Isaiah 10:5-7, 13b-16; Matthew 11:25-27
The excerpt from Isaiah makes more sense (at least to me) when I read the whole chapter. As we can tell, it is the time of the Assyrian invasion of the southern kingdom of Judah; the “he” the Lord refers to is the Assyrian king. The Lord has sent/allowed the Assyrians to plunder, seize loot, and tread the people down, because they are an impious people. But the Assyrians have a more destructive objective – to make an end to the nation. And so the Lord warns (in verse 12 which as not included) that that the Assyrian will be punished.
The Assyrian is guilty of boastfulness, of pride, of arrogance – God reveals that God’s power allowed the plundering to occur, not the Assyrian’s own power. God promises to send the invader leanness and, in following verses, that Israel’s power will wax again and be a fire that consumes his (the Assyrian invader’s) “briers and his thorns” in a single day. As the psalmist reminds us, “The Lord will not abandon his people” even though they be trampled down and murdered – the Lord will not abandon his inheritance.
I think the Isaiah chapter could be interpreted in a different light today. Perhaps God is warning us about the proper use of the gifts we have received. God sent the Assyrian on a mission, even though the Assyrian may not have perceived that he was being sent. The Assyrian overstepped his bounds, misused his powers, and did not act in accordance with God’s will. We too have been sent on a mission in this life we have, even though we may not know what that mission is. We too have received powers to be used to fulfill that mission. And we too can and do misuse those powers and overstep our charge, our limits, our calling. We too can be boastful, and proud and arrogant, and think that we can do the things we do of our own power and not that of God.
I always like it when Jesus refers to children and holds them up for us as examples. We tend to be like the Assyrian and be boastful and proud of our own abilities and forget that all comes from God. That is why children are such a wonderful example of pure faith. They trust, they believe, they are guileless, they are honest and loyal, they accept their powerlessness, they live in the now – at least until we teach them not to trust, to challenge, to scheme, to shade the truth, to divide their allegiances, to grasp and control, to fret about tomorrow. As we lose our innocence we layer calluses of indifference and complications over our childlike nature. We lose our understanding of the mysteries that Jesus says are revealed to the childlike as we believe in our own powers of self-determination and action. Perhaps it would be a gift to live life backwards, as did Merlyn in T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King” where as we age we become more childlike.
And so my prayer today is for the grace to keep searching for my true mission so I can use my powers to fulfill it, and not the misguided mission I might be following; and to seek a childlike attitude so I can understand what has been revealed with the simple joy of being alive today.
By Tom Purcell