Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah 7’

The book called Isaiah insists on counterposing fear to faith. Or, better put, fear to trust in YHWH.

It is arguably the most persistent binary in the book. If Israel could manage a reliable glimpse of how things actually work, we are led to believe in a hundred places, they would quite naturally trust this sovereign YHWH who has called them his own and vowed to secure their survival and their eventual flourishing.

But Israel (in the dialect of ‘Jacob’, ‘Judah’, ‘Zion’, ‘Jerusalem’, ’the house of David’, and similar monikers) does not acquire that view, does not give herself to such trust, cannot cease to fear one overlord or another.

She does not earn the prophet’s sympathy for this shortcoming. Instead, Isaiah holds his people accountable for what the book considers a culpable failure rightly to decide where she will place her trust.

The book’s portrayal of misplaced fear becomes, at turns, quite impressive.

In the days of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel went up to attack Jerusalem, but could not mount an attack against it. When the house of David heard that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”

Isaiah 7:1–2 (NRSV)

The mindless shaking of trees against the wind becomes picturesque foil and contrast to the solid reliability of YHWH, on the one hand, and the anchored steadiness of a people who trusts in him, on the other.

Soon we hear YHWH’s prophet declare with regard to the conspiracy of the neighboring nations that unsettle the David king and his subjects in this moment…

It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.

In its context, this declaration does not bring good news, for Ahaz and his court find themselves incapable of responding aright.

For the moment we are left with the unsettling image of Judah, light as a feather, set to trembling by the slightest breeze, self-victimizing object rather than decisive subject.

The image shapes its reader to understand what constitutes the opposite of faith in the Isaianic vision: Israel trusts. Or Israel trembles.

Read Full Post »