Friday, August 19, 2011

Let us reason together

"Come now, let us reason together saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

Isa. 1:18, KJV

The first book of Isaiah contains some of the Hebrew Bible's most beautiful passages. There are worrisomely dark clouds of judgments and calls to repentance--a promise of redemption. At once threatening and consoling, the portrayal of God is remarkably textured and subtle.
Michelangelo's Isaiah
image courtesy of wikimedia

The texts are not primarily aimed to individuals, but to the people as a whole--to the nation.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

Isa. 9:6, KJV

Christians (for them, quite correctly) see this latter passage as prophecy of the Christ (Messiah), but the original sense was about God's redemption of Israel. The terms are striking and wonderful. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light..." (9:2).

Apart from the original meanings (whatever they were) and from those Christianity found in these passages, these texts reverberate with 'divine' energy. They combine starker judgment than we modern liberals like to express, but they situate judgment in compassion and care that exceeds our imaginations.

Much current discussion about God is more certain--more strident--than can be supported by Isaiah's claims. These texts call us to a less certain and more dynamic sense of the divine.

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