Three prophets comfort and warn
August 12 — Isaiah 9:2-7; August 19 — Jeremiah 23:1-6; 33:14-18; August 26 — Ezekiel 34:23-31By Regina Shands Stoltzfus
The Book of Isaiah opens with an indictment against Israel for its lack of faithfulness to the covenant with God (Isaiah 1:2). A particular grievance is the cleavage between religious ritual and the upholding of justice toward the poor and defenseless. If justice is not meted out to the oppressed, then worship celebrations are meaningless; indeed, they are a burden (1:17).
Yet God is sovereign and will remain faithful to the covenant. God will bring about justice. Faithfulness on the part of God’s people will pave the way to peace for all of creation (2:3).
Isaiah’s words are a reminder that defeats of the past do not limit the future. God is in control and will not abandon creation to those who seek to harm and oppress. A new ruler from David’s lineage will come and rule in perfect peace and justice.
God’s people today should also hold fast to the covenant, seeking to be faithful in worship and in deed, remembering that God will not abandon us.
God’s prophets bring words of assurance and words of indictment. The Book of Jeremiah gives a big-picture perspective of the events that led to the exile — chief among them unfaithfulness to the covenant with God.
A sign of covenant faithful-ness is justice to the alien, the orphan and the widow (7:6). Because of his harsh message to an unfaithful people, Jeremiah is scorned as a false prophet. His words are not easy to hear. In fact, the people refuse to listen to him. Other “prophets” speak a more palatable message of peace, yet it is not really peace (Jer. 8:11).
Jeremiah’s words alternate between judgment and consolation regarding political, military and social upheaval. The Babylonian empire has encroached upon Judah’s power. Babylonian military forces eventually invade Judah. They destroy Judah’s center of worship and send the rulers into exile.
Our text focuses on eventual restoration. The covenant is once again invoked, with the promise of fulfillment. Those who contribute to the destruction of God’s people will receive their due. Those who are scattered will be brought back together. Not only will they be reunited with one another, they will multiply. Righteous leaders will be raised up (23:2-4). Once again, God promises to remain faithful to the covenant established long ago with Abraham and with David.
Ezekiel’s prophecies are full of strange and fascinating visions. The mystery of God’s power and love is evident in the prophet’s strong words.
Exile is again the historical perspective. The prophet seeks to explain the suffering the people have experienced and to bring assurance of God’s faithfulness. He also speaks of renewal and restoration.
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