Updated: Mar 26, 2021
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The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens--
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
This is the Old Testament selection for the indoor service on Palm Sunday, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. With an outdoor service held first, when palm leaves are passed out to all in attendance (called the Liturgy of the Palm), the congregation is then solemnly led inside, where the regular service is called Liturgy of the Word. This particular selection from Isaiah will be read in all three years of the lectionary cycle (A,B, and C). Due to the length of the Palm Sunday service [aka Passion Sunday] (outdoor and indoor) means nothing will be said about these words from Isaiah at those times. However, these verses will also be read on two other occasions in the church calendar, with it being possible they will be then be explained in a sermon. the best chance for that happening will be during the Ordinary time after Pentecost, Proper 19-B service.
The name of the book this reading comes from is “Isaiah,” but as is the case with religious scholars (it appears), teaching doubt at every turn is best to keep educators employed, always needing someone to teach "church history" and other tricks of dogma. Doubt weakens the faith of seekers. Here, the ones with the larger brains have figured out that this chapter [number 50] falls under the heading “Deutero-Isaiah" The scuttlebutt says Isaiah chapters 40–55 are "the work of an anonymous 6th-century BCE author writing during the Exile.” (Wikipedia) That says, it is the educated guess that should be taken as "gospel" is some prophet [of unknown nomenclature] put his name on a document that preexisted, under the name "Isaiah." Presumably, he just added more to a book that the real Isaiah had begun.
To move beyond the doubt, where the same source says, “Isaiah was one of the most popular works among Jews in the Second Temple period (c. 515 BCE – 70 CE). In Christian circles, it was held in such high regard as to be called "the Fifth Gospel" (also Wikipedia), I feel the author of all divine Scripture is the same – Yahweh. Because bodies of flesh and bone are temporal and are bound to die, Yahweh uses multiple bodies of His faithful – His prophets – to write His Word.
I also firmly believe that anyone who professes to be a “Christian” must either begin with that belief – God is the author of all within the Holy Bible, thus all are words of truth – or one needs to admit one is not a Christian. If one sees a church as a place to be educated so one can enter ministry, that boat is not longer sailing. Being a prophet like Isaiah [who was trained in the school of prophets, but not well enough to write a book] is no longer a "tag, you're it" process - the one that made Christianity great. If you think the only way to be a priest for Yahweh is to attend a school offering diplomas, then you put your faith is in scholars, not the One God.
Verse 4 in this reading selection makes a clear statement of one being divinely possessed by Yahweh. The first words that have been translated as “The Lord God” are written in Hebrew as “adonay Yahweh” [no capital letters in Hebrew]. This means “The Lord God” actually states “lord [of me] Yahweh.” [I allow that capitalization.]
The use of “lord” [“adonay”] has to be understood as being a statement about self, where the spiritual self of a body of flesh is the soul. Regardless of external motivations and enticements, the soul is the lord of the body, operating through the human brain. The body does as the soul commands, although the body can become like a crying child, so the soul ends up pampering the body, just to shut it up. This means the word “adonay” alone means a soul as lord over a body.
When the word "adonay" leads to “Yahweh,” that then becomes a statement of marriage between Yahweh and a soul in a body of flesh. It is that union that causes the body of flesh’s lord to be Yahweh – His Holy Spirit. Thus, verse 4 is a proclamation that whoever it was going by the name Isaiah [maybe there were several Isaiahs who were prophets?] was filled with the Holy Spirit of Yahweh and led to speak the truth, in Yahweh's name.
When we read, “given me the tongue of a teacher,” the element of possessing a “gift” of speech is important to realize. Without the presence of Yahweh controlling a body of flesh, then that ability to speak God's Word would not be possible. That talent is given by one becoming a wife of Yahweh.
The Hebrew word translated as “teacher” is “limmud,” which means “taught.” Of course, we all know that the title “rabbi” means “teacher” [Aramaic “rabbonni”]; but in order to become a “teacher,” one must first be “taught.” Because of possessing the ability to speak [“tongue”] as a "teacher," that means one has been "given" wisdom, which one received. That is what has been freely given by Yahweh; still, the prophet [Isaiah] was thereby being “taught” while he spoke words that teach others. This verse should then be seen as one foretelling of the "speaking in tongues" that occurred on Pentecost, when disciples became Apostles.
The word “limmund” also implies one is a disciple or student, such that one is “accustomed” to being led to understanding. (Brown-Driver-Briggs) When one enrolls in a school, one expects to go there and willingly accept instructions. The same expectations apply when Yahweh becomes like a school, with only one student in His class.
This then reflects on how an Apostle is not suddenly someone who has learned everything necessary to be learned, in order to go into the business of ministry by oneself. As a priest who presumes to know a lot after graduation from some education institution, the reality of a student of Yahweh is there is a continuation of the learning process. One always remains a disciple, one who has willingly been transformed into a mouthpiece for Yahweh. This means the “tongue” (“lashon”) is not a power coming from an educated brain, but the Word of God coming from the “speech” of a body of flesh, whose “lord” is “Yahweh.” This is why the student Ezekiel answered God's question, "Can these dry bones live?" by saying, "Lord, you know."
When verse 4 then continues by stating, “that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word,” this is Yahweh lording over someone named Isaiah – willingly and longingly, through marriage. That says the only reason God speaks through a prophet is so those seeking God’s help can be comforted. Someone who needs assistance, who is weary spiritually, is one who is simply a soul lording over its body of flesh, and going nowhere positive. The weary then cry out in laments to God, so God answers their prayers through His prophets. The prophets are then the messengers who say, "I heard your cry for help."
Here, it is important to grasp that the educated are not the ones who routinely give comfort to the spiritually weary. If anything, they are the ones who add to the misery, placing blame on their souls for inabilities not to sin anymore. This condition existed after Israel and Judah had been lost, which is when the scholars now are saying this chapter was written after that. They conclude Isaiah 50 (with other chapters) was written after the return from exile in Babylon, back to Jerusalem, inside the new second temple. Thus, the spiritually weary were those misled [already back then] by teachers who did not have Yahweh as their lord.
Then, verse 4 says, “Morning by morning he wakens -- wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.” This mistranslation can give the impression that a prophet of Yahweh wakes up and goes to school to listen to his teachers. The actual Hebrew says, “he awakens my ear to hear as the learned.” This means Yahweh constantly speaks His truth to the disciple wife, so the prophet is always filled with deep faith, trust, and love of that guidance. He [or she] delights in 'school time' never ending. Most Episcopalians can barely stand an hour a week being orated to by a priest [which says something about what little is being said too].
At this point, it is worthwhile to realize that verses 5, 7, and 9 all repeat the presence of God, as “adonay Yahweh.” Repetition in divine Scripture is always a signal of a theme that needs to be understood. Thus, it was Isaiah who had once been weary, like so many other Jews [Judeans], but his ear was opened when Yahweh answered his prayers.
Isaiah wrote, “I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.” This is a statement of wanting to hear the proposal of Yahweh. It says Isaiah heard the call to sacrifice self-control, of his soul over his flesh, and he did not resist that sacrifice. The spiritually weary are often those who rebel and turn their backs on Yahweh, especially if they have made the world their surrogate for Yahweh. Spiritual weariness can be assuaged by material illusions, of power, wealth, and influence over others. People with a lot to sacrifice will quickly rebel.
Because this reading is chosen to accompany the sacrifices Jesus made, at the hand of the Romans, prompted by the Jews of the temple, the words of Isaiah say this abuse is to be expected. The leaders of the second temple likewise did not appreciate prophets telling the educated just how wrong they were. Some things always remain the same. The leaders of the churches today do not like being told they are wrong.
Those words coming from the mouths of the prophets are the voice of God in many bodies of human flesh; but because the educated have never been educated by sacrificing their brains to serve Yahweh, they lash out at the prophet. As Isaiah wrote and as will be read from Mark [Year B], the pretend holy act violently against those speaking as Yahweh: whipping backs, pulling beards, insulting and spitting on them [add purple robes and crowns of thorns]. This mistreatment is to be expected by all wives of Yahweh – those who marry His Holy Spirit and lovingly allow Him to become one’s lord.
Jesus was not the only one. Isaiah was another. There have been many and there [hopefully] will be many more to come. With Yahweh speaking through a prophet's words, they all become prophetic of Jesus. However, it is the scholars who only see Jesus as the point of Isaiah’s words that are wrong. They mislead from that narrow view of Yahweh. They punish Isaiah further by not giving someone who was married to God the credit of being “the real Isaiah” [a name that means "Yah[weh] Is Salvation]. They spit on that name still to this day, trying to defame him as being “Deutero-Isaiah,” which is akin to calling him a false prophet, someone unknown acting like a prophet.
When Isaiah wrote, “The Lord God helps me,” that says his allowing Yahweh to be the lord of his soul-body was how Isaiah could withstand all the punishment. The same condition within Jesus gave him the same ability to withstand undue punishment. All who make the sacrifice of self in marriage to Yahweh have the same help afforded them, just as did Isaiah and Jesus.
When we then read Isaiah state: “I have not been disgraced; I have set my face like flint, and I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near,” that says, “no matter how hard one tries to destroy me, my Yahweh is always with me.”
A wife of Yahweh will never be humiliated, because [like the children’s taunt says – “I am rubber, you are glue”] whatever assaults are made on a prophet of Yahweh only damages the soul of the one making the assaults. When a face is set like flint, whoever strikes that face will draw sparks that will set the abuser on fire – the kind eternal hell is made of. No one can shame a wife of Yahweh, because to cast insults and damnations on the saintly brings that shame back upon oneself.
In the questions posed by Isaiah, one must hear the voice of Yahweh speaking:
“Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together.”
“Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.”
Yahweh is speaking those words, not the prophet himself. It is God Almighty who wants to know who it is that thinks he or she can defeat Yahweh. Those are welcomed to “stand up together” and become wives of Yahweh [Saul did that and changed his name to Paul] or challenge Yahweh himself.
The problem with abusers is they willingly cast stones to kill those who are projections of themselves; but few are willing to use the stone to kill self-ego and submit to the Will of God. A confrontation with Yahweh becomes a desire to know what makes Isaiah tick. In that process of conversation [rather than acts of killing], God will win every heart who hears the truth. The problem there is the educated fear being exposed as idiots, so they avoid direct confrontation [see how the Jews used the Romans to do their dirty work].
This reading ends with Isaiah saying, “It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?” That repeats the theme of “adonay Yahweh” being Yahweh asking all who will be like Isaiah and Jesus and become souls married to Yahweh, a union of soul with Holy Spirit. All who are the wives of Yahweh will receive His blessings. That divine assistance means one’s soul is granted eternal life. Thus, a question of judgment of guilt can only be truthful if one is charged with being holy, sacred, saintly and divinely inspired. Anything short of that simply becomes the judgment of a soul alone projecting one’s own failures onto others, where all true guilt becomes their own burden to bear.
On a day when churches put on pageantry to show the distresses Jesus suffered, at the hands of the unjust, to say nothing about this reading from Isaiah is to act as Jews taking silent delight watching Jesus suffer. A priest who says nothing about the Passion of Jesus [“passion” meaning “suffering”] says one is a soul alone, having no words from Yahweh to share. Imagine how well Pentecost Sunday would have gone, had Peter and the eleven received tongues of fire and then just sat down in some papal chair, letting the events of the previous Passover “speak for themselves.”
Yahweh is a Big Boy. He is much bigger than any educated human brain that has ever been known to mankind. Yahweh knows all and wants to share that knowledge with seekers … those spiritually weary and seeking divine help. The churches of today have become modern models of the Temple of Jerusalem, all fighting against anyone who claims to be the Messiah, always killing the messenger rather than listen. Yet, they demand attention, when one who has never been taught by Yahweh can never teach anything of value about spiritual matters [ask Nicodemus].
The beauty of this message is it does not matter how bad things get, if one has surrendered oneself to Yahweh. Yahweh is big enough to marry every soul in the world and provide loving care for them all. The problem is that open proposal is assaulted and confronted by those who think they have too much to lose if God ever ran the world. They reject the concept of “adonay Yahweh” black-heartedly.