Saturday 03 December 2016

Bible Book:

“Over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” (vv. 5-6)

Isaiah 4:2-6 Saturday 3 December 2016

Psalm: Psalm 66


We return to the theme of the remnant, which again is viewed asa sign of hope and future glory. After a period of suffering andjudgement, those who remain will be sanctified and "recorded forlife" (v. 3). In his commentary on Isaiah, Alec Motyer says of theseverses, "How truly surprising is the saving work of the Lord! Howcontrary to expectation and desert!"

The verses between yesterday's passage (link) and today's (Isaiah2:6 - 3:26) are largely condemnatory of Israel and its socialconditions, but now we reach a passage of great hope. "On that day"does not spell foreboding (as in Amos8:9; 9:11) but is filled with the hope of a glorious future."Branch" (v. 2) is a symbol which recurs in Isaiah and also inJeremiah, and is associated with the hoped-for Messianic figure.This branch will be both beautiful and glorious - and will bearfruit. Israel, often compared to a vineyard, will again befruitful, a cause for pride and glory amongst those who survive toinhabit the purged, restored city. More than just fruitful, theremnant will also be regarded as "holy" (v. 3) - a word whichshares its root with righteousness, so Jerusalem will finally bethe "city of righteousness" referred to in Isaiah1:26.

Read with modern sensibilities, there are many verses in the OldTestament, and here in Isaiah, where the way in which feminineimagery is used is unpalatable. Verse 4 speaks in harsh language ofthe sins of Jerusalem and speaks of the "filth of the daughters ofZion". The Women's Bible Commentary draws attentionto this "trajectory of sexualising social evil and projecting itdisproportionally upon women" and continues, "Such a practice bymale writers, less threatened by either personal violence or socialmarginalisation, is particularly offensive". However, it concludesthat "it is possible to reject the imagery and still hear thejudgement against consuming the spoils of oppression".

Verse 5 looks both backwards and forwards - back to the Exodusexperience when God guided the nation through the wilderness in apillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, and forwards as itanticipates God's presence similarly resting over the whole site ofMount Zion in cloud, smoke and flame. The imagery now is beautiful,of God as a canopy over God's people, providing shade from the heatand shelter from the storm (verse 6). In the Exodus, the Lordcamped amongst the people but was not accessible to them for thedivine glory was overwhelming; a feature of the new creation willbe full access into the shelter of God.

To Ponder

  • Many towns and cities in the UK today are becoming Cities ofSanctuary (which includes the idea of a human canopy inits logo). Do you think this has any resonancewith the imagery of Jerusalem as a "city of righteousness" and withthe image of God as a shelter? In what ways?
  • What tools can we use to best interpret for today those partsof the Bible which seem offensive or discriminatory againstparticular groups?
  • In all you do today, try to visualise the presence of God as acanopy of shelter around you. How might this make todaydifferent?
Previous Page Friday 02 December 2016
Next Page Sunday 20 November 2016