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

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Heavenly Retribution

Psalm 37:19-42 Genesis 32 Isaiah 34 Mark 2

Daily Text: Isaiah 34

Heavenly Retribution
Edom represents the world of nations in this prophecy. The whole world is to heed the Holy One of Israel, for he is enraged over their hoards. One imagines that this hoarding is not simply the matter of piling up wealth, but the implications of that in a lack of trust in the LORD. His rage works itself out first in the heavens, that is in heavenly places where there are presumably beings that have set an example for the nations in the working of deep iniquity. That this is seen in earlier segments of Isaiah (e.g. 24:21), in the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John (Revelation 12:7-9), simply confirms what is obvious that the realm of the eternal also had its rebellion, its conflict, and its judgment. Always, it seems, what happens in heavenly spheres is then carried out in earthly and ‘timely’ ones. Whereas the Greeks saw their gods as being sort super humans, with the same traits and sins, the biblical view is different. There are ‘gods’ and angels, archangels, principalities and powers and they lead in both holiness and in iniquity. The iniquitous ones influence the sons of men and are held accountable first. Then their human counterparts are likewise held accountable. These ‘heavenly’ ones of iniquity are not super humans or even modeled after humans. They are part of the creation, simply removed from time, and some of them rebel and lead the way in rebellion. How they communicate with humans is never suggested, however, that they do influence them is unquestioned.
When the LORD attacks the earth, he leaves the bodies unburied. This is the greatest offense in both ancient and contemporary times. It is a mark of great disrespect and the LORD makes it against these nations. Subsequently, he moves against Edom and the most terrible revenge is taken leaving the land unfit for human habitation. At the same time this move against Edom reassures Judah that she is different. God, while he punishes her, also loves her and will treat her differently in the end time. All of this is presumably ‘end time’ material, last days, if you will.

The 34. Chapter of the Prophet IsaiahAbraham Cowley
Awake, and with attention hear,
Thou drowsy World, for it concerns thee near;
Awake, I say, and listen well,
To what from God, I, his loud prophet, tell.
Bid both the poles suppress their stormy noise,
And bid the roaring sea contain its voice.
Be still thou Sea, be still thou Air and Earth,
Still, as old Chaos, before motion’s birth,
A dreadful host of judgments is gone out;
In strength and number more
Then e’er was raised by God before,
To scourge the rebel World, and march it round about.

I see the Sword of God brandished above;
And from it streams a dismal ray;
I see the scabbard cast away.
How red anon with slaughter will it prove!
How will it sweat and reek in blood!

How will the scarlet-glutton be o’er-gorged with his food!
And devour all the mighty feast!
Nothing soon but bones will rest.
God does a solemn sacrifice prepare;
But not of oxen, nor of rams,
Not of kids, nor of their dams
Not of heifers, nor of lambs.
The altar all the land, and all men in’t the victims are,
Since wicked men’s more guilty blood to spare,
The beasts so long have sacrificed been,
Since men their birthright forfeit still by sin,
‘Tis fit at last beasts their revenge should have,
And sacrificed men their better brethren save.

So will they fall, so will they flee;
Such will the creatures wild distraction be,
When at the final Doom,
Nature and Time shall both be slain,
Shall struggle with Deaths pangs in vain,
And the whole world their funeral pile become.
The wide-stretched scroll of heaven, which we
Immortal as the Deity think,
With all the beauteous characters that in it
With such deep sense by God’s own hand were writ,
Whose eloquence though we understand not, we admire,
Shall crackle, and the parts together shrink
Like parchment in a fire.
Th’exhausted sun to th’moon no more shall lend;
But truly then headlong into the sea descend.
The glittering Host, now in such fair aray,
So proud, so well appointed, and so gay,
Like fearful troops in some strong ambush ta’en,
Shall some fly routed, and some fall slain,
Thick as ripe fruit, or yellow leaves in autumn fall,
With such a violent storm as blows down tree and all.

And Thou, O cursed Land,
Which wilt not see the precipice where thou dost stand,
Though thou standst just upon the brink;
Thou of this poisoned bowl the bitter dregs shalt drink.
Thy rivers and thy lakes shall so
With human blood o’erflow;
That they shall fetch the slaughtered corpse away,
Which in the fields around unburied lay,
And rob the beasts and birds to give the fish their prey.
The rooting corpse shall so infect the air;
Beget such plagues, and putrid venoms there,
That by thine own dead shall be slain,
All thy few living that remain.
As one who buys, surveys a ground,
So the Destroying Angel measures it around.
So careful and so strict he is,
Lest any nook or corner he should miss.
He walks about the perishing nation,
Ruin behind him stalks and empty desolation.

Then shall the market and the pleading-place
Be choked with brambles and o’ergrown with grass.
The serpents through thy streets shall roll,
And in thy lower rooms the wolves shall howl,
And thy gilt chambers lodge the raven and the owl,
And all the winged ill-omens of the air,
Though no new ills can be foreboded there.
The lion lthen shall to the leopard say
Brother Leopard come away;
Behold a land which God has given us in prey!
Behold a land from whence we see
Mankind expulsed, His and our common enemy!
The brother leopard shakes himself, and does not stay.

The glutted vultures shall expect in vain
New armies to be slain.
Shall find at last the business done,
Leave their consumed quarters, and be gone.
Th’unburied ghosts shall sadly moan,
The satyrs laugh to hear them groan.
The evil spirits that delight
To dance and revel in the mask of night,
The moon and stars, their sole spectators shall affright.
And if of lost Mankind
Ought happen to be left behind,
If any relics but remain
They in the Dens shall lurk, beasts in the palaces shall reign.

Collect for the Day
You have kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this day—
Every prophet’s dream,
Every seer’s vision:
A dream no more,
No longer a will-of the-wisp.
The vision is real.

With my own eyes I see
where those few,
gaunt with hunger,
so thin they cast no shadow,
dropped the seed
in the Valley of Jezreel,
And, lo!
The grain rises and grows—
The state of Israel!
[by Sh. Shalom, trsl. CS 477:251:45]


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