Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

4th Friday, Commentary on Isaiah 29: 13-23


Thus says the Lord: This people draws near me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me, and in vain they honour me, teaching the commands and teachings of men. Therefore, behold, I will proceed to remove this people, and I will remove them and I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and conceal the understanding of those who understand. Woe to those who make their counsel deep and not by the Lord. Woe to those who make their counsel in secret, whose deeds are in the dark, and who will say, “Who has seen us? Who will know us, or what we do?” Will you not be reckoned as potter’s clay? Will what is fashioned say to the one who fashions it, “You did not fashion me?” Or the thing made should say to its maker, “You did not make me wisely?” Is it not yet a little while and Lebanon shall be changed like the mountain of Chermel, and Chermel be reckoned as a forest? In that day the deaf will hear the words of a book, and those in darkness and the eyes of the blind in the mist will see. The poor will rejoice with gladness because of the Lord, and those without hope among men will be filled with gladness. The lawless has failed and the proud has perished and those who transgress wickedly have been destroyed and those who make people sin by word, and they will make those who reprove in the gates a stumbling block, because they have unjustly perverted the just. Therefore, thus says the Lord concerning the house of Jacob, whom he set apart out of Abraham, “Jacob will not now be ashamed, nor will Israel change his countenance. But when their children see my works, for my sake they will hallow my name and hallow the Holy One of Jacob and fear the God of Israel”.

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The Lord is against empty words and the self-flattering that can be a downfall of faith—if we get into that, we end up “teaching the commands and teachings of men” and not of God. Our heart has to be close to God.  St. Paul remembers this phrase when speaking of the cross “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and conceal the understanding of those who understand.” We have to perceive God with a wonder that humbly acknowledges our human weakness. “Woe to those who make their counsel deep and not by the Lord.” This means that we have basically piled ourselves under our human bullshit. We should not act as if we can judge ourselves, positively, and do our deeds with only own knowledge of them—God knows, there is no secret: “Woe to those who make their counsel in secret, whose deeds are in the dark, and who will say, “Who has seen us? Who will know us, or what we do?”” We are God’s making, and thus his work and known better by him than we know ourselves “Will you not be reckoned as potter’s clay? Will what is fashioned say to the one who fashions it, “You did not fashion me?” Or the thing made should say to its maker, “You did not make me wisely?”” God is working a change that is beyond our expectation as humans—he is going to transform our perception beyond anything human. He will give perception to those who are cut off from it—miraculous realizations beyond the emptiness, the pride, and the unperceiving and clouded spirit: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of a book, and those in darkness and the eyes of the blind in the mist will see.” A richness of life and a hope beyond human power comes to us: “The poor will rejoice with gladness because of the Lord, and those without hope among men will be filled with gladness.” God is going to take away the “stumbling block” of death and sin. He will take away the perversion of justice that this world thrives on. But God is preparing, in Our Lord Jesus Christ, for Israel’s “children see my works” Christ coming to be the Word that is the creating name of the Lord, will cause the name of “our Father” to be hallowed.” In our calling to draw near to God in holiness, we “hallow the Holy One” and “fear the God of Israel,” the God revealed in our wrestling with the mystery of his work with us. He calls us through the depths of human darkness and ignorance into his mystical darkness, going beyond what we know to enter his enlightening presence, where we gain new eyes and new ears resounding with his holiness.

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