Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sun. Dec. 7, 2008 (Janice Kreider)

On December 7th, 2008, Janice spoke on "The Book of Lamentations as Background to Isaiah 40". Isaiah 40 suddenly speaks of comfort and peace, using words that have become beloved through Handel's music. But why this sudden shift in the Book of Isaiah? Scholars now think that more than 100 years separated Isaiah 39 from Isaiah 40. There had been a brief interval of peace, during which King Hezekiah (foolishly) showed off all his treasures to an envoy from the up-and-coming city-nation, Babylon. Babylon soon decided that small Jerusalem was worth 'colonizing', and the sufferings began in earnest. The Book of Lamentations is best understood as being inserted into this historical gap (ch. 39--40) in Isaiah. Of the first two chapters of Lamentations, each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebraic alphabet (helping readers commit the poetry to memory). There are two voices, those of the narrator and the feminine voice of the Daughter of Zion. Lamentations is often ignored by evangelicals because of its inherent problems: (1) the downplaying of the admission of sins, (2) God is portrayed as an abuser who brings suffering on Judah, (3) the severity of the punishment ("is there any sorrow like my sorrow?") and agony which is only amplified by the lack of spiritual support, (4) the call to punish the enemy (also heard in the Psalms but not the New Testament), and (5) the lack of response from God, for God's silence in Lamentations gives even greater prominence to the book's complaints (unlike the Book of Job in which God has a voice). However, this book is useful to us. It sets up the second half of the Book of Isaiah and writings attributed to other prophets, it gives voice to suffering (the sort of strident voice we would appreciate if we really suffered), it reminds us that life is complex, and it raises serious questions about God's role in the world's suffering. [JEK] Listen to the sermon audio MP3 recording from Sunday Dec. 7th, 2008 using your browser's preferred media player.



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