Friday, January 6, 2017

Isaiah 28: Warm Blanket or Cold Straight Jacket

In Isaiah 28:11-13, there are three “voices” (persons) talking. The first is that of Isaiah. The second is that of Jehovah (as quoted by Isaiah), and the last is that of disobedient, wayward Israel (also as quoted by Isaiah). Each “voice” has a separate inflection because of the context. Isaiah’s narrator voice (speaking for himself) is sharp and pointed. He is understandably upset because those whom he is delivering the message to are not mere commoners, they are the leaders. Jehovah’s voice is a calm, comforting, reassuring one. This is because Isaiah is quoting a previous statement of Jehovah when he was at peace with Israel. Finally, the third voice, that of the disobedient national representatives, is a complaining, bitter one. Compounding it, is that fact that Isaiah is mocking the words of the disobedient ones. We might imagine a frustrated parent mockingly quoting their complaining children to their very face: “I don’t want pick up my toys, I don’t want to do my homework, I don’t want to….”

Looking at this passage as a whole, we see a contrast. Jehovah views the rules and lifestyle that he’s given the nation as a spiritual “resting place,” one of “refreshment.” It is sort of like he is wrapping them in a cozy, warm blanket straight out of the drier. However, Israel is acting like a child with an attitude (a bad one). Instead of seeing a warm blanket, they perceive it as a cold straight-jacket that restrains them from moving around like they want. (How many parents can recount when they told their child to put on a warm jacket before going outside, but the child complained because it restricted their mobility.) The Israelite’s perception was unwarranted and selfish. Decades later, when asked, Jesus said that the whole law and the messages delivered by the prophets can be summed up by two commands: 1) Love Jehovah sincerely, wholly. 2) Love our fellow humans as we do ourselves. Rightly, the apostle John concluded in his first letter (1 John 5:3) that “this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”

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