Daily Reader for Day 397: Isaiah 9 - 9

by Greg Burdette

“The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” -Isaiah 9:7b

If you had to come up with an overall theme for the book of Isaiah, this phrase would be a pretty good choice. Isaiah, more than any other prophet in the Old Testament, takes a view of history that is radically God-centered. In chapter 7, when king Ahaz won’t ask the Lord for a sign, God gives him one anyway. In Isaiah, the foreign empires of Assyria and Babylon are merely God’s instruments of judgement against Israel. Even the prophet Isaiah himself moves to the background of the book pretty quickly. We rarely hear firsthand accounts from him, and by chapter 40, he does not show up by name at all. Instead, it is God who is speaking and acting, in judgement and blessing, to Israel and the nations.

I think this is a very rare perspective today. Instead, ours is a materialist view of history (and our lives). When things in our lives go well, we look for ways in which we can take responsibility for them. What are the things that we have done that have caused us to be so successful in this? Or, when things go poorly, we seek to hone in on the primary cause, whether it’s something that we did or (more likely) something that others did. Then we work as hard as we can to make sure that it never happens again.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with trying to learn from our mistakes or successes. However, often behind this desire is an assumption: it’s all on me. Whether things succeed or fail, whether we solve this problem or not, it’s ultimately on us. This tends to produce tremendous anxiety-driven activity.

Isaiah and the Incarnation are a strong critique of this view. They invite us to peek into the heavenly throne room to see what real action, what lasting change, actually looks like. Salvation, for Israel and for the nations, does not come through any program, process, power, or plan of humans. We are far too lost, far too frail to accomplish that. It is only by the zeal of the Lord, and the incarnation of the Son of God himself that salvation will be accomplished.

In Advent, we are given the opportunity to move from a man-centered focus on what we have done and are doing to improve ourselves, our communities, and the world. Instead, we get to focus on (and rest in) what the zeal of the Lord did and is doing through the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.

Isaiah 9 - 9

9:1  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

   The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
  those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
  You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
  they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
  For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
  For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
  For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
  and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
  on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
  with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

  The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,
    and it will fall on Israel;
  and all the people will know,
    Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
    who say in pride and in arrogance of heart:
  “The bricks have fallen,
    but we will build with dressed stones;
  the sycamores have been cut down,
    but we will put cedars in their place.”
  But the LORD raises the adversaries of Rezin against him,
    and stirs up his enemies.
  The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west
    devour Israel with open mouth.
  For all this his anger has not turned away,
    and his hand is stretched out still.
  The people did not turn to him who struck them,
    nor inquire of the LORD of hosts.
  So the LORD cut off from Israel head and tail,
    palm branch and reed in one day—
  the elder and honored man is the head,
    and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;
  for those who guide this people have been leading them astray,
    and those who are guided by them are swallowed up.
  Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men,
    and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows;
  for everyone is godless and an evildoer,
    and every mouth speaks folly.
  For all this his anger has not turned away,
    and his hand is stretched out still.
  For wickedness burns like a fire;
    it consumes briers and thorns;
  it kindles the thickets of the forest,
    and they roll upward in a column of smoke.
  Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts
    the land is scorched,
  and the people are like fuel for the fire;
    no one spares another.
  They slice meat on the right, but are still hungry,
    and they devour on the left, but are not satisfied;
  each devours the flesh of his own arm,
  Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim devours Manasseh;
    together they are against Judah.
  For all this his anger has not turned away,
    and his hand is stretched out still.


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