Isaiah 22-24; Matthew 17-18

Isaiah 22: Warnings to Jerusalem and its leaders. The warnings stem from how the leaders behaved during wartime. They apparently stopped focusing on God and spent more time focusing on their defenses. At least this is according to the notes in the CEB study bible (p. 1124 OT).

In the first part of this chapter Isaiah rebukes the leaders because they didn’t trust in God to protect them and that was their flaw. They are criticized because they trusted more in human defenses than in God’s defenses. It seems like this is why they were attacked? Little confused on this part.

The remaining part of this chapter focuses on a specific leader, Shebna, who had built a monument to himself. Isaiah tells him that God will throw him out to their enemies to be destroyed and he will be replaced by Eliakim. Isaiah then explains how Eliakim will be good for Jerusalem and the people. We learn that Eliakim will be the peg that holds everything together.

The strange part of this chapter occurs at the very end. The text suddenly shifts from proclaiming how strong and amazing Eliakim will be to accusing him of nepotism and all honor of his household will hang on his shoulders. This will be his downfall. Apparently this isn’t just confusing to me as this is what the notes say here: “The abrupt shift in tone is puzzling” (p. 1126 OT).

Isaiah 23: A prophecy concerning Tyre. There are a few interesting statements in the notes for this chapter: “…interpreters differ over its sincerity” and “translation of this chapter presents many difficulties” (p. 1126 OT). HOORAY!

Tyre is told they will be destroyed in this chapter. After a time of 70 years they will be brought back but their prosperity will not exist anymore. They will start trading again, but instead will give away their profits to those who seek God. The text compares the town to a prostitute.

I need to see when Tyre fell and how. Nevertheless, all of this death and destruction of those who don’t believe or who have lost their way.

Isaiah 24: I wrote a lot on these chapters already, but I need to include this rather lengthy note from the NRSV Study Bible notes section (p. 999). This note really helps set the tone for the next four chapters. Here we go:

24.1–27.13: Prophetic announcement of the Lord’s new world order based in Zion. Chapters 24–27 form a distinct block of material at the conclusion of Isaiah’s oracles concerning the nations. This material posits the future withering of creation (24.1–13), the downfall of an unnamed exalted city (24.10,12; 25.2,3; 26.5), the recognition of the Lord by the nations at Zion (25.6–8), and the ultimate restoration of Zion itself as the seat of the Lord’s sovereignty throughout the world of both creation and the nations. Although these chapters are sometimes called “the Isaiah apocalypse,” the themes of cosmic chaos and restoration, the resurrection of the dead (26.14,19), and the view that the future constitutes the end of time need not indicate that these chapters are an apocalyptic work; the formula “in that day” may serve as a simple reference to the future. Similarly, mythological perspectives can be used to identify divine action in the world. Rather than pointing to the end of time, chs 24–27 point to the restoration of Jerusalem in chs 25–27 following the portrayal of its period of punishment in ch 24. The frequent citation of earlier prophetic literature indicates that this material was composed at a later time, probably in the sixth century bce when the Babylonian exile was coming to an end and Jerusalem’s restoration was at hand.

The day of terror for the city of chaos. So this chapter focuses on the overall destruction of the earth and humanity at God’s hands. All because the people haven’t held up their end of the bargain with God. So much for forgiveness. WOW!

One thing that I notice is this chapter is the continuous references to nature and science in the descriptions of what will happen. This is included as a way to help the people visualize their upcoming doom. Actually an effective strategy, even for teaching.

I missed this in the beginning of this chapter but there’s also reference to the destruction of heaven, not just Earth. It’s unclear what the “forces in heaven” have done. Most likely I missed that earlier.

Here’s a screenshot of a sidebar that I want to share from 1128 OT:

This is an interesting sidebar and there are several parts in here that I make me want to know more. First, “scholars consider it to be among the last additions to the book of Isaiah. It was written after Isaiah 40-55 and parts of 56-66.” Um…how do they know this? I need to figure that part out because this is pretty big in my view. Second, “ancient Near Eastern mythic themes similar to Canaanite Baal stories occur regularly.” Where can I find those stories? When were those stories written? Obviously they must’ve been written prior to this part of Isaiah, but when exactly. This is the kind of stuff that absolutely fascinates me about the Bible. I try to relate what I’m reading to my own life and current society, but sometimes I just find myself asking “how do scholars know that,” “what does this mean,” or “where can I find more information.” I’ve argued before that asking questions plays a big role in both science and religion. Sometimes these questions are explicitly written and provided for you. Sometimes these questions arise from a reading. This is an example of the latter and to me this shows a similarity between science and religion. Cool stuff!!

Matthew 17: The beginning of this chapter focuses on a brief transformation of Jesus on the top of a mountain. He takes Peter, James, and John his brother with him. They witness this brief transformation, “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.” They also see Moses and Elijah with Jesus. Peter offers to build them shrines but Jesus tells him not to do this. The God speaks to the three disciples. At the end Jesus tells them to not tell anyone about this until he rises from the dead after three days.

There’s a lot of references to the OT in this section. Clearly the author of this Gospel was familiar with the OT when this was written.

There’s a part in this chapter where Jesus heals a boy who has epilepsy. He drives the demon out of the boy and he is cured. Just as an FYI, i want to include part of the note from the CEB study bible on this section (p. 38 NT): “In the ancient world, epilepsy was popularly called the ‘sacred disease’ because people thought it was caused by evil spirits and could be cured only with divine help.”

There are some today who believe that the only way to heal others is through prayer. I know these types of passages are probably where this thought comes from. This is definitely an intersection between science and religion. Modern medicine today has led to significant advances in healthcare. This could be an area of further exploration for my book. Perhaps exploring the actually meaning behind these types of passages will help with the parts on asking questions in faith.

The last parts of this chapter include a section on Jesus predicting his death for the second time and then his refusal to pay the temple tax, which is not required by scripture (according to the notes).

Matthew 18: There’s several different topics in this chapter. First, Jesus explains to his disciples that those who humble themselves like children do will be the greatest in heaven. He then explains that it’s important to not sin and to not lead others to sin. He talks about how God never wants to lose anyone and how he will go to great lengths to get back those who stray. This is compared to when a shepherd loses one sheep amongst 100 and the lengths the shepherd will go to to find that lost sheep. I find this tidbit from the notes to be very interesting: “Luke’s parable varies considerably; in Ma hew the emphasis is not on the shepherd’s joy at finding the lost sheep, but on his responsibility not to lose a straying sheep” (p. 1773).

We then get this little gem:

¹⁵ “If another member of the church sins against you,e go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.f ¹⁶ But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. ¹⁷ If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. ¹⁸ Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. ¹⁹ Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. ²⁰ For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Again with the implied negative view of gentiles. It’s really interesting how the message about Gentiles can change just based on the author. It makes sense to me. I just find it interesting too.

Next he talks about the importance of forgiveness, to forgive as many times as necessary, similar to what God does. He uses the parable of the slave who begged his master for forgiveness when he could not pay him back and was about to be sold along with his family and all of their possessions. The master forgive him. Then, another slave asked the first slave to forgive him for a wrongdoing and the first slave refused. The master learned of this and arrested the first slave. Jesus ended this with the following statement: “My Heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Notes from the NRSV study bible say this about Matthew 18: “The fourth discourse, on community or church. This discourse focuses on community interrelations and church discipline—specifically the need for the church to care for their disadvantaged and forgive one another” (p. 1772).

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