Daily Old Testament: Isaiah 33-35 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 30)

Isaiah 33 – Woe to the plunderer who has never been plundered himself. They will suffer what they have inflicted on others. “He who acts with integrity, who speaks sincerely and rejects extortionate profit, who waves away bribes from his hands, shuts suggestions of murder out of his ears and closes his eyes against crime; this man will dwell in the heights, he will find refuge in a citadel built on rock” (33:15-16).

 

Isaiah 34 – A prophesy about the end of Edom. Yahweh is angry with all the nations and has “marked them down for slaughter” (34:2). The land is “drenched with blood” (34:7) and “it shall lie waste age after age” (34:10). Over it “Yahweh will stretch the measuring line of chaos and the plumb-line of emptiness” (34:11).

 

Isaiah 35 – An ironic word – “Look, your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; he is coming to save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy” (35:4-5). Those Yahweh ransoms shall return to Zion “shouting for joy” (35:10).

 

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism

Part 30

Another “Quaker notion” that can be found in Catholic spirituality is the idea of “continuing revelation”. I have mentioned it several times. In a way, Catholics understood continuing revelation way before Quakers ever entered the scene. They simply called it tradition. Tradition and continuing revelation are grounded in the same belief—that God is not an artifact of history. He is as active today in the lives of his faithful as he was in the lives of the holy men and women of old, the ones we read about in the Bible. And he is active in the corporate life of his church, just as he was active in the creation of the universe, the history of his chosen people, and in the life of his Son. His wisdom is not confined to the Scriptures, though they are a product of his Spirit in a uniquely helpful way. But the men and women of Scripture are just men and women like us. God’s Spirit led and opened truth to them, and it does to us as well—not everyone in the same measure, but everyone nevertheless. We could not know God at all unless we had his Spirit in us:

 

“These things [things that are part of God’s wisdom] God

has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches

everything, even the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:10).

 

But continuing revelation is not just an individual phenomenon, not even mainly an individual phenomenon. It is primarily corporate. It is something the gathered people work out together over time, not something any one believer can definitively discern. When Christ promises that the Advocate will be sent to teach the disciples everything (John 14:26), it is possible to interpret this as applying to each one individually, but it makes more sense to see it as a promise that runs to the group, to the body they will become together. Clearly it did not take long for the church to hold that the guidance of the Holy Spirit Christ bestowed upon them belonged in some more reliable sense to the corporate body and in particular to its bishops than it did to individual members (not that individual members could not claim a measure of this same spiritual guidance). So when the church set out to discern truth in controversial areas such as the conflict between Hebrew and Hellenic Jews at the First Council of Jerusalem, it was a corporate task, not an individual one. Similarly, when controversy arose as to what writing Christians should look to as authoritative and which were to be given less weight, it was a council of the church that made the final judgment. That is how the Scriptures most Protestants take as solely authoritative came to be assembled and canonized. It is on the authority of the councils and the church that organized them that the authority of Scripture must rest in the last analysis. Had the church as an institution lacked the guidance of the Spirit, one could hardly argue that the judgments of the councils they called should be respected.

 

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