Fr. David's Lent Reflections Day 15
Now we come to the 15th day of our Lenten journey, God bless you as you travel the path to the Cross and to our Lord’s resurrection. Our reading from scripture is Isaiah 8:13-9:6.
Sanctify ye the Lord himself; and he shall be thy fear. 14 And if thou shalt trust in him, he shall be to thee for a sanctuary; and ye shall not come against him as against a stumbling-stone, neither as against the falling of a rock: but the houses of Jacob are in a snare, and the dwellers in Jerusalem in a pit. 15 Therefore many among them shall be weak, and fall, and be crushed; and they shall draw nigh, and men shall be taken securely. 16 Then shall those who seal themselves that they may not learn the law be made manifest.
(Let me stop here for just a few words - there is more to the reading, but the different parts of today’s reading need some explanation. This part, Eusebius of Caesarea says, is an account of God’s instructions to the prophet himself, not to the people generally. God told Isaiah that he should try to keep himself as holy as possible in the midst of his unfaithful generation. God told Isaiah that He would be a sanctuary for him, not something that trips him up, but a place of protection. The next four verses do the same thing - they are for Isaiah and the faithful of the land, who are very few. The people have been given the written law because they otherwise cannot hear the voice of God - and yet they don’t even pay attention to the law. Instead they “seek those who have in them a divining spirit.” I am always amazed when I talk to Orthodox Christians who seek wisdom outside the Church - from contemporary writers, from other religions, or TV, and so on. What is lacking in the teachings and instruction of the Church? Nothing at all. It’s all there for those who are willing to seek and find. But let’s continue with the reading:)
17 And one shall say, I will wait for God, who has turned away his face from the house of Jacob, and I will trust in him. Behold I and the children which God has given me: and they shall be for signs and wonders in the house of Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells in mount Sion.
19 And if they should say to you, Seek those who have in them a divining spirit, and them that speak out of the earth, them that speak vain words, who speak out of their belly: shall not a nation diligently seek to their God? why do they seek to the dead concerning the living? 20 For he has given the law for a help, that they should not speak according to this word, concerning which there are no gifts to give for it.
(Again let me pause for a moment: now the next section is written specifically for the people - bad news followed by good:)
And famine shall come sorely upon you, and it shall come to pass, that when ye shall be hungry, ye shall be grieved, and ye shall speak ill of the prince and your fathers' ordinances: and they shall look up to heaven above, 22 and they shall look on the earth below, and behold severe distress, and darkness, affliction, and anguish, and darkness so that one cannot see; and he that is in anguish shall not be distressed only for a time.
Drink this first. Act quickly, O land of Zabulon, land of Nephthalim, and the rest inhabiting the sea-coast, and the land beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: ye that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you.
(We see this same quotation concerning St. John the Baptist in St. Matthew’s gospel [4:12-17] - - Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper′na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb′ulun and Naph′tali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zeb′ulun and the land of Naph′tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But let’s finish today’s reading:)
The multitude of the people which thou hast brought down in thy joy, they shall even rejoice before thee as they that rejoice in harvest, and as they that divide the spoil. 3 Because the yoke that was laid upon them has been taken away, and the rod that was on their neck: for he has broken the rod of the exactors, as in the day of Madiam. 4 For they shall compensate for every garment that has been acquired by deceit, and all raiment with restitution; and they shall be willing, even if they were burnt with fire.
5 For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him. 6 His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end: it shall be upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to support it with judgment and with righteousness, from henceforth and for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.
Brothers and sisters, when our sins lead us to destruction, God provides a way of restoration and healing. Does He miraculously swoop in and solve all our problems? Not always - He did something better. Let’s hear his solution one more time: For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him. 6 His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end: it shall be upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to support it with judgment and with righteousness, from henceforth and for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.
There it is: Jesus Christ is God’s gift to us that provides a way of restoration and healing.