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Speaking to the Soul: Out of Hand

Speaking to the Soul: Out of Hand

Week of Advent 3, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 40, 54 (morning) // 51 (evening)

Isaiah 10:5-19

2 Peter 2:17-22

Matthew 11:2-15

In this morning’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah searches for an explanation for the violence and spoliation visited on his people in war. Torn between wanting to find God’s justice at work in political events on the one hand, and also wanting to cry out against the cruelties of Assyrian invaders, Isaiah finds a compromise: He views the Assyrian armies as God’s agents of punishment, but he thinks that the Assyrians took their duty too far.

Indeed, humans are very poor instruments of divine justice. According to the prophet, God calls Assyria “the rod of my anger,” and “the club in their hands is my fury!” But God also complains that the Assyrians were far more destructive than God intended. Comparing the Assyrian armies to tools in his hands, God asks rhetorically, “Shall the ax vaunt itself over the one who wields it, or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it? As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up, or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood!” Instead of God mastering these tools, they appear to be controlling God.

In this scheme for delivering justice, the ax, the saw, the rod, and the staff got entirely out of hand and carried out destructive agendas all their own. Such is the risk of delivering justice by means of violent human agents. As we pray our way through this season of Advent, we ask for better ways to see justice done on earth.

Lora Walsh blogs about the Daily Office readings at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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