Isaiah 17-21

Good morning! In today’s passage (Isaiah 17-21), we come to appreciate our cosmopolitan, well-traveled protagonist. Isaiah is an international man of prophecy! Most of these chapters deal with oracles about what’s going on in other nations and cities around Israel. A good study Bible or commentary will help to place some of the significant images and metaphors from Isaiah’s prophecies. What I’m struck by today is that Isaiah did not have to maintain his awareness of regional, international dynamics. Plenty of Hebrew leaders had focused exclusively on the “chosen people”, ignoring all else. Yet Isaiah’s prophecies here reveal the extent to which he was involved in regional conversations and aware of the dynamics at play when the superpower Assyria started throwing its weight around the entire Middle East.

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Isaiah 13-16

Good morning! In today’s passage from Isaiah (chapters 13-16), we read a series of oracles regarding God’s judgment against the other nations that surround Judah. Chapter 13 lays out a fierce prophecy against Babylon. The writer goes into detail about the “day of the Lord”, when everything is put to right but only after a fight that illustrates how sinful human communities and societies have become. In the oracle against Babylon, we read that God will bring enemies against Babylon to unexpectedly destroy them.

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Isaiah 9-12

Good morning! Today’s reading from Isaiah 9-12 combines both hope and dread in subsequent chapters. The prophet anticipates in transcendent, memorable verses the near-term arrival of a national savior who brings peace beyond imagining, but then also describes the even more imminent judgment of God for Israel’s unrighteousness. The Hebrew people will suffer for their wrongdoings before they are delivered by an unprecedented ruler.

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Song of Songs

Good morning! Today we read all eight chapters of the book variously called the “Song of Songs” or the “Song of Solomon”. Supposedly attributed to Solomon (but with scant textual evidence to support that), this book is curious on multiple fronts. It celebrates the sensual love between an unmarried woman and her male “beloved” with an explicit sexiness that may cause one to blush. The unnamed woman has a strong speaking role, at least matching that of the male voice. A chorus of friends interjects occasionally, encouraging the breathless adoration of the couple. Finally and perhaps most curiously, this is the only book of the Bible where God is not mentioned even once.

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Ecclesiastes 6-12

Good morning! Today we finish with the rest of the book of Ecclesiastes (chapters 6-12). We’re not actually reading this (or any of the Wisdom literature) the way it is most helpfully read. Each book, chapter and verse might be better if savored in small doses as one would a strong cup of coffee. However, in reading the Bible through the way we are, we aren’t taking as much time as we could with these wisdom texts. I hope and trust that you will come back to them and reflect further as the occasion calls for in the years to come. For today, we consider the main point of “the Teacher” in Ecclesiastes: life has no guarantees but righteousness is better than foolishness. Furthermore, enjoy life while you can because hardships and death await everyone.

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Ecclesiastes 1-5

Good morning! Today we start the book of Ecclesiastes, chapters 1-5. This wisdom book offers a more skeptical, maybe even cynical, appraisal of human life and activities. Tradition suggests that King Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes much later in life, after he’d written Song of Songs as a lovestruck adolescent and Proverbs as a practical, wise ruler. I rather like the image of Solomon in his final years reflecting on the activities of his life, and the presence of God in them. This book gets to the heart of the matter. It concerns the “meaning of life” in a most explicit way.

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Proverbs 30-31

Good morning! With today’s last two chapters (Proverbs 30-31), we finish this book of sayings. These chapters are somewhat similar and dissimilar to those which we have read in the majority of the book. They try to boil down exemplary wisdom into easily digestible aphorisms which summarize basic truths. However, these chapters finish the book with more extended advice-giving and unique praise for “a capable wife”.

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