1 The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2 In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
3 Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!
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.
Today’s reading is from First Isaiah and is set in the time from 733 to 701 BCE. The opening verse is similar to Isaiah 1:1 and is another “superscription” or introduction to the prophet’s words. The fact that there are two superscriptions strongly supports the conclusion that the Book of Isaiah is an amalgam of once independent collections of Isaiah’s prophesies.
As a “prophet,” Isaiah did not foretell the future, and the word translated as “saw” (v.1) is from a Hebrew word that is literally translated as “saw in a vision.”
In verses 2 to 4, Isaiah saw the restoration of Israel through the power of YHWH and many peoples and nations coming to Jerusalem for instruction (in Hebrew, “Torah”). The root of the word translated as “nations” and “peoples” is “goyim” which is also translatable as “Gentiles.” These verses are repeated in Micah 4:1-4. Micah was a younger contemporary of First Isaiah.
The last verse is the beginning of a call for the House of Jacob (i.e. Israel) to reform and walk in the light of YHWH.
11 You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Paul’s letter to the Romans was his longest, last, and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) to a Jesus Follower community that Paul did not establish. Among other messages in the letter, Paul sought to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome.
The Roman Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome in 49 CE. His successor, Nero (54-68 CE), allowed Jews (including Jewish Jesus Followers) to return to Rome, and this created tensions about leadership and worship within the Jesus Follower Community. (They were not called “Christians” until the 80’s.)
Paul died in 63 or 64 CE. Accordingly, the Temple in Jerusalem (which was destroyed in 70) was in full operation all during Paul’s life. As a Jew who was also a Jesus Follower, Paul saw the Jesus Follower Movement as part of a broader Judaism and continued to have expectations about the fullness of the Coming of the Messiah/the Christ.
Today’s reading is the concluding verses of Chapter 13 in which Paul exhorted the community to practice conventional civic virtues: be subject to governing authorities (v.1), pay taxes (v.7) and love one another (vv.8-9). Some scholars conclude that Paul expressed these views because he was aware of recent pogroms against Jews in Alexandria around 40 CE and the expulsion of Jews from Rome by Claudius. He therefore urged civil obedience by the Jesus Follower Community so that the Jewish Jesus Followers would not be vulnerable.
In today’s verses, Paul urged his hearers to live honorably because “salvation” (understood as the Return of the Christ) was perceived to be near (v.11). He urged them to ”live honorably as in the day” (13). The Jewish Annotated New Testament suggests that “the point is to behave as if everything is observed fully by God and humankind rather than as if something can be gotten away with if unseen.”
Paul told the community to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” – a metaphor for baptism (v.14). In speaking of “the flesh,” Paul was not referring to the human body, but instead (as he did consistently in his epistles) equated “the flesh” with self-centeredness, striving for power, and selfishness.
36 Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
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 Septuagint Greek 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). There are a substantial number of stories that are unique to Matthew: the Annunciation of Jesus’ conception as 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 is part of an extended eschatological presentation by Jesus. Chapter 24 is a long discourse about the coming of the Son of Man (a reference to Dan. 7:13) and the end of the age as we know it, including a prediction of the destruction of the Temple (24:1-2).
Jesus retired to the Mount of Olives and spoke to his disciples “privately” (v.3) about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man (v. 27). Today’s verses emphasized that the coming of the Son of Man would occur at an unexpected time and urged that followers be ready for it at any time.