Wednesday, December 05, 2007

TIRTA 2: Study War No More

The prophecies of Isaiah are a fairly major part of the Christmas story, and often are included in Christmas services. How often have we heard children reading 'The people walking in darkness have seen a great light'?

Funny how we rarely hear the whole passage:

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice whilst dividing plunder.

For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.

Every warrior's boot used in battle,
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for the fire, will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government shall be on his shoulders.
And he shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.

He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever
The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.

No great surprise there then that the Jews were waiting for a great military leader and that Jesus Christ didn't fit the bill. Looking carefully, it seems to be saying that the leader will break the chains of the oppressor without needing arms and afterwards destroy the battle equipment.

But then maybe that isn't an unusual part of the message of Isaiah. As well as being generally grumpy, he certainly had a distinctive way with words. In the first part of Isaiah, Angry God sees all the mess that the Nations have made. After calling them a few names, God a bit red in the face, lifts up his arm to strike them from the earth. But instead he takes a different path.

It is almost a cartoon image - steam billowing from God's ears, he says 'and I'll... I'll... pick up all your silly war toys and squash them into something useful' and 'I'll... take away all the things from those who have made such an unholy mess of things and give the weak and ignored a go' whilst making knots in guns and making the politicians and celebrities clean the toilets.

Which is all strangely comforting. Even though we've made a complete mess, he might take our toys away and he might make us clean up the mess, but he isn't going to destroy us.

By the way, the title of this blog came from this new report released yesterday about military funding of academics in the UK - which takes the name from Isaiah 2.

Things I Relearnt This Advent: Part 1

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Blogger John Henson said...

Thanks for reminding us of the context. Good point and perspective.

3:21 PM  

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