Isaiah and vain worship (Mt 15:8-15:9)

“This people honors me

With their lips.

But their hearts

Are far from me.

In vain,

Do they worship me,

They teach human precepts

As doctrines.”

 

Ὁ λαὸς οὗτος τοῖς χείλεσίν με τιμᾷ, ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ἀπέχει ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ·

μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με, διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων.

 

This Greek quotation from Isaiah, chapter 29:13 is from the Septuagint, almost the same as in Mark, chapter 7:6-7.  This oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah, centers on insincere worship.  These Israelites adored Yahweh with their mouths and lips, but their hearts were far away.  They only praised the Lord because of human demands, as they recited rote prayers.  Jesus repeated the verses of Isaiah, via Matthew.  These people honored him with their lips or mouth (Ὁ λαὸς οὗτος τοῖς χείλεσίν με τιμᾷ).  However, their hearts were far away from him (ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ἀπέχει ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ).  In a vain or useless way, they adored, worshiped, or reverenced him (μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με).  They are teaching doctrines (διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας) that were human precepts or ordinances (ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων).  Thus Jesus, via Matthew and Isaiah, was wailing against false worship and human precepts as divine worship and teachings.

The fight against Baal (Hos 2:16-2:17)

“Yahweh says.

‘On that day,

You will call me.

‘My husband.’

No longer

Will you call me.

‘My Baal.’

I will remove

The names of the Baals

From her mouth.

They shall be mentioned

By name

No more.’”

Yahweh said the Israelites would no longer call out the name Baal. Actually, this term meant master or lord, a term that was used later in addressing Yahweh, the God of Israel, especially with the Greek κγριος. Yahweh was going to be the husband of Israel. Baal would be removed from the mouths of these Israelites. No longer would his name be mentioned.

The starving children (Lam 4:4-4:4)

Daleth

“The tongue

Of the infant

Sticks

To the roof

Of its mouth

For thirst.

The children

Beg for food.

But no one gives

Them anything.”

The situation in Jerusalem was dire, since the infants are so thirsty that their tongues stick to the roof of their mouths. The children had to beg for food. But even then, there was no one to give them food. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Daleth in this acrostic poem.

Yahweh God (Isa 51:15-51:16)

“I am Yahweh!

Your God!

I stir up the sea

So that its waves roar!

Yahweh of hosts is my name.

I have put my words

Into your mouth.

I have hidden you

In the shadow of my hand.

I have stretched out the heavens.

I have laid the foundations of the earth.

I say to Zion.

‘You are my people.’”

Once again, Second Isaiah makes clear that Yahweh is speaking in the first person singular. He is their God. He makes the waves of the sea roar. Yahweh of hosts is his name. He puts words in their mouths. He has hidden them in the shadow of his hands. In his usual manner of speaking, he has stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. Clearly he says to Zion that they are his people in a covenant way.

Impotence of idols (Ps 135:15-135:18)

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold.

They are the work of human hands.

They have mouths,

But they do not speak.

They have eyes,

But they do not see.

They have ears,

But they do not hear.

There is no breath in their mouths.

Those who made them

Shall become like them.

All who trust in them,

Shall become like them.”

Many countries have idols of silver and gold. Obviously, these are the works of human hands. Very famously, the psalmist says that they have mouths but do not speak. They have eyes but do not see. They have ears but do not hear. They have no breath in their mouths. Thus they are impotent idols. The makers and followers of these idols are like them, without any power also.

Yahweh has done great things (Ps 126:1-126:3)

A song of ascents

“When Yahweh restored the fortunes of Zion,

We were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter.

Our tongue was filled with shouts of joy.

Then it was said among the nations.

‘Yahweh has done great things for them.’

Yahweh has done great things for us.

We rejoiced.”

Psalm 126 is another of these short pilgrimage songs or psalms of ascent. Once again, it is a short prayer for deliverance at the time of the return from captivity. When the Israelites under Ezra were restored to Jerusalem and Mount Zion, it was like a dream come true. Their mouths and tongues were filled with laughter and joy. Then the various countries said that Yahweh had done great things for them. The Israelites realized that Yahweh had done great things for them so that they rejoiced.

The futility of other gods (Ps 115:4-115:8)

“Their idols are silver and gold.

They are the work of human hands.

They have mouths,

But do not speak.

They have eyes,

But do not see.

They have ears,

But do not hear.

They have noses,

But do not smell.

They have hands,

But do not feel.

They have feet,

But do not walk.

They make no sound in their throat.

Those who make them are like them.

So are all who trust in them.”

The contrast of Yahweh with these gold and silver idols is stark. These idol gods are the works of human hands. They have mouths, eyes, ears, noses, hands, and feet. However, they cannot speak, hear, see, smell, feel, or walk. Thus these impotent idols could not utter any sound. The idols were like those who had made them. They were trusting in themselves. The implication here was that Yahweh, whose name was in the Temple, had the anthropomorphic ability to speak, hear, see, smell, feel, and walk among his people. Many of the Israelite prayers assume this ability as they often pray that Yahweh might speak, hear, and see them.