Isaiah 2:1-5 • Psalm 122 • Romans 13:11-14 • Matthew 24:36-44
In the first and second chapter of Isaiah, the prophet ‘sees’ God’s word concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In chapter one, what Isaiah ‘sees’ is the wickedness of Judah, and in Jerusalem, he ‘sees’ the degenerate nature of the city and the inhabitants. Statements such as ‘Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire’, [you are a] ’sinful nation’, [you are a] ‘people laden with iniquity’ and [have] ‘offspring who do evil’, on top of this, the city of Jerusalem is called a ‘whore’ who was once ‘filled with justice.’ God’s response is to hide his eyes and cover his ears. The call is for the people is to ‘cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.’ Then, in chapter two following our focus passage, Isaiah ‘sees’ a condemnation on the arrogance of those who reject God’s truth yet maintain an image of religiousity. Squeezed in between these two messages of warning and condemnation God tells, and shows, the prophet what Jerusalem will be. The prophesy of a city where truth will be learned and go out to other cities and nations. A place where ‘peoples’ of all nations and backgrounds will gather and a time where peace will be sought and taught. Isaiah is planting the seeds of a personal relationship with God, a non-geographical personal faith founded on God’s work and grace that will spring forth from within each follower, regardless of location, heritage or background.
Psalm 122 (Responsive Reading)
Psalm 122, said to be written by King David, is one of fifteen Psalms called the Songs of Ascent. The songs are thought to have been sung by the worshippers or or priestly singers on their way up to Jerusalem. Psalms such as this were a special treat centuries later to the Israelites who were in exile in Bablylon as they remembered the city of Jerusalem and the constant hope for joy and peace.
Romans is Paul’s instruction to the church teaching faith and, therefore, how to live life as faithful followers of Christ. In this passage, Paul is urging the followers to ‘get to it,’ to jump with both feet in and start living what they believe. The telling factor in the passage is not so much what is in it but, instead, what precedes it. After you read verses 11-14 go back and read verses 6-10 to see what Paul is telling the followers of Christ to start doing in their lives. Paul is telling the Christians to start loving each other which is the sum of all he has taught – ‘Love,’ Paul says, ‘is the fulfillment of the law.’
The gospel of Matthew, which gives the most extensive account of Jesus’ life and teachings, was written around eighty years after the birth of Jesus. Matthew was written about a decade after the gospel of Mark. As the two books were being written every aspect of life, religion, and faith was in different stages of turmoil. When the gospel of Mark was shared the Jews were in a brutal revolt against the Romans; Matthew was written after the revolt had been defeated by the Romans and the temple had been destroyed. Mark was written to Christ followers who were living with an earthly hope for change while still having the intuition of their Jewish existence still a reality; Matthew was written to Christ followers who had seen much of the foundational Jewish religious practices, and leaders, gone and now the hopes for a return of Christ seemed a futile fantasy. God’s leading in the writing of Matthew was to give a broader big picture look which included the Old Testament, a larger look at the life and teachings of Jesus, the return of Christ, and eternity all tied together. Our passage for this week is preceded by an emphasis on the return of Jesus – in their current state of increased oppression by the Romans, the followers of Christ are becoming increasingly skeptical of such a victorious event as Jesus’ return. While our small passage has an undeniable eschatological (end times, Jesus’ return, ‘Parousia’) emphasis, there is much more applicable truth to this teaching from Christ than the mere message of rapture theology (the interpretation that followers of Christ will be mysteriously taken to heaven prior to the difficult events of Jesus’ return). This passage is a strong encouragement to believers to live now and to not stop living their lives in the midst of their faith.