Isaiah 58:1-12 • Psalm 112 • 1 Corinthians 2 • Matthew 5:13-20
Isaiah 56-66 is often referred to as ‘Third Isaiah’ as it focuses on the Israelites as they return to the promised land following the exile. The first section is basically the rebuke and warnings to the Israelites, the second emphasizes the work of God and his work through the surrounding the nations. In our Isaiah 58 reading, in the third section of Isaiah, we see the prophet explaining the futility of heartless religious actions. The people are understandably confused as they see a practice of ‘fasting’ as being a holy undertaking but Isaiah calls them to a ‘life fast’. This fast is a change of perspective, attitude and, especially, the way they live and interact with others. It is a call to show their reverence in the practice of their life.
Psalm 112 (Responsive Reading)
Psalm 112 seems to be a companion to the previous Psalm 111. The earlier Psalm focuses on the actions of God while the later Psalm’s focus is on us. Both of these Psalms are (in their original language) acrostic poems, each containing twenty-two lines – each line beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 112 can also be seen as a companion to the ‘blesseds’ taught by Jesus in Matthew 5. Also, in Matthew 5 we saw that all but two of the ‘blessed’ contained ‘will’ happens (ie. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted) in Psalm 112 we see the results of acting as God leads having a result on their (our) descendants. Basically, Psalm 112 is a call to act like God, it is another reminder of God’s new/old baseline. It is a baseline that leads us to the promise of peace in our lives regardless of our situations or circumstances (for a refresher, or first look, at the Matthew 5/Micah 6:8 new/old baseline go to https://vimeo.com/388950378). The Psalm ends in verse 10 with an address about the wicked. Although this verse gives a honest warning about those who may oppose the follower of God it also gives a comforting message about their eventual, and minimal, impact. It is also important to note how little space is given to the wicked as opposed to the teachings to/for the follower of God.
1 Corinthians 2
The church at Corinth was divided in almost every way possible, but, in chapter two, the apostle Paul addresses a division that seems to be at the core of their divisive state of being. Paul begins by reminding the church that, he himself, had stuck to the foundational teaching that Christ was crucified for all of them and that they all needed Christ to be crucified for each of them. The greek grammar used actually says that Christ was, and is, crucified. This means that Christ sacrificed to achieve what no one at the church in Corinth could achieve but also, his sacrifice continued to be a work on, and in, each of those who were a part of the church. He is telling them that they are all the same and each came to Christ with the same need that they were unable to fill (Salvation). Then, Paul begins to address the core problem at the church which was a spiritual and theological arrogance. There were those who were ‘spiritual elitists’, they felt that they knew more about God and that they had a stronger connection with God. This led to arrogant attitudes of superiority, condemnation, and judgement for the elitists and to an insecurity and shame on the part of everyone else. Paul gives the church, all of the church, an introductory lesson on the basics of wisdom and the true source of wisdom (as opposed to human arrogance). Much of the other divisiveness at the church at Corinth grew out of this idea that there were those in the church that were superior and that the remainder were inferior. This also often led to a frequent blanket acceptance of the teachings and statements of the elitists by those who lived with this insecurity.
Jesus continues his sermon, following the ‘blesseds’ by addressing the mundane acts of life and living. Previously, we saw the necessity of recognizing our own inability to be, and to become, saved apart from God, Jesus now begins by comparing us to salt, cities and light. Salt that gets its taste from God, cities built up by God, and light which has its source in God. Following this, Jesus, make a definitive statement that he did not come to abolish God’s baseline that has been established since before time and communicated throughout time. The baseline, which we often refer to as ‘the Law’, tells us how to live and relate to God, his creation, and to others. Jesus says that not only did he not come to abolish the law but actually he came to fulfill the law. The impossibility of living out the law in our human state is part of the ‘poor in spirit’ definition; that inability leads us to a dependency on and in God. To continue with this statement of ‘fulfilling the law’, in our reading next week, we will hear Jesus proclaim that the Law is actually not strong enough, he will take and the define the law with an even greater set of boundaries.