As we draw closer to Advent and Christmas the prophet Isaiah features more and more in our readings. This week we have 2 different Isaiah readings – one that follows a story and the second that brings us back to the beginning of the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah was an 8th century BCE (Before the Common Era) prophet and begins the period known as the Latter Prophets and is sometimes known as the prince of prophets. There is much discussion as to whether Isaiah wrote all 66 chapters of this book. Isaiah’s main words warn of Israel’s sin leading to their capture and exile at the hands of Babylon. Isaiah is also known for the prophecy of the Messianic age, a king descended from David who will reign in righteousness.
In our readings this morning chapters 36 and 37 tell of the army of Assyria coming to defeat the Israelites. Here an Assyrian official stands before the people and attempts to sway them onto the side of Assyria by giving them a speech that is dripping with propaganda and fake news. It is full of satire and irony, it is insulting and threatening. He underplays the strength of Jerusalem, boasts of the Assyrian abilities, mentions the horrors of a siege and even refers to King Hezekiah’s recent, possibly unpopular reformation of worship in Judah. He belittles everyone in Jerusalem and the God of Judah. It is a loud and arrogant challenge, repeated in Hebrew to rub it in.
Our reading finishes with Isaiah 2:1-4, which uncovers a different rumour, a rumour of glory. There is a bright city on a hill, not besieged but with open gates though which the whole world comes because there is found truth that is not fake. This is said of one of the smallest cities of the day, one that was often besieged with the rumour of disaster, yet it is called a city on a hill—lit like a beacon.
Fake news can be revealed with the light of truth, the light of Christ and in this light we can know what it means to be a loved people called to love with the love of Christ.
Isaiah 2 also contains the image of swords being turned into plowshares. We have that image in one of the groups of stained-glass windows, and it is the image we’ve used for the front of the pewsheet. With the memory of the wars from last Sunday, and particularly the memory of those events occurring around us almost daily, turning swords into plowshares is the truth we would want to come.
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