Jeremiah 1-2

Good morning! Today we start the book of Jeremiah, in my judgment second only to Isaiah for its scope and significance in the prophetic canon. Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem near the end of Judah’s independence, while it was fighting Assyrian forces and eventually losing to the overrunning armies of Babylon. The main arc of Jeremiah’s message (and of the verses which scholars think were added to it later) is that temple worship and adherence to Jerusalem will not save Judah. Only adherence to the earlier Mosaic customs and the law as set forth in Deuteronomy will help Jerusalem resist its enemies. This message comes through with chapters of poetic judgment at the beginning of the book, followed by narratives in later chapters about the events of Jeremiah’s life. In today’s passage (Jeremiah 1-2) we read of Jeremiah’s call as a young boy, and then his first utterances critiquing the leaders of Jerusalem for idolatry.

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Isaiah 61-66

Good morning! We have an embarrassment of riches today in these last six chapters of Isaiah (61-66)! There’s much that we could dwell on, and indeed preachers have, since several sections of these chapters come up in the calendar of readings (lectionary) that many churches use. But so that you can go ahead and focus on the texts themselves, let me just mention one overarching theme I see: human hunger for the newness that God will provide.

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Isaiah 55-60

Good morning! We are nearly at the end of our read through Isaiah, and today we enter what’s called “Third Isaiah”. Some biblical scholars think that Third Isaiah starts with our first chapter today (55), while others say it begins with 56 (and still others deny the division altogether). This third part is supposed to date from the time after the Jews returned from Babylon and were rebuilding Jerusalem. Though I can’t find many details here to support that hypothesis (maybe more tomorrow), the key feature I note today is a back and forth between the people’s sins and God’s righteous benevolence.

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Isaiah 47-50

Good morning! Today in Isaiah 47-50 we hear a little bit about how Babylon will fall at God’s hand, but more about how God remains the steadfast protector of Judah throughout everything that transpires. Women’s experiences shape some of what this prophet says, and we read several passages about the “suffering servant” that echo with significance in the time of Jesus and beyond.

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Isaiah 40-42

Good morning! Today we start the middle section of this first book of the prophets. If First Isaiah was written before the time of the exile, Second Isaiah seems to have been written in the time when the people of Israel were held in Babylonian captivity, longing to return to their homeland. Isaiah 40-42 offers comfort to the people, promise that God will deliver them, and focus on the servant of God who will show the way home.

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Isaiah 36-39

Good morning! Today we move into prose again from the poetry that is the style of most of the prophets. These chapters (Isaiah 36-39) describe episodes in the reign of King Hezekiah that involve Isaiah the prophet. Today’s stories are familiar, for we read about them in the Kings and Chronicles accounts about King Hezekiah’s reign. The question this passage raises for me is one of divine agency: does God truly control the public and private events in a person’s life, as is described in these chapters?

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Isaiah 33-35

Good morning! In today’s reading (Isaiah 33-35), we encounter one vision of “end times” after another. There is breathtaking promise in these texts, but also terror for those who are not redeemed or “saved”. The question I bring to this passage is whether it is possible to envision an ultimate future that doesn’t involve some losers as well as the winners.

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Isaiah 29-32

Good morning! Have you heard the phrase, “suffer fools gladly”? I’ve heard it in the context of someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and so is harsh on those who act thoughtlessly. Today in Isaiah 29-32, God does not “suffer fools gladly”, and the prophet speaks out on God’s behalf. Even though the near-term message of Isaiah is hard to handle, its ultimate goal is to deliver fools and wise alike into a day of promised peace.

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