Showing posts from February, 2017

Subversive words in Babylon

Some of the passages from Isaiah are so familiar we almost miss the words. They're beautiful and powerful poems, but they're also a record of real speeches proclaimed on real city streets. Reading them while looking at the exile in Babylon makes me see them through different eyes. Perhaps I'll see the world through different eyes too. (42) Prophecy, Rebellion and Subversion What if reading the Bible were subversive? What if its message contradicted the rule of secular authorities—or of the religious establishment? Would we pick and choose which bits to read aloud, and leave out passages that might be “misunderstood”? Or do we already pick and choose, to suit our own preference? Isaiah has lots of wonderful passages, well suited for choruses and reminders of God’s power. But it also has passages which would have seemed terribly subversive in Babylon. Let’s start with the good and see what follows. 1.        Read Isaiah 42:1-9 then look at 1-2 So… someone who doe

What Did The Refugees Hear?

We're reading bits from Isaiah in our Bible study this week, remembering how these same passages would have been read by refugees in Babylon, and looking at how they apply to us today. Was Isaiah one prophet or many? Do we care? The words and the meaning are the same... (41) What Did Isaiah Say? There are passages in Isaiah that sound very similar to passages in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah. Scholars suggest: 1.        Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah, being familiar with Isaiah, used similar words when they saw Isaiah’s prophesies come to pass. 2.        Editors/prophets at the time of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah expanded passages from Isaiah in the light of later events. 3.        Parts of Isaiah were written in the time of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah, by prophets from the school of Isaiah, rather like painted masterpieces come from the school of famous painters. 4.        Isaiah lived to a very very great age. 5.        Isaiah really did prophecy the names of

When All Is Lost...

Doing these studies in the prophets has really driven home to me how long it took for Jerusalem to fall. But now we've reached that in-between time, when the people are exiled in Bablyon, the city and Temple are gone, and the future looks seriously uncertain and bleak. Exiled from my basement (and office), with chairs and sofa gone (where I used to read, take notes, eat lunch etc), and unsure how long it will take for me to get "home," I'm unsettled, but nothing like so unsettled as those Jewish refugees. I'm tempted, in bleaker moments, to wonder why God would care about my minor problems when so many people suffer so much. Then I remind myself, he cares about me and everyone else, and he really does have the whole world, history, present and future, safe in his hand. It just doesn't always look that way until it is history. So here's some history and prophecy, all tied together. (40) Ezekiel – when all is lost Jerusalem has fallen. The survivors are

Does 2017 feel a bit like a disaster?

2017 feels like a crazy year to me. We've been trapped by snow, inundated by rain, demoralized by water flooding our home, isolated by lack of phone, TV and internet (maybe that was a good thing), concerned for the health of friends in the US and UK, overwhelmed by politics (yes, lack of internet probably was a good thing), and generally... well... just not entirely happy about the state of 2017. But the Israelites must have felt worse as Jerusalem fell, so it's good to finally get back to our Bible studies and see a world not so very different from our own. Everything's out of control except... the truth is, God is, was and always will be in control. (39) Ezekiel’s Visions and Obadiah’s Anger It looks like there were three (or four) separate sets of exiles sent to Babylon, though they probably (for the most part) ended up living in the same area, close to the river mentioned in Ezekiel 1. 1.        Which famous prophet was probably part of the first exile? 2.