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 called 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 brought hope to the Judeans during the Exile in Babylon (587 to 539 BCE) by telling them they had suffered enough and would return to Jerusalem. “Third Isaiah” is Chapters 56 to 66 and, for the most part, gave encouragement to Judeans who returned to Jerusalem (which had been largely destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE) after the Exile.
Today’s reading is from “Third Isaiah” and is a series of joyful verses. The first two verses (from “I will greatly rejoice” to “spring up before all the nations” are spoken by Zion/Jerusalem. As is often characteristic of psalm-like verses in the Hebrew Bible (as was also true of ancient Canaanite poetry), the verses are repetitive – the idea in one phrase is repeated in slightly different words in the next. For example, “I will greatly rejoice” is followed by “my whole being will exult.” Similarly, Zion is “clothed with garments of salvation” is repeated as the “robe of righteousness.”
In the verses beginning “For Zion’s sake,” the speaker shifts from Zion to the prophet, but the use of repetitive ideas continues: “I will not keep silent” is followed by “I will not rest.” You [Zion] shall wear “a crown of beauty” and “a royal diadem.”
Being “called by a new name” meant Zion/Jerusalem will have a change of fortune and a new identity given by YHWH.
Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7
Galatia was a large Roman province in what is now western Turkey. This letter was likely written by Paul in the early 50’s (CE), and dealt (in part) with controversies between Jewish Jesus Followers and Gentile Jesus Followers regarding the continuing importance of Torah (Law) and whether Gentile Jesus Followers had to be circumcised and follow the Kosher dietary laws. It is a “transitional” letter in that – when compared to Paul’s last letter (Romans) — it shows his views on the relationship between the Torah and the Gentile Jesus Followers continued to evolve.
Today’s reading unfortunately omits verses that help the reader/hearer better understand Paul’s position on the relationship between the law (Torah) and the faithfulness of (not faith in) Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Paul states that through the grace of the faithfulness of Jesus the Christ/Anointed, Jesus Followers are “no longer subject to a disciplinarian [the Law]” (vv. 24-25).
In the second part of today’s reading (beginning with “But in the fulness of time”), Paul emphasizes that Jesus of Nazareth was a human and a Jew (“born of a woman under the law”) to “redeem those under the law” (the Jews). The Greek word translated here as “redeem” means to buy back, as in redeeming something one owns from a pawn shop. All persons, because of the Spirit of the Son, are children of God who can call God “Abba” (Aramaic for father) and are heirs of the Kingdom.