Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, January 15, 2006

In A Night

Daily Readings
Psalm 13 Genesis 14 Isaiah 15 Acts 13

Daily Text: Isaiah 15

In a Night
Kaiser quotes Procksch as saying that Isaiah 15 and 16, the oracle against Moab is ‘the problem child of exegesis (interpretation) [472:60]. The author is unknown, the historical period is guessed at from the 9th century to the 2nd century B.C., the enemy, or should we say, agent of destruction, is unknown, only that the populace fled generally south. From the lament, taunt song, we know that whatever happened, happened in a night, and the whole country from the Arnon in the North to the Wadi of the Willows in the South was affected simultaneously! Sounds like a natural phenomenon of some sort and yet in 16:8 ‘the lords of the nations’ are mysteriously mentioned. What has happened is uncertain, what is certain is that this proud people are reduced to a vagabond lot without any sign of resistance in the passing of one night! It makes 9/11 seem like child’s play. There is probably not even the possibility of the land sustaining anyone after this night. Even the poet’s heart ‘cries out for Moab’ and the poet is from another people.
In the final verse, however, God speaks up. The disaster seems total, a remnant only is left, and God says, “yet I will bring upon Dibon even more—a lion for those of Moab who escape, for the remnant of the land” [verse 9b]. The God of Jacob has no sympathy. This is not the simple report of a great disaster; this is a prophecy of destruction for the evils of a people. What sets it aside for a special look is that the description of the destruction is sympathetic. It is difficult to step back and see that at least the God of the universe sees it as necessary.

God Prays
Angela Morgan

Last night I tossed and could not sleep.
When sodden heavens weep and weep,
As they have wept for many a day,
One lies awake to fear and pray,
One thinks of bodies blown like hail
Across the sky where angels quail;
One’s sickened pulses leap and hark
To hear the horror in the dark.

“What is Thy will for the people, God?
Thy will for the people, tell it me!
For war is swallowing up the sod
And still no help from Thee.
Thou, who art mighty, hast forgot;
And art Thou God, or art Thou not?
When wilt Thou come to save the earth
Where death has conquered birth?”

And the Lord God whispered and said to me,
“These things shall be, these things shall be,
Nor help shall come from the scarlet skies,
Till the people rise!
Till the people rise, my arm is weak;
I cannot speak till the people speak;
When men are dumb, my voice is dumb—
I cannot come till my people come.”

And the Lord God’s presence was white, so white,
Like a pillar of stars against the night.
“Millions on millions pray to me
Yet hearken not to hear me pray;
Nor comes there any to set me free
Of all who plead from night to day.
So God is mute and Heaven is still
While the nations kill.”

“Thy people have travailed much,” I cried,
“I travail even as they,” God sighed.
“I have cradled their woe since the stars were young—
My infant planets were scarcely hung
When I dreamed the dream of my liberty
And planned a people to utter me.
I am the pang of their discontent,
The passion of their long lament;
I am the purpose of their pain,
I writhe beneath their chain.”

“But Thou art mighty, and need’st no aid.
Can God, the Infinite, be afraid?”
“They, too, are God, yet know it not.
‘Tis they, not I, who have forgot.
And war is drinking the living sod,”
Said God.

“Thy people are fettered by iron laws
And each must follow a country’s cause
And all are sworn to avenge their dead—
How may the people rise?” I said.
And then God’s face! It was white, so white,
With the grief that sorroweth day and night.

“Think you I planted my image there
That men should trample it to despair?
Who fears the throe that rebellion brings
Hath bartered God for the will of kings.”

“Help them stand, O Christ!” I prayed.
“Thy people are feeble and sore afraid.”
“My people are strong,” God whispered me,
“Broad as the land, great as the sea;
They will tower tall as the tallest skies
Up to the level of my eyes,
When they dare to rise.
Yea, all my people everywhere!
Not in one land of black despair
But over the flaming earth and sea
Wherever wrong and oppression be
The shout of my people must come to me.
Not till their spirit break the curse
May I claim my own in the universe;
And this the reason of war and blood
That men may come to their angelhood.
If the people rise, if the people rise,
I will answer them from the swarming skies
Where Herculean hosts of might
Shall spring to splendor over night.
Blazing systems of sun and star
Are not so great as my people are,
Nor chanting angels so sweet to hear
As the voice of nations, freed from fear.
They are my mouth, my breath, my soul!
I wait their summons to make me whole.”

All night long I toss and cannot sleep;
When shattered heavens weep and weep,
As they have wept for many days.
I know at last ‘tis God who prays.
407:1745

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