Fr. David's Lent Reflections Day 16
Here we come to the 16th 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 9:7-10:4
The Lord has sent death upon Jacob, and it has come upon Israel. 8 And all the people of Ephraim, and they that dwelt in Samaria shall know, who say in their pride and lofty heart, 9 The bricks are fallen down, but come, let us hew stones, and cut down sycamores and cedars, and let us build for ourselves a tower. 10 And God shall dash down them that rise up against him on mount Sion, and shall scatter his enemies; 11 even Syria from the rising of the sun, and the Greeks from the setting of the sun, who devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but still his hand is exalted.
But the people turned not until they were smitten, and they sought not the Lord. 13 So the Lord took away from Israel the head and tail, great and small, in one day: 14 the old man, and them that respect persons, this is the head; and the prophet teaching unlawful things, he is the tail. 15 And they that pronounce this people blessed shall mislead them; and they mislead them that they may devour them. 16 Therefore the Lord shall not take pleasure in their young men, neither shall he have pity on their orphans or on their widows: for they are all transgressors and wicked, and every mouth speaks unjustly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is yet exalted.
And iniquity shall burn as fire, and shall be devoured by fire as dry grass: and it shall burn in the thickets of the wood, and shall devour all that is round about the hills. 18 The whole earth is set on fire because of the fierce anger of the Lord, and the people shall be as men burnt by fire: no man shall pity his brother. 19 But one shall turn aside to the right hand, for he shall be hungry; and shall eat on the left, and a man shall by no means be satisfied with eating the flesh of his own arm. 20 For Manasses shall eat the flesh of Ephraim, and Ephraim the flesh of Manasses; for they shall besiege Juda together. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is yet exalted.
Woe to them that write wickedness; for when they write they do write wickedness, 2 perverting the cause of the poor, violently wresting the judgment of the needy ones of my people, that the widow may be a prey to them, and the orphan a spoil. 3 And what will they do in the day of visitation? for affliction shall come to you from afar: and to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory, 4 that ye may not fall into captivity?
For all this his wrath is not turned away, but his hand is yet exalted.
Back on the twelfth day of Lent we read from the 7th chapter of Isaiah, in which God told the king of Jerusalem that, even though the tribe of Ephraim had traitorously plotted against him, they would not prevail. In fact, Isaiah said, in just 65 years, there would be no Ephraim. In the opening of today’s reading, we hear about them again - except that the prophesy is for all of “Jacob” and the house of Israel. Here, Isaiah is calling everyone who is a traitor by the name “Ephraim” - the terrible fact is that all the tribes have become treacherous against God. And what are they saying? Their kingdom, which was made of bricks, has been destroyed, but they will re-build with hewn stones (in other words, something better). The Hebrew version of the next line says the same thing: “the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.”
What has happened? God has punished the people, but rather than repenting and returning to Him, they pledge to re-build with even better materials than they had before. The rest of today’s reading, from 9:10 (And God shall dash down them that rise up against him on mount Sion) all the way to 10:4 (For all this his wrath is not turned away, but his hand is yet exalted) describes something very different, that is, they can rebuild all they want, but God will continue to punish them, and will not relent.
They don’t get it. I think this is why Isaiah repeats the line, “For all this his anger is not turned away, but still his hand is exalted,” because he hopes that at least some of the people will understand. Will you fight against God? This is the message for us today: We can amass all the money, drink all the alcohol, fill all our time with noise all we want, but we can never escape God’s love and longing for us. Why would we want to?