Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

Isaiah reading and commentary

Reading from ISAIAH for the 3rd Monday of Lent: Sanctify the Lord God, and he shall be your fear; and if you trust in him, he will be for your sanctification, and you will not meet with him as a stumbling stone, nor as a falling on a rock ; while the houses of Jacob are in a snare, and those who dwell in Jerusalem in a hollow. Because of this many among them will become powerless and will fall and be smashed, and they will draw near and men will be taken in safety. Then they will be manifest who seal themselves not to learn my law. And he will say: I shall wait for God who has turned away his face from the house of Jacob and I shall trust in him. Behold I and the children whom God has given me, and they shall be signs and wonders in the house of Israel from the Lord Sabaoth, who dwells on the mountain of Sion. And if they say to you : Seek out ventriloquists, and those who speak from the earth, and those who speak emptiness, those who speak out of their bellies ; shall a nation not seek out its God ? Why do they seek they dead concerning the living? For he gave the law for a help, that they should speak not according to this word, concerning which there are no gifts to give concerning it. And harsh famine will come upon you ; and it shall be that when you are hungry you shall be grieved and speak ill of the ruler and your ancestral customs, and they will look up to the heaven above, and they will look on the earth below, and behold dire distress and darkness, tribulation and misery and darkness, so that it is impossible to see ; and he who in distress will not be distressed only for a moment. Do this first, do this quickly, country of Zavoulon, land of Nephthalim, way of the sea and the rest of the inhabitants of the sea coast and beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations, the parts of Judea. The people who walked in darkness, see, a great light! You who dwell in the country and shadow of death a light will shine on you. The most part of the people which you brought down in your joy, they too will be rejoice before you as those who rejoice at harvest and in the way of those who divide the spoil. Because the yoke which lay on them and the rod that was on their neck has been taken away ; for the Lord has scattered the rod of those who demanded, as in the day of Madiam. For they shall pay restitution for every robe that has been collected by trickery and every garment with exchange ; and they will be willing even if they had been burnt by fire. Because a child has been for us, a son too has been given to us, whose rule was upon his shoulder, and his name is called Angel of great counsel, wondrous counsellor, mighty God, potentate, prince of peace, father of the age to come; for I shall bring peace upon the princes, peace and health to him. Great is his rule and of his peace there is no limit upon the throne of David and his kingdom to establish it and assist it with judgement and with justice from now and forever ; the zeal of the Lord Sabaoth will do all this.


“Sanctify the Lord God, and he shall be your fear; and if you trust in him, he will be for your sanctification,”

If we set our selves apart for God, and live lives that manifest his grace with which he clothes us, we are in fear and awe of his power, we learn to rely on his power, to trust that he will care for us. As we grow in this trust, we are clothed in more of his glory, and he becomes more and more our “sanctification.”

“and you will not meet with him as a stumbling stone, nor as a falling on a rock ; while the houses of Jacob are in a snare, and those who dwell in Jerusalem in a hollow.”

God is not the stumbling block—the stumbling is in the places where blessing is supposed to be, but instead hypocrisy and faithlessness.

“Because of this many among them will become powerless and will fall and be smashed, and they will draw near and men will be taken in safety. Then they will be manifest who seal themselves not to learn my law.”

Those who are powerless, brittle and broken are those who have refused to listen to the words and follow the commands of God. When calamity falls, the stubbornness of resistance to God’s words is made clear.

“And he will say: I shall wait for God who has turned away his face from the house of Jacob and I shall trust in him. Behold I and the children whom God has given me, and they shall be signs and wonders in the house of Israel from the Lord Sabaoth, who dwells on the mountain of Sion.” 

God sends us signs and wonders; in Isaiah’s case—children who manifested in themselves something about the future of God’s people. But signs and wonders are not seen, especially when they reside in the weakness of children or the patience it takes to wait for the manifestation of who a child is. Imagination of the future is turned to evil among those who are greedy, seeking short-term profits, or those who have cynically refused to believe there is a hope for God to show himself in our time, present condition or life.

“And if they say to you : Seek out ventriloquists, and those who speak from the earth, and those who speak emptiness, those who speak out of their bellies ; shall a nation not seek out its God ? Why do they seek the dead concerning the living?”

Who are our modern ventriloquists? Obviously the text refers to necromancy, but isn’t there something dead about the way we adhere to lifeless ideas and trends; the way we follow the false voices of our society?

“For he gave the law for a help, that they should speak not according to this word, concerning which there are no gifts to give concerning it.”

The law of God, his commands to us help us, He gives us gifts of grace and his own power; unlike the world’s words which deprive us of who we are (remember the children are manifestations of the who the people are to be, what the future holds for them—including Christ as the God-with-us, Emmanuel) and which leave us empty like the prodigal son in the foreign land , who wanted to eat the pigs’ food.

“And harsh famine will come upon you ; and it shall be that when you are hungry you shall be grieved and speak ill of the ruler and your ancestral customs, and they will look up to the heaven above, and they will look on the earth below, and behold dire distress and darkness, tribulation and misery and darkness, so that it is impossible to see ; and he who in distress will not be distressed only for a moment.” 

So we will be hungry, and before we learn to repent we will just complain about the world and vainly look for an answer in the the things that God has made and not in him as Maker. When we don’t understand the Maker, the world is a terrifying and brutal place, not because God has made it so, but because he has made it to represent his own power. When we forget that the power in creation is an expression of the power of the God who loves us, but rather see only the power and not the love, then we think that the things of this world are not good or are even heartlessly impersonal.

“Do this first, do this quickly, country of Zavoulon, land of Nephthalim, way of the sea and the rest of the inhabitants of the sea coast and beyond Jordan, Galilee of the nations, the parts of Judea. The people who walked in darkness, see, a great light! You who dwell in the country and shadow of death a light will shine on you.”

The people who are lost to the Assyrians, the disappeared of Israel are reclaimed. They were in the darkness of exile and mixed with the nations who do not worship the God of Israel, but now are brought back to God’s light. But this is not really about only “Israel according to the flesh,” but rather the very part of Israel that is lost that is reclaimed after it has mixed with all the nations. God is calling the Israel which is not the perfect and the pure, but really the Israel from among the Gentiles, the people who have left  false gods to be  enlightened by God.

“The most part of the people which you brought down in your joy, they too will rejoice before you as those who rejoice at harvest and in the way of those who divide the spoil. Because the yoke which lay on them and the rod that was on their neck has been taken away; for the Lord has scattered the rod of those who demanded, as in the day of Madiam. For they shall pay restitution for every robe that has been collected by trickery and every garment with exchange ; and they will be willing even if they had been burnt by fire.” 

We will rejoice if we seek a harvest from God, if we seek victory from him. We will have joy if we look to the resurrection with faith and do not let the fear of death hold us back, if we do not allow ourselves to be imprisoned in the Spirit of this age, which is lead captive by many oppressors

“Because a child has been for us, a son too has been given to us, whose rule was upon his shoulder, and his name is called Angel of great counsel, wondrous counsellor, mighty God, potentate, prince of peace, father of the age to come; for I shall bring peace upon the princes, peace and health to him. Great is his rule and of his peace there is no limit upon the throne of David and his kingdom to establish it and assist it with judgement and with justice from now and forever ; the zeal of the Lord Sabaoth will do all this.”

This is, of course, Christ whose rule we take on, whose harvest we reap, whose victory we celebrate not because nothing bad happens to us in this life, but because we see, now, in him, the age to come and the limitless rule of God. To others this may seem a vain or “immature” consolation. Let the peace that we have through his reign prove his authority, let the knowledge, the “Counsel” that we have in him enlighten our souls.


In this time of illness and social trouble and great depression let us be lifted up. We are not the first to feel cast down, nor are we the first to see the beauty of the kingdom which comes in Christ. We should be renewed even more, be peaceful ever more, when things are difficult and confusing, and so have Christ residing in our hearts.

In Christ,

Fr. Elijah