The Book of Isaiah is a composite of writings from three distinct periods in Israel’s history. Chapters 1-39 are called “First Isaiah” and calls for Jerusalem to repent in the 20 years before Jerusalem was under siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55 and brings hope to the Judeans during the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they have suffered enough and will return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 and, for the most part, gives encouragement to Judeans who returned to Jerusalem after the Exile.
Today’s reading is from “Third Isaiah” and follows a series of verses which acknowledged that Jerusalem was still recovering from the harsh effects of the Babylonian conquest in 587 BCE. The prophet, speaking on behalf of YHWH/LORD, told the Judeans that sentinels (prophets) would guard over them (v.6). He urged them not to allow YHWH to rest until YHWH established Jerusalem and made it renowned in the earth (v.7). He assured the Judeans that YHWH will be their protector against plunder (v.8) and they would be known as the Redeemed of YHWH (v.12)
Although Titus is not mentioned in the extensive descriptions of Paul’s journeys in the last half of Acts of the Apostles, he is mentioned in two of Paul’s authentic epistles – Galatians and Corinthians. Titus was Paul’s co-worker and envoy, and this letter is crafted as if it were a reminder to Titus to serve the large Jewish Jesus Follower Community in Crete. The letter was structured as one intended for an audience, and not just for one person.
The Letter to Titus is one of the so-called “Pastoral Letters” (the others are 1 and 2 Timothy) which contain advice to Paul’s co-workers and to the Jesus Follower communities as they were becoming more structured. Most scholars conclude that the Pastoral Letters were written in Paul’s name by some of Paul’s disciples well after Paul’s death in Rome in 63 CE.
In today’s reading, the author presented succinct creed-like statements about key understandings of the meaning of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the continuing work of the Spirit. It is noteworthy that the author did not claim that Jesus Followers are saved by the Crucifixion, but rather by “the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (v.5). Jesus Followers are “justified” (put in a right relationship with God) by the “grace” of the Spirit “poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (v.6).