Monday, December 9, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Isaiah 11-13 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 18)

Isaiah 11 – The coming Messiah will spring from the stock of Jesse [David’s father]. The “Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (11:2). 

He will not judge by appearances. Integrity will be his loincloth and faithfulness the “belt about his hips” (11:5). He will bring the peace of Eden: “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all” (11:6).

“In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world” (11:10). He will bring back the scattered people of Judah and end the enmity between Judah and Ephraim. “The Lord will make a dry path through the gulf of the Red Sea. He will wave his hand over the Euphrates River, sending a mighty wind to divide it into seven streams so it can easily be crossed on foot” (11:15).

Isaiah 12 – A hymn of thanksgiving is offered up to the Lord. The anger of the Lord has been appeased. “The Lord is my strength and my salvation” (12:2). “With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!” (12:3)

The great things the Lord has done shall be made know to all the world.

Isaiah 13 – This oracle on the kingdom of Babylon is about the judgment God will bring on them for their offenses: “I will punish the world for its evil-doing, and the wicked for their crimes, to put an end to the pride of arrogant men and humble the pride of despots” (13:11).

While the title and occasion reference make Babylon the target, the language of the oracle is more general – more world-wide. Towards the end, the city of Babylon seems more specifically the topic. The introductory note to the chapter says that the oracle was likely written during the exile.

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
Part 18
I don’t remember exactly how it started to change, but suddenly I began to see that this was a way of seeing the cross, a way that illuminated what we were going through day to day, what we were hoping for and waiting for. I was familiar with Christian language and teachings, but I had never heard of Christ spoken of in these terms. He had always been presented as an outward thing to me, a person crucified for sins long ago, or off in heaven somewhere at the right hand of God, wherever that was, or present in the Eucharist or in some other thing or place that was always outside of me. But Friends said Christ was in me. His crucifixion was something to be joined with in the depths of my being. What he was going in my life now was what he had come to do in history, and he was inviting me to be joined to him, to trust as he did in his Father to bring forth something good in his own time. It was startling to me to think of Christ as something present in me. Later, when I came to study what early Friends had taught, it was apparent that they had been started at the thought too. The following is Isaac Penington’s account of his own “convincement”:

         The Lord caused his holy power to fall upon me, and gave me such
an inward demonstration and feeling of the seed of life, that I cried
out in my spirit, This is he, this is he, there is not another, there never was another. He was always near me though I knew him not, not so sensibly, not so distinctly, as now he was revealed in me, and to me by the Father. (Isaac Penington, The Light Within and Selected Writings, 6).

I had experienced the nearness of God many times in my life: helping me overcome a tangle of lies so I could start life fresh in a new place, comforting me when I felt rejected or strange living apart from my parents, strengthening me when I was afraid of going to sleep, speaking to me out of the night sky when I needed my grandfather to not die, whispering to me in the words of a great poem. He was always near me though I knew him not, not so sensibly, not so distinctly, as now he was revealed in me . . .

On the simplest level, what I came to see and then to experience as I let my defenses down and opened myself to the possibility that God and Christ might be real and present to me in this interior kind of way were the two fundamental things early Friends taught: that the Christ of history, the Christ who suffered crucifixion and rose again—the light and word of God that John spoke of in his gospel—dwelled really and palpably in the depths of every human person, and that this Christ was not in us to merely be a presence or aura of some kind, but was a power working in us to redeem us from the spiritual death that is the “normal” or “natural” state of our existence in this world. Christ dwells within you, and he is there to lead you to life.

This was the Quaker Message—the early Quaker message.

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