No man is an island. We exist in a society, in a community. We grow up in a family, in a community of people. As a Christian, we must live in a Christian community. The Christian religious experience is always lived within a community. Individual spirituality leads to a commitment not merely as an individual, but to the larger community of Christian believers. Even the hermits understood that they shared in the larger Christian community. Just as there is no religious practice without a religion, there cannot be any Christian belief except within a Christian community, a Christian Church. An individual and communal faith goes hand in hand, not face to face. God created us out of love, so faith is within a community. If faith is not communal it is not complete. Nevertheless, nearly half of American Christian believers are not affiliated with a church, because we live in a highly individualist country. There is a certain hypocrisy that allows each of us to define our morality as what we would like to do. We have lost the sense of personal and social responsibility for the common good as “me” and my individual personal experience becomes more important. We are social by nature and need the common experience of worship.
Your sentinels lift up their voice.
Together they sing for joy.
In plain sight,
They see the return of Yahweh
Break forth together into singing!
You ruins of Jerusalem!
Yahweh has comforted his people.
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
Yahweh has bared his holy arm
Before the eyes of all the nations.
All the ends of the earth shall see
The salvation of our God.”
Second Isaiah wants a grand celebration of singing as Yahweh leads his people back into Jerusalem. First, the sentinels at their watch posts somehow see Yahweh coming to Mount Zion as they burst into joyful singing. Then everybody else should break out singing, especially the ruins of Jerusalem itself. Yahweh has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. He has showed his bare holy arm to all the nations of the world. Everyone will see the salvation of their God, even to the ends of the earth.
“Do not invite death
By the error of your life.
Do not bring on destruction
By the works of your hands.
God did not make death.
He does not delight
In the death of the living.
He created all things
So that they might exist.
The generative forces of the world
There is no destructive poison in them.
The dominion of Hades is not on earth.
Righteousness is immortal.”
This author states clearly that God did not create death (θάνατον). Man has created death that leads to hell, Sheol, or Hades (Άδης). You invite death by the error of your life. You bring on destruction by your own hands. God does not delight in death. God created living things as a generative wholesome force with no destructive poison in them so that they might exist. The kingdom or dominion of Hades is not on earth. Righteousness, or those who act justly, will make you immortal (δικαιοσύνη γὰρ ἀθάνατός ἐστιν), the opposite of death, not dying. Thus this is a vague immortality, somewhat like the Greek immortality of the soul that comes from a good life.
“The plans of the diligent
Lead surely to abundance.
But everyone who is hasty
Comes only to want.
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
Is a fleeting vapor
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
Is a snare for death.
The violence of the wicked
Will sweep them away.
They refuse to do what is just.
The way of the guilty is crooked.
But the conduct of the pure is right.”
Diligent plans will lead to abundance, but hasty plans will only come up wanting. If you get money by a lying tongue it will be like a fleeting breath that leads to a death trap. The very violence of the wicked will sweep them away, since they refuse to do what is just. The guilty go on a crooked path, but the pure conduct their way correctly.
“In all toil
There is profit.
But mere talk
Leads only to poverty.
The crown of the wise
Is their wisdom.
Is the garland of fools.
A truthful witness saves lives.
But one who utters lies is a betrayer.”
There is profit or gain in all kinds of work. Mere talk, on the other hand, just leads to poverty. The crown for the wise is their wisdom, but the foolish have a garland of folly as their crown. The truthful witness saves lives, while the liar actually betrays life itself.
“Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse.
Whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt.
A scoffer who is rebuked,
Will only hate you.
The wise man,
Will love you.
Give instruction to the wise.
They will become wiser still.
Teach the righteous,
They will gain in learning.
The fear of Yahweh
Is the beginning of wisdom.
The knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Your days will be multiplied.
Years will be added to your life.
If you are wise,
You are wise for yourself.
If you scoff,
You alone will bear it.”
If you mock or deride people as scoffers, there is no sense in rebuking you. You will only get hurt and abused because you are as if rebuking a wicked person. They will hate you. On the other hand, if you give instruction to the wise ones, they will become wiser still. If you teach the righteous, they will gain in learning. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Yahweh. The knowledge of the Holy One leads to insight. Wisdom will multiple your days and years. If you are wise, it will go well with you. If you are a scoffer or cynic, you will bear the whole burden alone.
“Rejoice in the wife of your youth!
She is a lovely deer.
She is a graceful doe.
May her breasts satisfy you at all times!
May you be intoxicated always by her love!
Why should you be intoxicated with another woman?
Why do you embrace the bosom of an adulterous woman?
Human ways are under the eyes of Yahweh.
He examines all their paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare them.
They are caught in the toils of their sin.
They die for lack of discipline.
Because of their great folly they are lost.”
Now this chapter ends with what you should be doing. You should rejoice with the wife of your youth, as there may have been other wives. However, the ideal is the young wife for life. There is a description of her. She is like a lovely deer or a graceful doe. Her breasts satisfy her husband at all times. Her love is intoxicating. So then he asks why you would seek another intoxicating woman if you have one at home. Then the reprimands come. He reminds his sons that God sees everything. He examines all paths. The wicked usually ensnare themselves as they are caught in the toils of sin. They die because of a lack of discipline. There folly leads to a great loss.
“God is the father of orphans.
God is the protector of widows.
God is in his holy habitation.
God gives the desolate a home to live in.
God leads out the prisoners to prosperity.
However the rebellious live in a parched land.”
God is the father of orphans. He protects widows from his holy dwelling. He gives the desolate a home to live in. He leads the prisoners into prosperity. However, the rebellious ones will have to live in a parched dry land.
They are appointed for Sheol.
Death shall be their shepherd.
Straight to the grave they descend.
Their form shall waste away.
Sheol shall be their home.
But God will ransom my soul
From the power of Sheol,
He will receive me.”
Once again we have the theme of the shepherd. This time death, not Yahweh, is the shepherd. Death leads all of us sheep directly to the grave, where we waste away. Our homes will be Sheol, the ill-defined underground afterlife. However, we do have an exception. The psalmist believes that God will rescue him from the eternal power of Sheol. God will ransom his soul with his belief in an eternal afterlife with God. With that, it is time for another musical interlude pause of Selah.
“Good and upright is Yahweh.
Therefore he instructs sinners in his way.
He leads the humble in what is right.
He teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of Yahweh
Are steadfast love,
All the paths of Yahweh
For those who keep his covenant
For those who keep his decrees.”
The answer is simple. Yahweh is good and upright. He instructs the sinners and the humble. He leads the humble because the paths of Yahweh are full of steadfast love and faithfulness. Those who keep his covenant and his decrees will have no problem because of Yahweh’s help.