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Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah 56’

These lines are scribbled by a father, indeed a grandfather. My sixty-odd years somehow crystallize in the lives of my kin.

I would do anything for them. As years of harvest and locust have come and gone, my family, my kin, my flesh and bone have become a kind of existential bottom line.

In this, as in so many other things in this small life that has been mine to live, I am not unusual. What privileges we steward are most intensely known in family. Not in all families, but in many. We become within their embrace a kind of absolute, a non-negotiable. They become so to us.

Take everything else. Don’t touch my children.

The prophet plays a redemptive melody in the key of this family truth.

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from his people’; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’

 For thus says the LORD: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.’

Isaiah 56:3–5 (ESV)

In the prophetic imagination here spun into a temple story—the most sacred kind of story YHWH’s seer knows to tell—Jacob’s enigmatic deity speaks of his house and of his family and his family legacy. The divine Paterfamilias—half-hidden, half-known—makes vows in the dialect of what is most precious to him, that which is more his own than anything else.

The irony that pulsates through this speech is that YHWH speaks of those who by lineage and history are not his. Those who do not belong in any conventional sense the notion of kinship might conjure.

Curiously and potently, he makes promise that thrust his historical sons and daughters into second class.

YHWH’s declaration is absurd unless it is true. If it is true, it turns all that we thought we knew on its head.

For thus says the LORD: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

Isaiah 56.5

The generous teachings of Jesus will, centuries hence, pivot on this same upsetting truth. Salvation is of the Jews but for the whole wide world.

As those surprised by the invitation find their way to YHWH’s sacred house, the prophet dares to suggest, they will find themselves his favorites. The most privileged. The most richly endowed with unforgettable glories that shall endure for centuries, for millennia, until ‘never’ and ‘forever’ become exhausted of meaning at redemption’s glad destination.

Better, these castrated, pagan foreigners hear spoken of their fate from the spokesmen of this incomprehensible God of Jacob with his strange, ominous, promising name.

Better than sons and daughters.

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