Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

Isaiah Reading, 3rd Wednesday of Lent

It shall be when the Lord has accomplished doing all things on the mountain of Sion and in Jerusalem, he will bring upon the great mind the ruler of the Assyrians, and upon the height of the glory of his eyes. For he said: In strength I shall act and in the wisdom of the understanding, I shall remove the boundaries of nations and their strength I shall plunder and I shall shake inhabited cities and the whole inhabited world I shall abandon like a nest and I shall take away the eggs that have been abandoned, and there is none who will escape from me or contradict me. Will an axe be glorified without someone to cut with it? Or will a saw be exalted without someone to draw it, as if someone lifts up a rod or staff? And nor so, but the Lord Sabaoth will send dishonour against your honour, and burning fire will be kindled against your glory. And the light of Israel will be for fire, and he will sanctify him with burning fire and it devours the fuel like grass, On that day the mountains will be consumed, and the hills and the forests, and

devours from the soul right through to the flesh; and the one who flees will be like one who flees from a burning flame; and those of them who have been left behind shall be a number, and a child will write them. And it shall be in that day that the remnant of Israel will no longer be added to, and the saved of Jacob no longer trust in those who have wronged them, but they will trust in God the Holy One of Israel in truth.

Commentary: In yesterday’s reading from the Prophecy of Isaiah, Assyria is an instrument of God’s punishment upon his people. Today, God punishes the pride of Assyria. This tells us that those who are powerful shouldn’t pride themselves in their power. In the end they serve something that is greater than their own honor and sense of their own “glory.”

It is very difficult for us to see how God is working in the midst of historical and present problems. But there is a mystery—even those who oppose God, are in the end, servants and instruments of God. They cannot escape the hand of God.

“The light of Israel will be for fire and he will sanctify him with burning fire and it devours the fuel like grass” He’s going to make of Israel, a sanctifying fire against their enemies and anything that is not ready to sustain the power of God.

Israel will be transformed from the inside out: “The fire devours from the soul right through to the flesh.”

“The one who flees will be like one fleeing from a burning flame.”

Assyria is that which is fleeing. Assyria is the things that are burned up. The source of the burning is Israel who remains and who is transformed from the inside out.

What is burned off is the alien mind of the Assyrians.

The whole process of the punishment through God’s upraised hand is to cause Israel to purify itself. God is really seeking to transform the people. He wants the people not to be entrapped by the foreign mind of Assyria—an image of the demonic. What God is trying to do with all that, with His hand upraised, is only an intermediate stage in the extension of His hand. In the end, it is to bless Israel to become all fire from the inside out with the presence of God—a clean and good sacrifice—knowing, trusting, and seeing the truth of God.
When we experience trials and temptations, God is extending his hand in a way that seems like a punishment. But if we allow Him to cut off from us, all the things that are distractions, oppressions, and idolatries; then He can complete the process of blessing us as we get rid of those things. Then we can be filled with His divine fire. So let us pray for God to enlighten us in our trials. Let us pray that kindles in us, the fire that puts to flight all the things that oppress us. He can bless us with the Cross, so that we can have the light of the resurrection.