Monday, November 25, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Daniel 5-12

Readings for this week

Monday: Daniel 5
Tuesday: Daniel 6
Wednesday: Daniel 7
Thursday: Daniel 8
Friday: Daniel 9
Saturday: Daniel 10
Sunday: Daniel 11

Introduction to Daniel 5-12

Chapter 5 

Chapter 5 takes place under Belshazzar’s reign. According to historical records, Belshazzar served as co-regent with his father Nabonidus (perhaps because his dad was a little crazy). Belshazzar held a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles and it turned into a great drunken orgy. Belshazzar had the golden cups that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem used to serve the wine at the party. Suddenly, “the fingers of a human hand appeared” and wrote on the wall near the lamp stand. The King turned pale and could hardly stand. None of the King’s enchanters, astrologers, or diviners could interpret the writing on the wall.

Daniel interpreted the writing:

Mene --> “mina” (form of money/counting, numbers) --> “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end”

Tekel --> “shekel” (form of money/weights, measures) --> “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”

Parsin --> “peres” (Persians/form of money/half-mina or half-shekel) --> “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians”

Belshazzar gave Daniel a purple robe and a gold necklace. That night, King Belshazzar was killed and Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians. The text says that Darius the Mede took over the throne of Babylon. Historical details about Darius the Mede are fuzzy, but he is associated somehow with Cyrus the Persian through the Median-Persian alliance. 

Chapter 6 

King Darius appointed rulers over his kingdom. He appointed 120 “satraps” who were overseen by three administrators. Daniel was an administrator. He was successful in his work, and Darius planned to make him second-in-command. The other rulers were jealous, and they tried to catch Daniel doing wrong but failed, so they used Daniel’s religion against him. They petitioned the king to sign a law decreeing that there would be 30 days of no prayer except prayer to Darius with death by lions as punishment for breaking law. The law was signed with the “seal of the Medes and Persians.” Daniel continued to pray 3 times a day and got caught. Daniel was cast to the lions and a stone was placed over the mouth of the den. Darius was greatly distressed, and said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” And he refused to eat, sleep, or be entertained. At dawn, Darius rushed to the lions’ den and called out, “Has your God been able to rescue you?” Daniel answered, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” Darius set Daniel free, and threw the schemers to the lions – they were “killed before touching the ground.” Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and Cyrus. 

Chapter 7 

Daniel had a dream about four beasts. This vision was apparently given to Daniel during the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of the Babylonians, but Daniel kept it to himself at the time. The beasts are symbolic of different kingdoms.

Lion = Babylon 
Bear = Medes and Persians
Bear raised on one side = dominance of Persia 
Bear has three ribs in mouth = perhaps the three conquered kingdoms of Babylon, Egypt, and Lidia 
Leopard = Greece under Alexander the Great 
Leopard has four heads = four generals who replaced Alexander the Great
Leopard has four wings = four divisions of Greek Empire after death of Alexander the Great 
Beast with ten horns = Succession of leaders after Alexander 
The “boastful” little horn = Antiochus IV Epiphanes 

Daniel says that at the end of all of this, the Ancient of Days took His place and God’s Kingdom was given to His faithful people. 

Chapter 8 

Daniel had a vision of a ram and a goat. Daniel apparently received this vision in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar of Babylon, but kept it to himself at the time. The angel Gabriel assisted Daniel in interpreting the vision.

Powerful ram with two horns = The Empire of the Medes and Persians 
Goat with one large horn = Kingdom of Greece led by Alexander the Great 
Goat attacked ram and broke its horns = Alexander attacked Media-Persia and conquered it 
Four smaller horns replaced the large horn of the goat = four generals who replaced Alexander the Great 
Smaller horn that appears later = another leader with apparently supernatural abilities and a particular hate for God’s people, possibly Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Gabriel also said that this vision concerned “the time of the end.” The end of what? End of Greek rule? End of the wait for the Messiah? End of the world? He is not clear. 

Chapter 9 

This chapter is set during the first year of the reign of Darius. Here, the text says that Darius was the son of Ahasuerus, or Xerxes I (the king in the Esther story). In this chapter, Daniel recalls that Jeremiah had prophesied that the “desolation” of Jerusalem would last for 70 years. Daniel prays to God and confesses the sins of the people of Judah. He admits that they had broken covenant with God and so the curses of the covenant had come upon them. Daniel prayed that God would rescue His people from captivity and bring them to the Promised Land, just as He had done through Moses.

The angel Gabriel shows up and confirms that Jeremiah was right when he said that Judah’s punishment would last 70 years, but then he multiplies that number by seven in order to say that though the exile has ended after seventy years, the current era of trial and testing will continue for 490 years. He refers to this period as “seventy sevens” or seventy periods of Sabbath years (490 years). When this era ended, several things would happen: 

Time to finish transgression and put an end to sin 
Time to atone for wickedness 
Time to bring in wisdom and righteousness 
Time to seal up vision and prophecy 
Time to anoint the Most Holy Place

He then goes on to divide this era into periods of “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens” or 49 years and 434 years before “the end” would come in the final seven years. At the beginning of this era of 490 years, an order would given to rebuild Jerusalem and its Temple. This took place when the Persians took control of the world under Cyrus. After the first 49 years, the "Anointed One" would take his place in Jerusalem. This is probably referring the anointing of the High Priest Joshua and/or Governor Zerubbabel during the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. 434 later, a ruler would arise who would put the “Anointed One” to death. This happened when Antiochus came to power and murdered the High Priest Onias. This ruler would conquer Jerusalem and desecrate the Temple. He would make a “covenant” with the people for seven years, but halfway through it, he would put an end to the Jewish sacrifices and set up the “abomination of desolation.” At the very end of the 490 year era of trial and testing, Gabriel says that the Most Holy Place in the Temple will be anointed once again. This took place after the Maccabees retook Jerusalem from Antiochus and rededicated the Temple to Yahweh. 

Chapter 10 

Daniel had a vision of a man during the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia. Daniel saw a shiny man standing on the bank of the Tigris River. The people with Daniel didn’t see anything, but were suddenly filled with fear and ran away. Daniel fainted, but the man helped him up and gave him strength. He said that he had come in response to Daniel’s prayer, but that he had been detained for 21 days by the “prince of Persia” until Michael, one of the “chief princes,” showed up to help him. The shiny man said he was there to tell Daniel what would happen to his people in the future, saying that he would soon go off to fight against the prince of Persia, and then after him the prince of Greece would come. He also indicated that Michael was his only ally in this struggle, and that they had been allies since the first year of Darius the Mede. 

Chapter 11 

The shiny man continued talking. He said that Persia and Greece would eventually go to war with each other and Persia would lose. After the time of this great ruler of Greece (Alexander the Great), Greece would be divided up into four different kingdoms. Over many years, two of these kingdoms would continually go to war against each other. 

Kings of the North = Seleucid Greek rulers over Syrian lands 
Kings of the South = Ptolemaic Greek rulers over Egyptian lands 
The last King of the North = Antiochus IV Epiphanes 

Antiochus IV Epiphanes set up the “Abomination of Desolation” in the Temple of the LORD. This period of time would see a lot of trouble and persecution, especially during the last three-and-a-half years of the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The apocryphal books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees deal with the history of Judah during this time. The popular Jewish festival of Hanukkah also originated because of the events that took place during this time. We learn from John’s Gospel that Jesus later celebrated Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication).

Chapter 12 

The shiny man says to Daniel:

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” 

“But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” 

“Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” 

“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”

Thursday, November 21, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Daniel 1-4

Introduction to Daniel 1-4

Daniel’s name means “God is my judge.” 

The book can be divided into two main sections: 

Stories of Daniel (1:1–6:28) 
Visions of Daniel (7:1–12:13) 

Portions of the book are written in Aramaic: 

Daniel 1:1–2:3, in Hebrew 
Daniel 2:4–7:28, in Aramaic 
Daniel 8:1–12:13, in Hebrew 

The theme of World Domination is present throughout the book:

Babylonian Empire (1:1–5:29) 
Media-Persian Empire (5:30–8:4) 
Greek Empire under Alexander the Great (8:5-21) 
Greek Empires under Seleucid and Ptolemaic Rule (8:22–11:45) 
Final Messianic Empire (12:1-13) 

Chapter 1 

The book of Daniel begins with the exile of King Jehoiakim and all of the nobles and members of the royal family in Jerusalem to Babylon. This took place before the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the very young men among the exiles be examined to see if any were fit to serve in his royal court. Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among those chosen. Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar, and the other three were renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Daniel did not want to “defile” himself by eating the unclean foods from the King’s table that had been offered to Babylonian deities. Daniel went to Ashpenaz, the man in charge of these honored exiles, and asked for water and vegetables instead. Ashpenaz was afraid Nebuchadnezzar would be angry, so Daniel proposed a test to see which food was better. At the end of the week, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier after eating only water and vegetables than the other men did who had eaten the King’s food. They were given permission to eat whatever they wanted to. This story ends by saying that Daniel remained in courtly service of the Babylonians until King Cyrus of the Persians came to power. 

Chapter 2 

Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream. He wanted his wise men to interpret it without hearing it, but they could not. Nebuchadnezzar ordered their execution. Daniel and his three friends asked for time to pray to God. God revealed the King’s dream to Daniel and Daniel explained its meaning to the King. He had dreamed of a great metallic statue that had been destroyed by a rock “not cut with human hands.” The rock later became a mountain that “filled the whole earth.”

Gold head = Babylonians
Silver chest and arms = Medes and Persians
Bronze belly and thighs = Greeks under Alexander the Great
Iron legs = Greeks under Seleucid and Ptolemaic control
Feet partly of iron and baked clay = reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes
The rock that becomes a mountain = reign of the Messiah 

Chapter 3 

At Daniel’s suggestion, King Nebuchadnezzar appointed his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to positions of high authority. Later, the King built a huge gold statue in honor of himself. The statue was 60 cubits tall, and 6 by 6 cubits wide. Death would be given to anyone who refused to bow to it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow. The King gave them a second chance, but they still refused.

They said:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

The King was enraged and ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times hotter than normal. They were thrown in, clothes and all, by soldiers who died from the heat while following orders. Suddenly, the King said, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire? Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” The King commanded them to come out. They were unharmed and didn’t even smell like smoke. The King promoted them and praised their God.

He said:

“Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” 

Chapter 4 

Chapter 4 is presented as a letter by Nebuchadnezzar to all the nations of the world. The letter details the account of his absence from the kingdom. Around 30 years are missing from the historical record of Nebuchadnezzar, so we do not know what happened to him during that time apart from the biblical text. One theory is that this story is actually about Nabonidus, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, who according to historical records fled his kingdom and went on an odd pilgrimage for roughly a decade.

In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that terrified him. No one could interpret the dream except for Daniel. The dream was about a tree that touched the sky, was seen throughout the world, and provided shelter for all animals. A messenger from heaven ordered the tree to be cut down. All the animals fled, and the stump that remained in the ground was shackled with iron and bronze.

A voice said:

“Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him.”

Daniel was disturbed by the dream.

Tree = Nebuchadnezzar 
Tree stump = Nebuchadnezzar losing his mind

A year later, the King was walking around on his roof, admiring his kingdom and wealth, when a voice came from heaven and repeated the words of the dream. The King left his palace and lived in the wilderness and ate grass and let his hair and nails grow long. After seven years, he looked up towards heaven and finally acknowledged God, and his right mind was restored. The letter ends with the King praising God for humbling the proud.

Monday, November 18, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Song of Songs 6-8

Readings for this week

Monday: Song of Songs 6
Tuesday: Song of Songs 7
Wednesday: Song of Songs 8
Thursday: Daniel 1
Friday: Daniel 2
Saturday: Daniel 3
Sunday: Daniel 4

Introduction to Song of Songs 6-8

Chapters 6-7 

The woman asks the daughters of Jerusalem to help her find her lover, and she describes his physical good looks, saying, “You are beautiful, my love. Fair as the moon, awesome as an army with banners.” 

Eventually, she admits her lover is in his garden, safe from harm, and committed to her as she is to him. 

The man then describes his lover, who visits him, saying, “Your thighs are like jewels, your breasts like the fruit of a palm.” 

The woman describes a rendezvous they have shared. (The last part is unclear and was possibly edited or censored at some point a long time ago.) 

The people praise the beauty of the woman. The images are the same as those used elsewhere in the poem, but with an unusually dense use of place-names, e.g., pools of Hebron, gate of Bath-rabbim, tower of Damascus, etc. The man states his intention to enjoy the fruits of the woman's garden. The woman invites him to meet her in the fields, saying, “May your kisses be like wine! Beloved, let us go into the fields.” 

Chapter 8 

In the appendix, the woman once more warns the daughters of Jerusalem against waking love until it is ready. 

The woman compares love to death and sheol: love is as relentless and jealous as these two and cannot be quenched by any force. She summons her lover, using the language used before: he should come "like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountain of spices." 

She says, “Solomon had a vineyard, but mine is my own. Make haste, my beloved!”

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Song of Songs 1-5

Introduction to Song of Songs 1-5

The book is sometimes called "The Song of Solomon" because Solomon is mentioned in it, however, the main man in the poem is probably not Solomon since he talks about his devotion towards this one woman over any kind of interest over other beautiful women... which doesn't sound like Solomon, the man with 700 wives and 300 concubines, at all. 

It’s about sex… 

Is it okay for Christians to talk about sex? Why did God create us as sexual beings? Why are many Christians afraid or embarrassed to talk about sex? Is it harmful not to talk about sex? Should we embrace our sexuality? If so, how can that be done appropriately? 

Three Hebrew words for love… 

Raya = Friendship 

"You're beautiful from head to toe, my dear raya, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless." 

Ahava = Deep affection and commitment 

"Ahava is as strong as death; many rivers cannot quench ahava." 

Dod = Physical and sexual passion 

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for your dod is more delightful than wine." 

Chapter 1 

The introduction calls the poem "the song of songs", a construction commonly used in Scriptural Hebrew to show something as the greatest and most beautiful of its class (as in Holy of Holies). 

The poem proper begins with the woman's expression of desire for her lover and her self-description to the "daughters of Jerusalem": she insists on her sun-born blackness, likening it to the "tents of Kedar" (nomads) and the "curtains of Solomon." 

A dialogue between the lovers follows: the woman asks the man to meet; he replies with a lightly teasing tone. The two compete in offering flattering compliments ("my beloved is to me as a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of En Gedi", "an apple tree among the trees of the wood", "a lily among brambles", while the bed they share is like a forest canopy). 

The section closes with the woman telling the daughters of Jerusalem not to stir up love such as hers until it is ready. 

Chapter 2 

The woman recalls a visit from her lover in the springtime. She uses imagery from a shepherd's life, and she says of her lover that "he pastures his flock among the lilies." 

He says, “She is a lily among thorns.” 

She says, “He is an apple tree in the wood. Here he comes, leaping on the mountains. My beloved is mine and I am his.” 

Chapter 3 

The woman again addresses the daughters of Jerusalem, describing her fervent and ultimately successful search for her lover through the night-time streets of the city. When she finds him, she takes him almost by force into the chamber in which her mother conceived her. She reveals that this is a dream, seen on her "bed at night" and ends by again warning the daughters of Jerusalem "not to stir up love until it is ready." 

The next section reports a royal wedding procession. Solomon is mentioned by name, and the daughters of Jerusalem are invited to come out and see the spectacle. She says, “Behold, O daughters of Zion, the carriage of King Solomon!” 

Chapter 4 

The man describes his beloved: Her hair is like a flock of goats, her teeth like shorn ewes, and so on from face to breasts. Place-names feature heavily: her neck is like the Tower of David, her smell like the scent of Lebanon. He hastens to summon his beloved, saying that he is ravished by even a single glance. The section becomes a "garden poem", in which he describes her as a "locked garden" (usually taken to mean that she is chaste). The woman invites the man to enter the garden and taste the fruits. The man accepts the invitation, and a third party tells them to eat, drink, "and be drunk with love." 

Chapter 5 

The woman tells the daughters of Jerusalem of another dream. She was in her chamber when her lover knocked. She was slow to open, and when she did, he was gone. She searched through the streets again, but this time she failed to find him and the watchmen, who had helped her before, now beat her.

Monday, November 11, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 65-66

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 65
Tuesday: Isaiah 66
Wednesday: Song of Songs 1
Thursday: Song of Songs 2
Friday: Song of Songs 3
Saturday: Song of Songs 4
Sunday: Song of Songs 5

Introduction to Isaiah 65-66

Chapter 65 

Isaiah then talks about a New Heaven and a New Earth, but first, he talks about Judgment and Salvation. 

On Judgment: 

“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
All day long I have held out my hands
to an obstinate people…” 

On Salvation: 

“As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes
and people say, ‘Don’t destroy it,
there is still a blessing in it,’
so will I do in behalf of my servants;
I will not destroy them all.” 

The prophet speaks of a future time when God will begin the process of recreating the whole of his creation. In this vision, death is being slowly defeated: infants no longer emerge stillborn, people live abnormally long lifespans, and even the animals themselves stop hunting each other. Death seems to still exist at this point, but is rare. 

“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.” 

“I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.” 

“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
They will not labor in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,
they and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.” 

“The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain.” 

Chapter 66 

The final chapter is about Judgment and Hope. This passage is about as close as a description of heaven and hell as you will find in the Old Testament. 

“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” 

This perspective shows that heaven and earth are closely linked together, which is consistent with the New Testament picture of heaven breaking into this world in a marriage of sorts. Jesus also refers to this passage when he talks about the eternal punishment one can face after death, saying that God has the power to send people to "Gehenna" (often translated as "hell" in English), where "the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."

Monday, November 4, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Isaiah 58-64

Readings for this week

Monday: Isaiah 58
Tuesday: Isaiah 59
Wednesday: Isaiah 60
Thursday: Isaiah 61
Friday: Isaiah 62
Saturday: Isaiah 63
Sunday: Isaiah 64

Introduction to Isaiah 58-64

Chapter 58 

Here, the prophet discusses true fasting. God’s people had complained to Him because He had apparently ignored how well they practiced fasting. He tells them that they didn't fast as well as they thought, following the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. 

He says: 

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.” 

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” 

Chapter 59 

The prophet then discussed sin, confession and redemption. 

First, he addresses the sin: 

“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.” 

Then he offers the confession on behalf of the people: 

“For our offenses are many in your sight,
and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us,
and we acknowledge our iniquities…” 

Then he proclaims redemption: 

“The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head…” 

“‘The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,’
declares the Lord.” 

“‘As for me, this is my covenant with them,’ says the Lord. ‘My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,’ says the Lord.” 

Chapter 60 

The prophet then talks about the future glory of Zion. The prophet announced the lifting of darkness and the arrival of God as the “everlasting light.” Israel would become the light to the nations. Zion, “the City of the LORD,” would be ruled by peace and righteousness. The walls of the city would be called “Salvation” and her gaits “Praise.” 

Chapter 61 

The prophet then talks about the “Year of the LORD’s Favor.” 

He says: 

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” 

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he read from this passage at the Synagogue of his hometown, claiming it was about him, and his neighbors accused him of blasphemy and tried to throw him off a cliff. 

Chapter 62 

The prophet then discusses Zion’s new name: 

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.” 

In Hebrew, “Hephzibah” means “my delight is in her” and “Beulah” means “married.” 

Chapters 63-64 

The prophet then gives a community lament, which first addresses God’s day of vengeance and then also redemption… 

“Who is this coming with his clothes stained red? …It is the LORD who comes. He has trampled down all the nations in the winepress of His wrath and their blood spattered on His clothing.” 

He then offers a praise and a prayer: 

“I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the Lord has done for us—
yes, the many good things
he has done for Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
He said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will be true to me”;
and so he became their Savior.
In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.
Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.” 

“But you are our Father,
though Abraham does not know us
or Israel acknowledge us;
you, Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer from of old is your name.
Why, Lord, do you make us wander from your ways
and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?” 

“Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” 

“All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” 

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord;
do not remember our sins forever.”