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 were written in the 20 years before Jerusalem was under direct siege by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. “Second Isaiah” is Chapters 40 to 55 and brings hope to the Judeans during the time of 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 the Judeans who returned to Jerusalem after the Exile.
Today’s reading sets the tone and essence of “Second Isaiah.” It was written during the ending years of the Babylonian Exile and analogizes the withered grass (v. 6-8) to the declining Babylonian Empire (which was conquered by the Persians in 539 BCE). The references to “preparing the way of the LORD/YHWH” (v. 3-5) refer to facilitating the Judeans’ return to Jerusalem so that YHWH would again be visibly present in Jerusalem. These verses were adopted by Mark (in today’s Gospel) and by the other Gospel writers to describe the ministry of John the Baptizer in preparing the way for Jesus of Nazareth.
2 Peter 3:8-15a
This letter is presented as if it were a first-person statement of the last words and advice of the apostle Peter, but was likely written long after Peter’s death by an unknown person to convey the understandings of the church in the late First Century. Scholars agree that the author was not Simon Peter or the author of 1 Peter because of the quality of the Greek used and the Hellenistic philosophy invoked.
The letter presents an “apocalyptic” vision of the world — one in which the situation is so dire that only an intervening event (the “Day of the Lord”) can change it. Refuting those who deny that there will ever be a Day of the Lord because it had not yet come, the author reminded his hearers that God’s time is not our time (v. 8-9). The author said the world as we know it will be transformed by fire (v.10,12) and there will be a new earth where right relationships (“righteousness”) prevail (v.13). The author urged the hearers of the letter to live blamelessly and at peace (v.14).