Thursday, December 12, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Isaiah 19-20 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 21)

Isaiah 19 – Oracle against Egypt: The “idols of Egypt tremble before [Yahweh]” (19:1). The people of Egypt will fight against each other and the land will be demoralized. They will be handed over to a “hard master” (19:4), and the waters of the Nile will dry up. The fishermen, flax workers and weavers will all be dejected. The leaders of the country are fools – counting on the sages (past kings consulted by necromancers).

In a passage added later, according to the footnote, Egypt’s conversion is foreseen. Five towns will learn to speak the language of Canaan; they will set up altars to Yahweh. Yahweh will reveal himself to them and will heal them. Israel, Assyria and Egypt together at the “centre of the world” (19:25) will be blessed.

Isaiah 20 – Prophecy of the capture of Ashdod, a Philistine town taken by Sargon II, king of Assyria, in 711. Isaiah walked naked as he prophesied to represent the defeat Egypt and Cush would suffer from Assyria. It will be a lesson to those in Israel who looked to them to find safety from Assyria.

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
Part 21
But there was more to it than this. The interior Christ was not just a presence, not just an aura to be engulfed in. He was an active presence. He was in us in his crucifixion. He was in us in his birth. He was in us to redeem us, to save us, to bring us back into the image and likeness of God that we had been created to reflect. As Penington put it in one of his writing, “I have met with my Saviour; and he has not been present with me without his salvation, . . .” (Penington, Early Quaker Writings, Barbour and Roberts, eds., 233).
Salvation, for Friends, was at the heart of God’s work in the world and in our lives. But salvation wasn’t something far off or distant any more than God was. It wasn’t something one came into only after death. It was something to be entered into now – a future perfection to be made real in us. Eternal life was not about before or after time for early Friends, or before or after the things in time. Eternal life was about coming into union with God by being joined to him in Christ. As John taught, “this is everlasting life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (17:3).

I didn’t see all of this in the very beginning of the turn in me. But I did see that it was possible that Christ was present in this intimate and powerful interior way, and that if I opened myself to him there, he would guide me back to life. As I opened to seeing what was going on in me and in my journey with my friend in terms of the Christian story, I began to feel this work of salvation as well. Friends used different images to name Christ’s presence and work:

He is light, opening and illuminating the way God wants us to walk and the way he wants us to understand his gospel;

He is God’s word or voice, communicating to us God’s will and letting us know the direction we should go in;

He is God’s holy seed, stirring in us, bursting through the hard ground of resistance in us and growing into a sheltering vine in which we can find life. These were the most common names Friends used to refer to Christ’s indwelling Spirit. But there were others.

He was our prophet, our high priest, our king, our messiah, our lamb, our shepherd. Virtually all of the redemptive images and figures that were part of the Scripture context pointed to some way that God’s presence and power was in and among us to lead us to life.

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