Daily Old Testament: Isaiah 1-2 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 13)

Introduction to Isaiah: Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament, says that Isaiah lived in the kingdom of Judah. Amos and Hosea prophesied in the northern kingdom. He began his ministry around 740 BC and continued at least for 40 years.

 

Threatened by Assyria, King Hoshea of Samaria wanted to rebel against Assyrian dominance (with the king of Damascus) in 734 BC. They asked Judah’s king Ahaz to join them, but when he refused, they attacked him first – fearing he might come at them while they were trying to rebel. Ahaz foolishly and desperately called on Assyria to aid them against Samaria. They did beat Israel and Damascus but the price was high. Israel was partitioned and King Ahaz became a vassal of Assyria and had to pay huge tribute money.

 

Later, Ahaz’ son, Hezekiah, would try to free himself from Assyrian rule. He revolted in 705 BC – in 701, Sennacherib besieged Judah, took all the major cities and surrounded Jerusalem (see chapters 36-37). It ends with a miraculous plague that wipes out the Assyrian army.

 

Isaiah 1 – Isaiah, son of Amoz, prophesies concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Yahweh says to him that the sons He [Yahweh] has reared have rebelled against him. While even the stupid ox or ass knows its owner and its place on earth, God’s people seem to know nothing. They are full of sin, “weighed down with guilt” (1:4), and they have turned away from their God. “[T]he whole head is sick, the whole heart grown faint” (1:5).

 

The “daughter of Zion” (the city of Jerusalem) is like a besieged city. Only a few are left. Why has all of this come to pass? God is “sick of holocausts of rams and the fat of calves” (1:11). He is sick of “New Moons, Sabbaths, [and] assemblies” (1:13). He wants this people removed from His sight.

 

What is God demanding? “Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow” (1:16-17). If only they do this, God will turn and cleanse them: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (1:18).

 

In Jerusalem, integrity has been lost. “All are greedy for profit and chase after bribes” (1:23). God will turn his hand on Israel and “smelt away [her] dross in the furnace” (1:25). The judges must restore integrity to the city.

 

Isaiah 2 – Isaiah envisions a time of peace in the “days to come” (2:2) when “all the nations will stream to [the mountain of the Temple of Yahweh], peoples without number” (2:3), and they will go to learn the ways of God.

 

“He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war” (2:4). We are invited to “walk in the light of Yahweh” (1:5).

 

The House of Jacob has not been faithful – they “bow down before the work of their hands, before the thing their fingers have made” (2:8). But what is “mortal” [of man] must be humbled (2:9). When Yahweh arises “to make the earth quake” (2:21), man will fling his idols into the crevices.

 

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism

Part 13

In February, my second child, a little girl, was born. Shortly after, I called the Quaker woman I had met and found out where Friends met in town. I needed to bring some kind of spiritual something into my life. I didn’t really believe in all the doctrinal paraphernalia religion involved, but Friends did not have any of that. I wanted my children to have a spiritual community to be part of as well, and Friends seemed to fit this bill. So I started to go.

 

Raleigh Friends had no formal Meeting House. They met in an old, refurbished house near downtown Raleigh. The ten or fifteen people who attended Meeting there simply sat in chairs in a circle in what had once been the living room of this house. On the walls there were a few posters that proclaimed Friends’ faith in “that of God” in every man and in the power of peace and kindness; other than that, there was no “religious” message proclaimed here. My friend had told me that Friends, while Christian in their beginnings, were not strictly Christian any longer, that people believed all kinds of things. The one common thing, however, was belief in an indwelling Spirit that people looked to. People did not sing in Meeting or pray. Now and then someone would feel “moved to speak," to share a thought or concern, but it was a quiet Meeting. I liked that it was quiet. I brought the children with me—sat my son on my lap and put my infant daughter on a blanket on the floor next to me. They were the only children there most of the time. There was no organized childcare, no “First Day School” as they call it. After ten or fifteen minutes of silence, I would take the children out, go upstairs with them where they could play with a few toys and have a snack. People were good about offering to take the children out and watch them so I could experience the Meeting, but more often that not I took them out myself. I remember thinking how silly it was for me to come and then be the one to take them out to give them a “Sunday school” experience—me, who had not the first notion of what to say to them about religion. But I like the little bit of Meeting I was able to experience. I appreciated the peace and stillness in a way I hadn’t expected, and I respected the people there.

 

For two years, I attended Quaker Meeting in Raleigh, enjoying the silence and the people who went. I shared the group’s social concerns for peace, equality, and justice, and my husband didn’t mind my going or taking the children. He shared the concerns for justice that Quakers had. He just felt no desire to go to Meeting.

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