Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Isaiah 15-18 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 20)

Isaiah 15 – This oracle on Moab – the mountainous region on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. In the biblical story, Moab was the son of Lot and Lot’s elder daughter. The Assyrians invaded Moab. Nebo to the north was the mountain on which Moses was said to have died. The people lament; the land is a wasteland.

Isaiah 16 – Moabite survivors ford the Arnon – boundary with Judah – and take refuge there. When the assault is over and the “destroyer is no more” (16:4), a king will be reestablished there, “a judge careful for justice and eager for integrity” (16:5). The prophet grieves for Moab; his “whole being quivers like lyre strings” (16:11). In the end this proud land will be reduced to impotency.

Isaiah 17 – Oracle against Damascus: The city will soon be a “heap of ruins” – towns “abandoned for ever” (17:1). “That day, man will look to his creator and his eyes will turn to the Holy One of Israel” (17:7). Idolatry will end, worship of gods like Adonis.

Isaiah 18 – Oracle against Cush (Ethiopia), which then was in control of Egypt: They are a nation that is “mighty and masterful” (18:2) but it will not always be this way. They will one day turn to Yahweh too on Mt. Zion.

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
Part 20
I had had the knowledge of Christ but had missed the connection, and now that I was seeing the connection and the relevance, the knowledge seemed much more credible. How could I have been so willing to set aside these experiences and memories? How could I have turned my back on the life He had begotten in my heart?

Early Friends addressed such questions too, and the answers they gave seemed right to me. There was also  “that in us” that did not want to respond to God, a part of us that was much more comfortable with the answers the world gave. Francis Howgill, one of the early Friends I liked the best, wrote of this with insight as well:

         It [Christ’s word in you] has often checked and called, but you
have not answered its call, and so have chosen your own way, and so have gone from the way, which is the light of Christ in you. And so you run into the broad way; and that which desired after God hath not been nourished and fed, but hath been famished and another hath been fed, which now is for the slaughter. But now as you return home to within, to the true Light of Jesus, which is that one thing, which leads all men that own it, and to be guided by it, you shall have true rest and peace (Howgill, Early Quaker Writings, Barbour and Roberts, eds, 175-176).

This was true. I too had famished the part of me that had desired after God, and I had fed the doubting parts. I too had rushed into the “broad way” – the popular way – of my generation, the way of ideology and political theorizing, the way of psychology and scientific “positivism,” the way of doubt and skepticism of all tradition and truth. Now I wanted to “return home” as these early Friends had done, to “own” the light again and be guided by it to a place of “true rest and peace.” God had been pouring his spirit out on me my entire life, and I had not received Him in a way I could build on, but now I would. I felt my heart respond to the idea of returning to Christ:

O that I might now be joined to him, and he alone might live in me! And so, in the willingness which God had wrought in me, in this day of his power to my soul, I gave up to be instructed, exercised and led by him, in the waiting for and feeling of holy see, that all might be wrought out of me which could not live with the see, but would be hindering the dwelling and reigning of the seed in me, which it remained and had power (Penington, The Light Within, 6).

This was the way back – waiting for and feeling for his “holy seed,” listening for his voice to instruct me, seeing the things in me that “could not live with [it] but [that] hinder[ed] the dwelling and reigning of the seed in me.” This was the way Friends pointed toward. It was just as present to us as it had been to Quakers in seventeenth-century England and to Christians in first-century Jerusalem.

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