“The wilderness shall be glad.
The dry land shall be glad.
The desert shall rejoice.
The desert shall blossom.
Like the crocus,
It shall blossom abundantly.
It shall rejoice with joy.
It shall rejoice with singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it.
The majesty of Carmel
Shall see the glory of Yahweh.
The majesty of Sharon
Shall see the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands!
Make firm the feeble knees!
Say to those who are of a fearful heart.
Do not fear!
Here is your God!
He will come with vengeance!
He will come with terrible recompense!
He will come!
He will save you!’”
Isaiah seems to indicate here that God will make the deserts bloom abundantly. The wilderness and the dry land will rejoice and be glad with singing. The glory of the cedar trees of Lebanon will be given to the areas of Carmel and Sharon in Israel, where the glory and majesty of Yahweh God will be seen. God will strengthen their weak hands and their feeble knees. Thus the cry of Isaiah to those who are fearful is that they should be strong and not afraid. Your God is coming with a vengeance to make up for past problems. He will come to save you.
“It will be said on that day,
This is our God!
We have waited for him,
So that he might save us.
This is Yahweh.
We have waited for him.
Let us be glad!
Let us rejoice in his salvation!’
The hand of Yahweh
Will rest on this mountain.”
On this great festival day, people will say that they have been waiting for Yahweh, their God. Now they can be glad and rejoice in the salvation of Yahweh, because the hand of Yahweh will rest on this mountain, presumably Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
“A good name is better
Than precious ointment.
The day of death is better
Than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting.
This is the end of everyone.
The living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better
By sadness of countenance,
The heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise
Is in the house of mourning.
But the heart of fools is
In the house of mirth.
It is better for a man
To hear the rebuke of the wise
Than to hear the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under a pot
So is the laughter of fools.
This also is vanity.
Surely oppression makes the wise foolish.
A bribe corrupts the heart.”
Qoheleth presents a reflection on life and death, like the modern philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976). With his phrase Sein zum Tode, from his book Being and Time, Heidegger meant that all human beings were destined to die. It is our purpose in life to die. Therefore we must live our life now in authenticity. Qoheleth starts off by saying how important a good name is, more prized than precious ointment. Also the day of death is more important than the day of your birth. It is better to mourn than to feast. As usual, he points out that everyone will die, so that the living must be aware of that. Sorrow was better than laughter, rather than the other way around. The heart was made glad through a sad face. The truly wise mourn, while the fools live a life of mirth. Listen to the criticisms of the wise rather than the songs of fools. Foolish laughter is like burning thorns crackling on a fire since it is pure vanity and useless. Oppression makes us wiser, but bribes corrupt the heart.
“Like a bird that strays from its nest,
Is one who strays from home.
Perfume makes the heart glad.
Incense makes the heart glad.
But the soul is torn by trouble.
Do not forsake your friend!
Do not forsake the friend of your parents!
Do not go to the house of your kindred
In the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is nearby
Than kindred who are far away.”
Good friends are important. You should not stray from home just as a bird does not leave its nest. Perfume and incense make the heart glad, but trouble tears apart the soul. Do not give up on your friends or the friends of your parents. If something goes wrong, do not go to your far away family relatives but to your nearby friends and neighbors.
“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice.
He who begets a wise son will be glad in him.
Let your father and mother be glad.
Let her who bore you rejoice.
Give me your heart.
Let your eyes observe my ways.”
The father of a righteous child should rejoice. If you have a wise son, both the mother and the father should be glad. Children should give their heart to their parents. They should let their eyes observe the good ways of their parents.
“Do not withhold discipline from your children.
If you beat them with a rod,
They will not die.
If you beat him with the rod
You will save their lives from Sheol.
If your heart is wise,
My heart too will be glad.
My soul will rejoice
When your lips
Speak what is right.”
Here is the reason for the good use of discipline. You were not to withhold discipline to a child. Your children were not going to die from being beat with a stick or rod. In fact, they will be saved from the underworld Sheol. If the child has a wise heart, the heart of the parents will be glad. Parents will rejoice when the lips of their children speak what is right.
Sing to Yahweh a new song!
His praise is due
In the assembly of the faithful!
Let Israel be glad in its maker!
Let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing!
Let them make melody to him
With the tambourine!
Let them make melody to him
With the lyre!
Yahweh takes pleasure in his people.
He adorns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful exult in glory!
Let them sing for joy on their couches!”
Psalm 149 begins with the phrase “praise Yahweh,” another way of saying alleluia, the Hebrew “Hallelujah.” There is no introductory title. The Israelites were to sing a new song in the assembly of the faithful. They should be glad because Yahweh is their creator. They should rejoice with their king. They were to dance and play the tambourine and the lyre. Yahweh was pleased with his people. He would give them glory and victory. Thus they can sing with glory from their couches after their victory.
“I thank you.
You have answered me.
You have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This is Yahweh’s doing.
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which Yahweh has made.
Let us rejoice!
Let us be glad in it!
We beseech you!
We beseech your!
Give us success!
Blessed is the one
Who comes in the name of Yahweh!
We bless you from the house of Yahweh.
Yahweh is God!
He has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches!
Up to the horns of the altar!”
The psalmist thanked Yahweh for saving him. Then we have the famous phrases that became popular for many New Testament Christian writers, “The stone that the builders had rejected has now become the cornerstone.” There is also the saying that has been associated with the Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection. “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad.” Yahweh has done many marvelous things before their eyes. Thus the hosanna phrase, which means save us, also influenced the early Christian writers. They asked God to save them also. “Blessed are you who come in the name of the Lord.” As you can see, this festive psalm had a profound effect on the early followers of Jesus Christ. They blessed Yahweh from inside his house because Yahweh was truly the God of light. They were to take their processional branches and put them on the horns around the altar. There is no doubt that this was a processional psalm of thanksgiving at a festive occasion.
“When they are diminished,
When they are brought low,
Through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
He pours contempt upon the princes.
He makes them wander in trackless wastes.
However he raises up the needy out of distress.
He makes their families like flocks.
The upright see it.
They are glad.
All the wickedness keeps its mouth shut.
Let those who are wise,
Give heed to these things.
Consider the steadfast love of Yahweh.”
This psalm ends with something that looks like it was added on. All of a sudden there are princes that are brought low and diminished with oppression, trouble, and sorrow. Yahweh had contempt for the princes wandering in some waste land. On the other hand, he raised up the needy or the poor out of their distress. He made them fruitful like flocks of birds. The upright, those with a right heart, were glad because wickedness never came out of their mouth. The wise person paid attention to these things. They always remembered the steadfast love of Yahweh.
“Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold.
There was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
Egypt was glad when they departed.
The dread of them had fallen upon Egypt.
He spread a cloud for a covering.
He spread a fire to give light by night.
Then he brought quails.
He gave them food from heaven in abundance.
He opened the rock.
Then water gushed out.
It flowed through the desert like a river.”
This is quick summary of Exodus, chapters 12-17. The Israelites left Egypt with silver and gold. No one of their tribes stumbled or fell. Thus Egypt was glad that they were gone since they were afraid of what would happen next. In the desert, they had a cloud for covering during the day and a fire as light at night. They wanted food and water, so God provided quails that flew in and manna from heaven in abundance as food. Moses struck a rock so that there was water in abundance like a river in the desert.