Monday, January 19, 2009
So, I finished Isaiah.
Not an easy book. And made slightly more difficult because Isaiah doesn't do us the kindness of making himself clear with the details -- like who is speaking? What does this prophecy refer to? Where does this prophecy end and the next one begin. I have friends who read Isaiah and consider the whole book mush -- a little like something you'd get if you put your whole dinner into a blender. Hard to tell what was steak and what was apple crisp.
But remember, Isaiah didn't really have the details either. He just tells us what God says, in no particular order, with little or no understanding of the events he portrays.
So, when I read, it helps me to think of Isaiah as a pile of transparency sheets. (remember those from the days of overhead projectors?) On each sheet is a complete, or nearly complete photograph. However, when you layer all the photos on top of one another, the result would appear as a composite of all the photos -- because you could see through the empty space on photo A all the way to the details on photo C.
It would be a little like a photo created in a blender!
Not easy to figure out, right?
Still, rather than throw the whole thing out, choose to focus on the events you do recognize. For instance, I found this in the last chapter...
"Before the birth pains even begin, Jerusalem gives birth to a son. Who has ever seen or heard of anything as strange as this? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? Has a country ever come forth in a mere moment? But by the time Jerusalem's birth pains begin, the baby will be born; the nation will come forth. "Would I ever bring this nation to the point of birth and then not deliver it?" asks the LORD. "No I would never keep this nation from being born," says your God."
Anyone who has studied the history of present-day Israel knows that the nation did indeed come forth on a single day. After WW I, the League of Nations granted the British a mandate in Palestine, which was populated largely by Arab muslims (outside Jerusalem) and Jews in the city. The mandate included the purpose of providing a safe haven for Jewish emigration. After WW II, displaced Jews from all over Europe fled their old lives to begin again in the region of Jerusalem. As the population swelled, the Palestinians worried about the new emigrants. Tension increased. The Arabs wanted to drive the Jews out. The Jews saw independence as the only route to safety. The demand for an independent Jewish nation rose to a mighty roar.
Knowing that the Palestinians were armed, the British set a date to withdraw. They had NOT allowed the Jews to arm themselves. The scene was set for a bloodbath between the Jews and the Palestinians. On May 14, 1948, the day before the British Mandate was set to end, the Jewish Agency declared their independence.
Within 24 hours the Jewish state was born. When the British withdrew, the war between the Arabs and Jews became a fight for survival which has erupted in various forms over the intervening years.
A nation in a single day. It happened. Against all odds, the unarmed (officially), untrained, unorganized emigrants declared themselves a nation, and when the ensuing war began, they proved Isaiah correct.