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Lectionary Reflection

Year A, Advent 4 Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary Revised Common Lectionary Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Lesson

Isaiah 7: 10-17(Standard Lectionary and Revised Common Lectionary)

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah-- the king of Assyria."

Reflection on Isaiah 7: 10-17 by John G. Gibbs, PhD

The focus of all four texts in the Revised Common Lectionary is the good news ("gospel") for a whole community that they are collectively to be restored to wholeness of life ("salvation").

The main emphasis of Isaiah 7:10-16 is that "God is with us," which is what the Hebrew word "Immanel" means. God is present not only to the prophet in a special way inside the temple (Is. 6). God "the Lord" over the depth of Sheol and the height of heaven (7:11) is no less present in blessing (7:16; cf. 7:17) within the entire "house of David" (7:13).

A fundamentalist obsession with virginity does not exist in the Hebrew text, for the child's mother appears there as "a young woman" (rather than as a virgin, as the Septuagint Greek has it). Instead, the all-important "sign" is the "son" named "Immanuel." It is by the presence of God in a society that it "knows how to refuse evil and choose the good," and the function of this son is to maintain that distinction within "the house of David."

"Immanuel" spells the difference between Eco-Justice and Eco-INjustice for both people and land (7:16, and "curds and honey" in 7:15). As Isaiah later emphasizes by repetition, when God is present in blessing, harmony is returned to the whole creation (cf. for instance Is. 11:6-9). The "God of hosts," whom Isaiah met in the temple, is El Shaddai, the Almighty, God over all the creation.

Printable version

To Reflections on other Readings for Year A, Advent 4:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary
Revised Common Lectionary
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Lesson:
Isaiah 7:10-17 (this page)
Isaiah 7:10-17 (this page)
Psalm 24 or 24:1-7
New Testament Lesson

John G. Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he originally wrote this reflection in 2007. John and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to John G. Gibbs or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

MEESC c/o C. Morello 4451 Lakeside Drive Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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