Wednesday 06 January 2016

Bible Book:

Psalm: Psalm 72


Today is the feast of the Epiphany on which we remember thevisit of the wise men to the Christ child and this is why thispassage is set for today: here are references to the gifts of thewise men; here is explained the presence of camels in the nativityscenes that we have just packed away; here the Gentile (non-Jewish)nations pay homage, prefiguring the universal salvation offered inJesus Christ (verse 6). Here too is soaring poetry that draws onimages of light and dark, of glory and brightness, of gathering andradiant restoration - images that have funded the Christianimagination over the centuries as it has tried to articulate thescope and impact of Christ's incarnation.

The word 'epiphany' means manifestation or appearance orrealisation that God is amongst us. In its original context thisexhortation of Isaiah's was addressed not to those who expected aChrist-child, but to those who had returned to Jerusalem after theexile. Scholars mostly believe that the last 11 chapters of Isaiahbelong not to the period of the Babylonian exile like chapters40-55, nor to the 8th century BC like much of the early part ofIsaiah. Although here, the hopes expressed are in continuity withthose of the previous chapters, Third Isaiah is addressing a newcontext in which a new community has been gathered and now needs torebuild the heavenly city.

This is not only a matter of rebuilding the walls and thetemple, however. In the chapters prior to this one there are sharpwords for those who fail to keep the Sabbath, who get drunk and whokeep religious festivals but fail to see justice done for the poor.Rebuilding the heavenly city, therefore, becomes not about bricksand mortar so much as being about obeying God's commandments toclothe the naked, feed the hungry and break the bonds ofinjustice.

Celebrating the feast of the Epiphany might draw upon theimagery of Third Isaiah but it needs not only to enjoy the dazzlinglight but to engage with the Christ, who in continuity with the Godof the restoration, brings good news to the poor.

To Ponder

  • Which of the images of restoration in this passage do you findmost powerful?
  • What hymns and songs can you think of that draw on the imageryof this passage?
  • What do you think is the relationship between breaking thebonds of injustice and God's glory?

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