Poem on trust (Jer 3:19-3:20)

“I thought

How would I set you

Among my children?

How would I give you

A pleasant land?

How would I give you

The most beautiful heritage

Of all the nations?

I thought

You would call me,

My Father!

I thought

That you would not turn

From following me.

Surely,

As a faithless wife

Leaves her husband,

So have you been faithless to me,

O house of Israel!’

Says Yahweh.”

This seems to be a thoughtful poem about the lack of trust on the part of the Israelites. Yahweh, via Jeremiah, was thinking about his children, the Israelites. He wanted to give them a pleasant land, the most beautiful heritage among all the countries of the world. They then would call Yahweh father. They would not turn away from him. However, they turned out to be like faithless wives, who leave their husbands. So too, the house of Israel has been faithless to him. There is no mistaking his thoughts and intentions.

Supreme power of Yahweh (Isa 45:11-45:13)

“Thus says Yahweh!

The Holy One of Israel!

It’s Maker!

‘Will you question me

About my children?

Will you command me

Concerning the work of my hands?

I made the earth.

I created humankind upon it.

It was my hands

That stretched out the heavens.

I commanded their entire host.

I have aroused Cyrus in righteousness.

I will make all his paths straight.

He shall build my city.

He shall set my exiles free,

Not for a price or a reward.’

Says Yahweh of hosts.”

There is no doubt that this is an oracle of Yahweh, the Most Holy One of Israel, and its maker, here in Second Isaiah. Yahweh was defending his choice of Cyrus. Why would any of his children question him? Why should they say anything about how he is doing things? Yahweh has made the heavens and the earth with all the humans that live here. Thus he has appointed Cyrus in his righteousness. Yahweh is going to level the ground in front of him. In turn, Cyrus was going to build a city and set his exiles free, but he would not receive any money or reward for this action.

Declaration of Isaiah to his disciples (Isa 8:16-8:20)

“Bind up the testimony!

Seal the teaching

Among my disciples!

I will wait for Yahweh,

Who is hiding his face

From the house of Jacob.

I will hope in him.

See!

I am a sign.

The children

Whom Yahweh has given me

Are portents in Israel

From Yahweh of hosts.

He dwells on Mount Zion.

Now if people say to you.

‘Consult the wizard ghosts!

Consult with the familiar spirits

Who chirp and mutter!’

Should not a people consult their gods?

Should they not consult the dead

On behalf of the living

For teaching,

For instruction?

Surely those who speak like this

Will have no dawn.”

Isaiah wanted his disciples to have and keep his testimony. He wanted his teachings to be put aside and bound up his works. This is probably why we have so many oracles of Isaiah. He was waiting on Yahweh, the Lord, who was hiding his face from the house of Jacob. However, Isaiah had hope because he and his children were signs or omens of good things to come. He knew that Yahweh lived on Mount Zion. He then warned his disciples not to be fooled when people told them to consult with various idol gods, ghosts, mediums, wizards, or spirits to find out what to do. Why would you want to consult with the dead to find out instructions on how to live? As he points out, people like this probably will not see the dawn, since they are destined for death.

Rebuke against rebellion (Isa 1:2-1:3)

“Hear!

O heavens!

Listen!

O earth!

Yahweh has spoken.

‘I reared children.

I brought them up.

But they have rebelled

Against me.

The ox knows its owner.

The donkey knows its master’s crib.

But Israel does not know.

My people do not understand.’”

Isaiah begins with an oracle that comes from Yahweh. He asks heaven and earth to listen to him. Yahweh says that he reared and brought up his children. However, these children have rebelled against him. As an ox knows its owner and a donkey knows where his home is, the people of Israel are just the opposite. They do not know or understand anything. This is the tone to many of the oracles of Yahweh via Isaiah. It is not clear whether this oracle is against just the northern Israelites or also includes the people of Judah. Sometimes the term “Israel” is used for both and sometimes just for the northern Israelites.

The difficulties of King Solomon (Sir 47:19-47:22)

“You brought in women

To lie at your side.

Through your body,

You were brought

Into subjection.

You stained your honor.

You defiled your family line.

You brought wrath

Upon your children.

They were grieved

At your folly.

Because the sovereignty

Was divided.

A rebel kingdom

Arose out of Ephraim.

But the Lord

Will never give up his mercy.

He will not cause

Any of his works to perish.

He will never blot out

The descendants of his chosen one.

He will not destroy

The family line

Of him who loved him.

So he gave a remnant to Jacob.

To David

He gave a root of his stock.”

Unlike the other famous holy men, Sirach points out some problems with King Solomon. He had a woman problem. As usual, Sirach blames them rather than Solomon. However, he did point out that Solomon brought in women to lie with him that reduced his strength and power. Solomon thus stained the family line with this dishonor. Thus his children suffered with the split in the Israelite kingdom. At the death of King Solomon, the rebels in Ephraim took over the northern part of the kingdom, so that only Judah was left. However, the Lord was merciful and never gave up, so that the family line was not destroyed. They just had less power. The remnant remained of Jacob and David and his family. The roots were still there, even if the tree was smaller.

The invitation to praise God (Sir 39:12-39:15)

“I have more on my mind

To express.

I am full

Like the full moon.

Listen to me!

My faithful children!

Blossom like a rose!

May it grow

By a stream of water!

Send out fragrance

Like incense!

Put forth blossoms

Like a lily!

Scatter the fragrance!

Sing a hymn of praise!

Bless the Lord

For all his works!

Ascribe majesty to his name!

Give thanks to him

With praise!

Give thanks

With songs on your lips!

Give thanks

With harps!

This is what

You shall say in thanksgiving.”

Sirach assumes the first person singular in talking to his children. He has a lot more to tell them because his mind is like a full moon. He wanted his children to be like rose blossoms and grow by a water stream. He wanted the scent of the lily blossoms to be like incense that would be scattered around. He wanted them to sing a hymn of praise to the majestic Lord. The Lord should be blessed for all his works. Praise and thanksgiving should be given to the Lord with songs and harps. He was about to tell them what they should say in their thanksgiving prayer.

Gain knowledge (Sir 16:24-16:25)

“Listen to me!

My child!

Acquire knowledge!

Pay close attention to my words!

I will impart disciple precisely.

I will declare knowledge accurately.”

Sirach wants you to pay close attention to what he is saying. He wants to depart precise discipline and accurate knowledge. Thus you, his children, will acquire knowledge, but you must listen to him.