A Community of Believers

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.

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Singing (Isa 52:8-52:10)

“Listen!

Your sentinels lift up their voice.

Together they sing for joy.

In plain sight,

They see the return of Yahweh

To Zion.

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.

Immortality (Wis 1:12-1:15)

“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

Are wholesome.

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.

Evil doers (Prov 21:5-21:8)

“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.

Profit (Prov 14:23-14:25)

“In all toil

There is profit.

But mere talk

Leads only to poverty.

The crown of the wise

Is their wisdom.

But folly

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.

Scoffers (Prov 9:7-9:12)

“Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse.

Whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt.

A scoffer who is rebuked,

Will only hate you.

The wise man,

When rebuked,

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.

By me,

Your days will be multiplied.

By me,

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.

The wife of your youth (Prov 5:18-5:23)

“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?

My son!

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.