This Sunday’s text is Isaiah 9:1-7. The Working Preacher commentary for this Sunday seems to be missing, but there’s an older commentary here.

I’m reading Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Prophets right now. Truth be told, it would have been good to read it before I started preaching on Amos, but time being what it is, I’m reading it now.

Heschel sets the stage for understanding Isaiah like this:

  • Judah was the “most stable, prosperous, and powerful state in the area,” putting her front and center in the anti-Assyrian movement (c. 743).
  • Assyria was a menace, which overpowered small states, plundered cities, and deported citizens.
  • Samaria was threatened by Assyria because of a plot against Judah. The Northern Kingdom would fall, and there was nothing that Isaiah could do about that.
  • But what would happen to Judah, the Southern Kingdom?

Sometime around 735 BCE, while Jerusalem was being attacked by the Edomites and the Philistines, the king believed his only way out was to pay tribute to Assyria. Isaiah had a message from God, though. “Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands…(7:4)”

But King Ahaz couldn’t do it. He was afraid, so he didn’t do what Isaiah said. Instead he paid tribute to Assyria. It was a smart political move. Heschel says, “The state was in peril, so he appealed to a great power for military aid. Isaiah offered words; Assyria had an army. To rely on God rather than weapons would have been to subordinate political wisdom to faith.”

“To rely on God rather than weapons would have been to subordinate political wisdom to faith.”

How long will we rely on weapons rather than God?

In the days of church shootings, who do we rely upon? In the days when we have 311 mass shootings in the United States and nearly 14,000 deaths by guns, who do we rely upon? In the days of nuclear threats, who do we rely upon?

Our text today speaks of the darkness that we are experiencing today, but it makes a promise—that those who walk in darkness will see a great light, those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine on them. Justice will come. The yoke of their burden, the rod of their oppressor, will be broken.

A leader will come—we’ll call him Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We’ll call him Jesus the Christ.

What will you preach this Sunday? Here are some other ideas:

  • The Names of God: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace are but a few. What are the names that bring you closer to God?
  • The Nature of Prophets: Heschel says that “God is raging in the prophet’s words.” What is the role of prophetic utterance today? Who are the prophets of today?
  • The Necessity of Intervention: I wonder if our congregations feel helpless in the fight against injustice, and one of the ways the feel helpless is because they feel guilty. Heschel reminds us that “Some are guilty, all are responsible.” Can that help move our congregations toward justice?

Let us know where you’ll go…



Rev. Lia Scholl is not-that-kind-of-Baptist preacher and pastor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (U.S.) and is the author of I Heart Sex Workers (Chalice Press, 2013).


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3 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Prophetic Utterance Edition (Isaiah 9:1-7)

  1. I’m just starting my work on this (because reasons) but “shoulders” jumped out at me. A “rod of oppression” is on the shoulders of the people; but the government will be on the shoulders of the Prince of Peace. I live in the city famously called the City of the Big Shoulders; we shoulder a burden, we feel tension and stress in our shoulders. Shoulders are places of both strength/burden-bearing and of potential breakdown/injury. A ruler who carries the government on their shoulders implies strength and power–a mantle or cloak, if you will. But there’s also the truth that shoulders can become bowed down under the weight, as indeed Jesus’ did, when he stumbled under the weight of the cross on the way to Golgotha. Not sure where all this is going, but it has me musing.

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  2. I love this quote, “Some are guilty, all are responsible.”

    In regards to your tack about relying on God, I think that some people hear relying on God has waiting for God to do it, but I don’t think that’s what it means.

    I also think many in my good, progressive, rural, Midwestern congregation most don’t feel responsible for changing the system.

    Which has me thinking of what relying on God might look like? I’ve got some ideas but I’m not sure yet.

    I keep coming back to the Heschel quote, that we are responsible for bringing creating the space where light can be seen.

    End stream of consciousness

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