Holy Holy Holy! Isaiah 1, commentaries

Holy Holy Holy! Isaiah 1, commentaries

Year 2, Week 14, Saturday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

God is Holy

 And one called to another and said:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory.””          Isaiah 6:3

The holiness of God overwhelms the prophet Isaiah. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the reality of God is revealed to him, as the Seraphim cry out: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the God of Hosts”. God is. He is entirely what he is. By the grace of God, Isaiah knows the integrity of God, that he is generosity, freedom and clarity. God is just and true, without limitation or division. Therefore, nothing unjust or untrue, nothing inconsistent or ambiguous can withstand him. The divided heart cannot resist the purity of his presence. The sheer majesty of God makes all things worthy of him, or else unmakes them, consumes them, and eliminates them.

At first Isaiah is overwhelmed by this sight. Once he is purified, he becomes God’s messenger.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Monday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Hear the word of the Lord,you rulers of Sodom!Listen to the teaching of our God,you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?says the Lord;I have had enough of burnt offerings of ramsand the fat of fed beasts;I do not delight in the blood of bulls,or of lambs, or of goats. …learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”             Isaiah 1:10-11, 17

Isaiah perceives God as thrice holy. There is no aspect which is not holiness. In his inmost substance he is holy. Therefore, God requires that all be holy.

For that reason, the Most Holy is angry with the rulers of Judah; he calls them ‘Sodom’. They seem holy in one respect – their service of God – but are unholy in another: their treatment of the people. Therefore, all is wicked. The Holy will have nothing to do with their sacrifices, their festivals, their pilgrimages, their prayers. These are repulsive, because the orphan and the widow and the oppressed have not been served.

The All-Holy requires that all aspects of life be holy. He will be no one’s favourite. He requires that the poor be served before he is worshipped. Because the rulers are unjust they will be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah, wiped off the face of the earth.

 

 Year 2, Week 15, Monday                                       Glenroy 1976

The blood of the dead

Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me,I am weary of bearing them.When you stretch out your hands,I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers,I will not listen;your hands are full of blood.”     Isaiah 1:14-15

The New Moons, the Sabbaths, the Assemblies were of divine institution. In the majestic theophany of Sinai, God had commanded Moses to ordain them. Yet now he says: “I cannot endure festival and solemnity.” They performed the duties of religion with care, yet God says: ‘Your New Moons and your pilgrimages I hate with all my soul’. God gives the reason: “Your hands are Covered with blood”. The prosperity of Israel was built on the sufferings of widow and slave, of orphans and the poor. The injustice of their social life cancelled the justice of their religious life.

The words of the prophet, so strong in the past, are strong in the present. Christians have their Masses, our Easter and Christmas seasons. They perform the duties of religion in the church and at home; they say rosaries, perform penances during Lent, contribute to parish needs and sacrificial offering. They perform the duties of religion with care. But is there blood on their hands? Not the blood of the living, but the blood of the dead. Are their works of religion just a means of keeping the system going, of keeping this world as it is, of holding God at bay. Are their works of religion only a way of supporting the status quo. Do they do look for the completion of time, for the kingdom of heaven and the resurrection of the dead? They should first seek the kingdom of God and the world to come, the completing of things and the resurrection from the dead, and the rest will be given them.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Tuesday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

“Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, 4and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.”          Isaiah 7:3-4

The holiness of God cannot abide infidelity.

Pekah, the king of Israel has sided with the foreigner, Rezin, king of Aram, to wage war against his own flesh and blood, Ahaz king of Israel. The treachery of brother against brother, fellow worshipper against co-religionist, is an act of treachery that is offensive. The fidelity of God must overwhelm the infidelity of the northern king.

Therefore, Isaiah is sent to give heart to Jerusalem. He does so with a sign. He takes his own son, Shear-jashub. The fidelity of father to son is the sign of God’s fidelity to Jerusalem and indeed to Ahaz. The bonds of brotherhood may  have been broken, but the bonds of father and son are stronger. God will be faithful to the king who is as a son to him. The king and the people with him, like the young boy Shear-jasnub, must stand with their father, God. Together they will form an alliance which is inevitably victorious over the invading kings

 

Year 2, Week 15, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

Inspiration

“If you do not stand firm in faith,you shall not stand at all.”           Isaiah 7:9

Aram and Israel have conspired to invade Judah, to destroy the house of David and parcel it out. Ahaz is tempted, therefore, to make an alliance with Egypt. But Isaiah forestalls him, and God says: “If you do not stand by me you will not stand at all.” Ahaz and Judah are to find their strength in God, not in alliances.

Today’s world is at war with chaos and disease and poverty. If human beings place their hope in human ability alone, they will not stand at all. They will create a society more terrible than ever. Those without divine inspiration will succeed for a while, but being blind, will eventually makes mistakes. Out of chaos they will create disaster. By contrast, those by whom God stands with his inspiration will discern the right thing to do at the right time. Those who are of God – they are the future, able to  master all problems.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire.”      Isaiah 10:16

God condemns the kings of Judah because they have been unjust towards the orphan and the widow and have tried to bribe God with sacrifices. He curses the King of Israel and his ally, the King of Aram because they have been unfaithful to their brother the King of Judah. Now he rejects Assyria because it has refused to remain as the instrument of God’s rage and has set about making plunder for its own sake.

How is it that the holiness of God expresses itself so vehemently? Is not our God full of mercy and compassion?

The holiness of God cannot cohabit with sin. The fidelity of God undermines infidelity. His truth cannot compact with the lie. He is without compassion to those who have no compassion, and his pity does not extend to the pitiless. Holiness requires holiness; mercy demands mercy. God requires holiness and when it is lacking  “a burning will burn like a consuming fire”.

 

 Year 2, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Burwood 1984

Arrogance

When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says:For he says:“By the strength of my hand I have done it,and by my wisdom, for I have understanding. … Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts,will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,and under his glory a burning will be kindled,like the burning of fire.”        Isaiah 10:12-13, 16

Assyria was sent as executioner to punish the people, to be an instrument of healing, to redress the balance and re-establish harmony. Yet Assyria has overstepped the mark. The powerful nation has been deluded by its success and has turned into its own master. “By the might of my arm I have done this, and by my own intelligence, for understanding is mine.”

In our own day, medical research seems to be repeating the folly of Assyria. For surely medicine is a godly work. Yet some have overstepped the mark. Those sent to heal with their surgery and their medicine have gone on “cutting nations to pieces without limit”. Medical research has explored areas that pertain to other fields, “pushing back the frontiers and plundering the treasures” that are to be known by other methods.

Therefore, will the fate given to Assyria be in store for medicine: “The Lord is going to send a wasting sickness of his stout warriors”? Will medicine, the most prized of sciences, be esteemed as treacherous and inimical to mankind?

 

Year B, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Oakleigh 1978

Good and evil

 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger – the club in their hands is my fury! … Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled,like the burning of fire.”       Isaiah 10:5, 16

The ‘rod’, the ‘club’, how can these be the tools of a God of love? Disease and famine, plague and ignorance, how can these be the work of God?

Yet the harm that arises can be of God as much as the good. The contradictions of life can sometimes be justified by the results to which they lead, by that goal beyond pain and pleasure, beyond our ideas of good and evil, by that state of the highest good which is the only true good.

In this way, God leads out of one condition which is called ‘good’, through a method which is deemed ‘evil’, to another condition which is truly good. Or again, the process of change to a truer good may be called ‘punishment’, ‘correction’ or even ‘education’. Whatever analogy or word we wish to use, God is leading to the highest good, beyond good and evil, to himself.

Therefore, he is good, even he who “burns like a consuming fire”.

 

Year B, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Glenroy 1976

 Problem of evil

Against a godless nation I send him,and against the people of my wrath I command him,to take spoil and seize plunder,and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. …When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it,and by my wisdom, for I have understanding.    Isaiah 10:6, 12-13

Assyria conquered Israel. Did this mean that the gods of Assyria were more powerful than the God of Israel? Did it mean that the Chosen People was misled in its belief that God would protect and preserve it?

Isaiah replies that Assyria is more powerful, not because other gods lead it, but because the one true God has sent it to punish his own People. “I sent him to a godless nation”. Assyria is more than permitted; it is sent and commissioned. Israel suffers because of its sins. God does not condone Assyria. Assyria has failed to see itself as the tool of God. It has said: “By the strength of my own arm I have done this”. For its arrogance and blindness, it too will be destroyed.

The problem of evil triggers a crisis of faith. Does God really exist? Does it mean that mankind is misled into believing in the existence of a good and loving Creator?

God does not simply permit ‘evil’. He sends it. What can be seen as evil is not a proof of his non-existence but of his intention to lead to fullness of life. Evil is a sign of imperfection, false paths, wrong choices. From this suffering God will bring good.

  

Year B, Week 15, Thursday                                      Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!For your dew is a radiant dew,and the earth will give birth to those long dead.”                 Isaiah 26:19

Having expressed his anger at the people of Judah, at the king of Israel and at the nation of Assyria, God now relents. Even so, his anger was an act of mercy.

To punish is to free. To punish is to redress the balance and to bring peace. Of course, if the sin is total, the punishment cannot cease, and therefore cannot lead to lasting peace. To refuse to punish is to refuse peace. To punish is to acknowledge a relationship. It is an act of claiming. Therefore, even punishment can be an act of love. When the punishment comes to an end, peace is re-established. Punishment undoes the sin and so liberates from sin.

For that reason, Isaiah ends with a note of hope: “Your dead will come to life”.

 

Year B, Week 15, Thursday                                    Glenroy 1976

Birth of the new city

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!For your dew is a radiant dew,and the earth will give birth to those long dead.”                 Isaiah 26:19

Isaiah has witnessed the destruction of Israel, has seen both the innocent and the guilty driven into exile or slain in the fields. He laments and grieves. Yet he sees the sufferings of his people as a sort of childbirth. Nothing is more painful than childbirth; nothing is more fruitful. The oppression of captivity is not evil but sacral and fruitful.

Of its every nature, Christian life involves a battling with the world, a dissatisfaction with sin and injustice. Christians writhe, for they are giving birth. They recreate the world, fashioning the seed that is in them. Yet, as Christians labour and endure, they do not leave the presence of God. They labour and give birth to the future city, they raise the dead, peopling their city with the just of every age. God’s fidelity to them overflows. And the child, the new city to which they give birth, knows in all fullness the saving power of God.

 

Year B, Week 15, Friday                                         Glenroy1976

The power of the Word

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city.“This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: See, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.”  Isaiah 38:4-8

Isaiah, the mouthpiece of God, shows the power of God. He proclaims Hezekiah’s death, saves him from Sennacherib, restores his life, and even reverses the movement of the sun. He has power at every level.

The Word focuses the light of the Spirit upon a point already enlightened by the Spirit. It is great force, for blessing or for condemnation. The Church has no weapons except this strongest weapon. The Church has no sword but the word, indeed the Word, Jesus the Prophet.

Enlightened and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Church is tasked to  bless and condemn, uproot and plant.

 

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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