1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.
3 “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
The Book of Isaiah is a composite of writings from three distinct periods in Ancient Israel’s history. The writings were compiled from about 700 BCE to about 300 BCE.
Chapters 1-39 are called “First Isaiah” and are the words of a prophet (one who speaks for YHWH – translated as “LORD” in all capital letters in the NRSV) who called for Jerusalem to repent in the 30 years before Jerusalem came under siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55. In these chapters, a prophet brought hope to the Judeans during the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they had suffered enough and would return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 in which a prophet gave encouragement to Judeans who had returned to Jerusalem (which was largely destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE) after the Exile ended.
In today’s reading from Third Isaiah, the prophet says he was told by YHWH to reveal to the people (“the house of Jacob”) who returned to Jerusalem that their way of living was immoral, and that prayer and sacrifices without serious moral reformation did not please YHWH (vv. 1-5). As a result, the promises of the restoration of Jerusalem in Chapters 40 to 48 have not come true, not because YHWH is unfaithful but because the people are not faithful and their worship is hypocritical.
Instead, the LORD wanted justice, freedom for the oppressed, sharing of food, bringing the homeless into one’s home, and sharing one’s goods and clothing (vv. 6-8). The LORD told them to “remove the yoke” from the downtrodden and stop having contempt for one another (“pointing the finger” in v.9). These verses echo ideas and vocabulary from the Prophet Micah that were read last week.
YHWH’s promises are conditional in vv.9b and 10a. If bad behaviors cease, YHWH will guide the people, make them prosperous and the ruins of Jerusalem will be rebuilt (vv. 10-12).
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was the heart of Roman imperial culture in Greece. It was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the mid-50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
It is one of Paul’s most important letters because it is one of the earliest proclamations of Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners (“for our sins” 15:3) and his resurrection (15:4-5). The letter also contains the basic formula for celebrating the Lord’s Supper (11:23-26).
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) and presented his views on many issues that were controversial in this Jesus Follower Community.
Today’s reading is the entirety of Chapter 2. In it, Paul continued his opposition to worldly wisdom as a basis for salvation and asserted that the Corinthians became believers of the “mystery” (gospel) he proclaimed because of the power of the Spirit and God, not because of lofty words (v.1).
Paul said he could speak God’s wisdom among those spiritually mature because the Spirit enabled them to understand the gifts bestowed by God. He continued to distinguish this wisdom from secular wisdom (“the wisdom of this age”) and the wisdom of the “rulers of this age” [the Romans] (v.6).
The Jewish Annotated New Testament suggests the idea that “God’s wisdom” (v.7) is “secret and hidden” and “was decreed before the ages” Is based on the belief that God has an eschatological plan that will not be revealed until “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9).
Scholars are not sure of the source of the words quoted by Paul in verse 9, but they bear some similarity to Isaiah 64:4, a verse that described the incomparability of YHWH.
Those who are “unspiritual” (or natural) (“psychikos” in Greek) regard the gifts of God’s Spirit as foolishness, but those who are spiritual (“pneumatikos”) have the mind of Christ (v.16). For Paul, heavenly wisdom is identical with the Spirit. In verse 16, Paul paraphrased Isaiah 40:13, a verse that said that YHWH is beyond instruction from another source. The JANT says: “Paul equates knowing the mind of the Lord with having the mind of Christ.”
In Chapter 3, Paul described the Corinthians as “spiritual infants” because of their quarreling.
13 Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Gospel of Matthew highlights Jesus’ origins and identity. Written around 85 CE by an anonymous author, the Gospel began Jesus’s genealogy with Abraham and depicted Jesus as a teacher of the Law like Moses. More than any other Gospel, Matthew quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures (using the Greek Septuagint translation) to illustrate that Jesus was the Messiah.
Having been written after the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Gospel reflected the controversies between the Jesus Followers and the Pharisees for control of Judaism going forward. Accordingly, the Gospel contains many harsh sayings about the Pharisees. The Gospel is aimed primarily at the late First Century Jewish Jesus Follower community.
The Gospel relied heavily on the Gospel of Mark and included all but 60 verses from Mark. Like Luke, Matthew also used a “Sayings Source” (called “Q” by scholars) which are found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark and John. There are also a substantial number of stories that are unique to Matthew: the Annunciation of Jesus’ conception was revealed to Joseph in a dream (rather than by an angel to Mary as in Luke); the Visit of the Magi; the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod; the Flight to Egypt; the Laborers in the Vineyard; and the earthquake on Easter Morning, among others.
Today’s reading continues the Sermon on the Mount that is Chapters 5 to 7 of the Gospel According to Matthew. Proclaiming the Law from the mountain was reminiscent of Moses’ going up the Holy Mountain (Sinai or Horeb, depending on the source) to receive the Teaching (the Torah).
The Sermon on the Mount is part of Matthew’s presentation of Jesus of Nazareth as a “New Moses” whose life was threatened by the temporal king (Pharaoh/Herod), who traveled to Egypt, came back from Egypt to Israel (the Exodus/return to Israel in Matt. 2:21), went into the water (Moses in the bulrushes and the Sea of Reeds/Jesus’ Baptism), time in the Wilderness (40 years/40 days), and teaching from the mountain.
Portraying Jesus as the Messiah as a “New Moses” would have been seen as a fulfillment of words attributed to Moses in Deuteronomy 18:10 (“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.”)
In describing the listeners as the “salt of the earth” (v.13), Jesus was paying the listeners a high compliment in that salt was often used as a medium of exchange, was the central ingredient for preserving foods, and The JANT points out that it was a common symbol of purity and wisdom.
By mentioning “good works” (v.16), Matthew emphasized an important notion that would resonate with his Jewish Jesus Follower audience – that faith needs to be accompanied by action.
Although the idea of the Bible’s being divided into the “Law, the prophets and the other writings” was developing as early as 180 BCE in the Book of Sirach, Matthew mentions only the “law and the prophets” (v.17). The JANT suggests that the reference to the prophets was intended to include the writings. It notes that the Rabbis (the successors to the Pharisees) believed that the Torah should not be altered in any way and that each letter (and each portion of each letter) was divinely ordained and therefore could not be changed. Jesus’ statement in verse 18 would have been reassuring to Jewish Jesus Followers.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary regards verses 17-20 as “the most controversial in Matthew.” It points out that although Jesus affirmed the abiding validity of the entire Torah, no major Christian church requires observance of all 613 precepts but concentrates instead on the ethical precepts such as the Decalogue. It goes on to state that verses 19 and 20 “are probably postpaschal and reflect the outlook of Jewish Christianity, which, as a separate movement, was eventually defeated by Paulinism and died out (perhaps to be reborn in a different form as Islam.”
The NJBC observes that “do not think” (v.17) supposed an erroneous view that needed to be corrected and that “until heaven and earth pass away” asserted the Law was binding only while the physical universe lasts. The NJBC continues that “whoever breaks” (v.19) is a polemic against hellenizing Christians but does not condemn them by saying merely that they will be “least.” Similarly, The NJBC notes that verse 20 does not say that the scribes and the Pharisees will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The JANT says that verse 20 “sets the bar high, as the Pharisees were known as righteous.”