual.  Instead, I crawled to God, acknowledged the obvious (my helplessness), and did not pretend to be any more than I was.  God, my mother, comforted me with maternal love and rocked me to sleep.  God, my father, extended paternal care.  Jesus, my brother, put his arm around me and supported me emotionally.  All the metaphors came into play.  And I survived another day, at which point the process started over again.



Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   21 comments

Above:  A Map of the Known World, According to Posidonius, dated 150-130 B.C.E.

“That salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6c, NRSV)

JANUARY 19, 2020


Isaiah 49:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, O coastlands,

pay attention, you peoples from far away!

The LORD called me before I was born,

while I was still in my mother’s womb he named me.

He made my mouth like a sharp sword,

in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow,

in his quiver he hid me away.

And he said to me,

You are my servant,

Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

But I said,

I have labored in vain,

I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;

yet surely my cause is with the LORD,

and my reward is with my God.

And now the LORD says,

who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

and that Israel might be gathered to him,

for I am honored in the sight of the LORD,

and my God has become my strength–

he says,

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Thus says the LORD,

the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,

to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,

the slave of rulers.

Kings shall see and stand up,

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,

because of the LORD, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.

Psalm 40:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined his ear tome and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the desolate pit,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Happy are those who make

the LORD their trust,

who do no turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after false gods.

You have multipied, O LORD my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you.

Were I to proclaim and tell of them,

they would be more than can be counted.

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,

but you have given me an open ear.

Burnt offering and sin offering

you have not required.

Then I said,

Here I am;

in the scroll of the book it is written of me.

I delight to do your will, O my God;

your law is within my heart.

I have told the glad news of deliverance

int he great congregation;

see, I have not restrained my lips,

as you know, O LORD.

I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;

I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness

from the great congregation.

Do not, O LORD, withhold

your mercy from me;

let your steadfast love and your faithfulness

keep me safe forever.

For evils have encompassed me without number;

my iniquities have overtaken me,

until I cannot see;

they are more than the hairs of my head,

and my heart fails me.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind– just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 1:29-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,

Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.

And John testified,

I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed,

Look, here is the Lamb of God!

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them,

What are you looking for?

They said to him,


(which translated means Teacher),

where are you staying?

He said to them,

Come and see.

They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him,

We have found the Messiah

(which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said,

You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas

(which is translated Peter).

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The reading from Deutero-Isaiah is the Second Servant Song.  Here the servant is the Jewish nation, still in exile, yet about to go home, albeit as part of the Persian Empire.  The soon-to-return Jews’ mission was to be a spiritual light to the nations.  Religious history records that Jewish monotheism (practiced, not merely preached) did not flower fully until after the return from Babylonian Exile, and that this flowering did not occur immediately.  But it did happen.  Monotheism is a great advance in religious thought.  (I make this statement while taking the risk of seeming like a theological chauvinist to some, but so be it.)

Just as God delivered a seemingly insignificant population and bestowed upon them the great responsibility of being a light to the nations, Jesus recognized much potential in an impetuous fisherman we know as St. Peter, or literally “rock.”  The Bible is honest about the heroes within its pages, portraying these individuals as flawed human beings.  So it is with St. Peter, who misunderstood and misspoke often, and even denied Jesus three times shortly before our Lord’s crucifixion.  Yet St. Peter became the leader of  the Apostles.  Through efforts such as those of this transformed fisherman the Christian message, which began with a few people, has become the largest faith system on the planet.

I remember the pianist at a church my father pastored when I was in high school.  Angela (not her real name) was deeply insecure, partially due to guilt over an indiscretion of a few years past.  I have no doubt that God had forgiven her, but she had not forgiven herself for her own weakness.  Angela said to me one Sunday morning that she had nothing to offer.  She was wrong, of course; she had much to offer that was beautiful and necessary.  She was no more or less flawed than any of us, than St. Peter or any of the exiled Jews awaiting return to a homeland in which they had never lived.

Maybe you, O reader, are not called to be a light to the nations.  Perhaps God has called you to be a light merely to your community.  But God has given you the great responsibility of being a positive influence and a light.  Do not hide it under a bushel.


Written on June 15, 2010