Archive for the ‘Isaiah 38’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 18, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Exorcising a Boy Possessed by a Demon

Image in the Public Domain

Glorifying God, Not Ourselves



The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Judges 15:9-20

Isaiah 38:10-20

Matthew 17:14-21


The LORD is at hand to save me;

so let the music of our praises resound

all our life long in the house of the LORD.

–Isaiah 38:20, The Revised English Bible (1989)


The story in Isaiah 38 is that God has extended the life of King Hezekiah of Judah by fifteen years.  The monarch, grateful that he is no longer at death’s door, writes a poem (the end of which I have quoted above).  Unfortunately, in the next chapter, he shows off to an emissary of the king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (not yet a threat to Judah), prompting the ire of God and Isaiah:

Isaiah said to Hezekiah:  “Hear the word of the LORD of Hosts:  The time is coming, says the LORD, when everything is your palace, and all that your forefathers have amassed till the present day, will be carried away to Babylon; not a thing will be left.  And some of your sons, your own offspring, will be taken to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”  Hezekiah answered, “The word of the LORD is good,” for he was thinking to himself that peace and security would last his lifetime.

–Isaiah 39:5-8, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Book of Judges speaks of Samson’s connection to God.  The vivid translation in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) refers to the spirit of the LORD gripping him immediately prior to a feat of physical strength.  Such is the case in Judges 15:9-20.  The spirit of the LORD grips Samson in verse 14.  Samson kills a thousand Philistine men with the jawbone of an ass in verse 15.  In verse 16, however, Samson fails to give credit to God:

Then Samson said:

“With the jaw of an ass,

Mass upon mass!

With the jaw of an ass

I have slain a thousand men.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Samson was, as the Book of Judges presents him, a dolt who lived to satisfy his id.  Nevertheless, God worked through him, and he was aware of that reality.  Would giving credit to God when credit was due have been so difficult?

The pericope from Matthew 17 became more interesting the deeper I delved into its background.  The Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the canonical Gospels, dating to no earlier than 67 C.E.  It is one of the sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, both of which contain the “Markan spine,” elaborate upon it, and add material from other sources.  Thus a version of a story from Mark is usually pithier than a version of the same story from Matthew or Luke.  That statement does not apply to Matthew 17:14-21, which is abbreviated from Mark 9:14-29.  It is as if the author of Matthew wanted to get to the point.  He has also changed the meaning of the story from a statement to Christology to the background for a pronouncement regarding the power of faith, faith meaning trust in divine power, in this case.

The pericope from Matthew 17 indicates that the Apostles could not heal the boy, whom the culture said was moonstruck, or afflicted by the moon goddess Selene, because they had insufficient trust in the power of God, which was available to them.  They could have done more, via divine power, of course, had they been more confident in God.

Martin Luther, a morally troublesome character in many ways, was correct much of the time.  For example, his advice when baptized people questioned their salvation was to trust in the faithfulness of God.  That counsel applies to other circumstances also.  And, as we trust in divine faithfulness, may we glorify God, not ourselves.







Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 18, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jericho, 1925

Above:  Jericho, 1925

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-14127

Jesus and Genocide

SEPTEMBER 6 and 7, 2021


The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 6:1-21 (Monday)

Joshua 8:1-23 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 38:10-20 (Both Days)

Hebrews 11:29-12:2 (Monday)

Hebrews 12:3-13 (Tuesday)


I twitter as if I were a swallow,

I moan like a dove.

My eyes are raised to heaven:

“Lord, pay heed; stand surety for me.”

–Isaiah 38:14, The Revised English Bible (1989)


One principle of allegedly holy war in the Torah is to kill entire populations and to destroy all property–for the glory of God, not for one’s own gain.  This was the principle which Achan, a Hebrew warrior, violated when he claimed some souvenirs from Jericho, hence the trouble in Joshua 7.  That chapter tells us that the Israelites did not conquer Ai until they had executed Achan and his family (what had they done?) and burned the souvenirs.  The effect of these deeds, according to Joshua 7, was to nip the contagion of sin in the bud.

The author of Hebrews 11:29-12:13 seemed to have a mixed attitude toward violence in the name of God, for he glossed over the violence of the conquest of Canaan while condemning the violence of those who oppressed Jews and Christians.  That author invited his audience to follow the example of Christ in enduring trials.  We should, the author wrote, endure suffering for the sake of discipline–a nice tie-in to Isaiah 38, part of the story of King Hezekiah of Judah.  Nevertheless, discipline is not mass murder or the killing of innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I consider the example of Jesus and apply it to Joshua 6-8.  What would Jesus do?  Would he have impaled the King of Ai on a stake, as in Joshua 8:29?  Against which population would our Lord and Savior authorized genocide?

I am a realist.  Yes, some violence becomes necessary for positive purposes because some people have made it so.  Likewise, some violence becomes inevitable for the same reason.  Nevertheless, I suspect that most violence is both avoidable and needless.  It flows from sinful human nature, not the decrees of God, and many people seek to justify their sinful violence by dressing it up as righteousness.  May we–you, O reader, and I–prove to be innocent of that offense all our days.








Week of Proper 10: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  King Hezekiah with the Prophet Isaiah

The Mercy of Flexibility

JULY 15, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Isaiah 38:1-6, 21 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In those days Hezekiah fell dangerously ill.  The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him,

Thus said the LORD:  Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die; you will not get well.

Thereupon Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD.

Please, O LORD, he said, remember how I have walked before You sincerely and wholeheartedly, and have done what is pleasing to You.

And Hezekiah wept profusely.

Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah:

Go and tell Hezekiah:  Thus said the LORD, the God of your father David:  I have heard your prayer, and I have seen your tears.  I hereby add fifteen years to your life.  I will also rescue  you and this city from the hands of the king of Assyria.  I will protect this city.

…Isaiah said,

Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the rash, and he will recover….

Psalm 6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger,

do not punish me in your wrath.

2  Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak;

heal me, LORD, for my bones are racked.

3  My spirit shakes with terror;

how long, O LORD, how long?

4  Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;

save me for your mercy’s sake?

5  For in death no one remembers you;

and who will give you thanks in the grave?

6  I grow weary because of my groaning;

every night I drench my bed

and flood my couch with tears.

7  My eyes are wasted with grief

and worn away because of all my enemies.

8  Depart from me, all evildoers,

for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.

9  The LORD has heard my supplication;

the LORD accepts my prayer.

10  All my enemies shall be confounded and quake with fear;

they shall turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Matthew 12:1-8 (An American Translation):

At that same time Jesus walked through the wheat fields, and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of wheat and eat them.  But the Pharisees saw it and said to him,

Look!  Your disciples are doing something which it is against the Law to do on the Sabbath!

But he said to them,

Did you ever read what David did, when he and his companions were hungry?  How is it that he went into the House of God and that they ate the Presentation Loaves which it is against the Law for him and his companions to eat, or for anyone except the priests?  Or did you ever read in the Law how the priests in the Temple are not guilty when they break the Sabbath?  But I tell you, there is something greater than  the Temple here!  But if you knew what the saying means, ‘It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for,’ you would not have condemned  men who are not guilty.  For the Son of Man is master of the Sabbath.


The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 10:  Friday, Year 1:


King Hezekiah of Judah received much positive press in the Bible.  He “did what was pleasing to the LORD,” “abolished the shrines and smashed the pillars and cut down the sacred post.”  (2 Kings 18:3-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)  And, in the words of 2 Kings 18:5-6 (also from TANAKH), Hezekiah

trusted only in the LORD the God of Israel; there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him.  He clung to the LORD; he did not turn away from hallowing Him, but kept the commandments that the LORD had given to Moses.

So “the LORD was always with him.”  (2 Kings 18:7a, TANAKH)

This day’s reading from Isaiah 38 occurs in the context of 2 Kings 20, to which it bears many similarities.  In Isaiah 38 we read of God giving the king advance notice of his impending death, Hezekiah weeping “profusely,” and God extending the king’s life by fifteen years.  Back in 2 Kings 20, God then tells Hezekiah of the impending Babylonian Exile, to which Hezekiah says to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.”  At least safety was assured for his time, he thought.  (2 Kings 20:19)

What are we supposed to make of this story?  I have checked some sources, and what follows is some of what I found.  The note in The Jewish Study Bible reads,

Contrition accompanied by prayer can effect a change in God’s decision.

The Orthodox Study Bible quotes Saint John Cassian (circa 360-circa 435):

What can be clearer than this proof that out of consideration for mercy and goodness the Lord would rather break His word, and instead of the prearranged limit of death, extend the life of him who prayed for fifteen years, rather than be found inexorable because of His unchangeable decree?

The NIV Study Bible note affirms both the sovereignty of God and the appropriateness of prayer.  The New Interpreter’s Bible stresses the connection between the well-being of Hezekiah and that of his realm, for God delivered both of them from the Assyrian king, a blasphemer.

Thus Hezekiah’s personal recovery is the working out of God’s will in microcosm.  (Volume III, page 271)

Now I bring the reading from Matthew 12 into consideration.  (If you, O reader, follow the the link to the Year 1 counterpart to this post, you will find more details about that lesson.)  Jesus says in Matthew 12:1-8 that God desires mercy, not sacrifice.  In so doing he quotes Hosea 6:6.  Keeping the Sabbath, or Lord says, ought not to entail involuntary hunger.  Spiritual “purity” is not holiness when it imposes needless physical hardships on others.

Putting these two readings together and pondering their meanings leads to a beautiful lesson.  Mercy is a greater virtue than rigid consistency.  God modeled this lesson with regard to Hezekiah, and Jesus demonstrated it relative to Sabbath laws and the need to eat properly each day.  People and their needs matter far more than abstract rules.

Here is a lesson which is applicable in many circumstances in daily life.  I strive to live according to it in my work as a teacher.  (I hope that I succeed more often than I fail.)  Being a decent human being (in my case, as a Christian, for Jesus and the glory of God) is preferable to acting like an inflexible person who quotes syllabus provisions in a lawyer-like fashion while students suffer unnecessarily.  Grace is a wondrous gift; may we extend it to others without pretending that no rules mean anything and that there are no consequences for misdeeds.  This is the balance I must strike:  respecting the efforts of pupils who obey the rules while not treating every error as if it is a proper cause of catastrophe.