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.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Seven Woes

Daily Readings
Psalm 4 Genesis 4 Isaiah 10:1-4a; 5:8-24 Acts 4

Daily Text: Isaiah 10:1-4a; 5:8-24

Seven Woes
Today’s reading and that of January 6, in particular, demonstrate the random way that prophecies were joined to scrolls as particular prophecies came to light. Scrolls were far from being as handy as a three ring binder. Since Barth, 10:1-4a has been considered the 1st of seven woes, the other six being in 5:8-24.
Seven woes. The 1st is against rulers who devise iniquitous laws. Prophecy and politics are inextricably intertwined throughout scripture. That prophets spoke out against crooked politics and politicians is what made them noteworthy. Presumably the priests also taught morality, but they did not speak out against the public evils of the day. If greed and power are the motivators for war abroad, as they most certainly almost always are in the case of aggressors, then injustice against the poor and the helpless is its counterpart at home. Example: Iraqi oil and the possibility of long term military bases in a secular state for the United States, and at home tax cuts for the wealthy and program cuts for the poor. The 2nd woe is aimed at those who absorb properties surrounding their own into large estates, leaving the original smallholders without house or field. This certainly could have been part of the iniquitous laws being promulgated within the first woe. The 3rd woe attacks a party-going elite who place pleasure, including music, feasts and wine, at the center of their daily existence. This would not be acceptable in a state governed by God. The 4th woe is pronounced against those leaders who are so exalted that they taunt even God, encouraging Him to hurry up and show them what he plans for Israel! They drag their iniquitous and pretentious behavior along behind like a heifer on a rope (New English Bible). The 5th woe is defined not philosophically, that is, by saying that good is evil and evil is good, but by doing away with all accepted public moral behavior and substituting abhorrent behavior in its place. Examples are found in our newspapers daily. The 6th woe is against those who pursue disastrous policies within the government—policies that are legal, though immoral-- and then have the temerity to call them wise. Ruin will be the inevitable result. The 7th woe is against those who count themselves heroic simply by the amount of wine they can consume. Drinking buddies are not usually interested in righteousness. And here the prophet excoriates those who drink and accept bribes to protect the guilty while ignoring the outcome for the innocent. What an amazingly astute description of life in every power-oriented society in all times and places. Any wonder that God feels the need to destroy his vineyard?

Man’s Inhumanity to Man
Robert Burns

Many and sharp the num’rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And Man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn,--
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

Collect for the Day
You give us prophets, holy God, to cry out for justice and mercy.
Open our ears to hear them, and to follow the truth they speak, lest we support injustice to secure our own well-being. Give prophets the fire of your Word, but love as well. Though they speak for you, may they know that they stand with us before you, and have no Messiah other than your Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. Amen.
Book of Common Worship, p. 819, #68


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