Seeds: Narrative Lectionary Resource 11/18 Swords into Plowshares

Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20; 37:1-7; then 2:1-4

There are two entries about this text at the Narrative Lectionary/Working Preacher site.
2018
http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3835
2014
https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2236

While the lectionary adds in verses from Chapter 2 about beating swords into ploughshares, I find myself wondering if this provides too ready a solution to the situation, moving from a threat to morale and from the military to a time when might will not dictate right, but without necessarily addressing the time now/between now and then.
I have to admit to not being too fond of taking chapters out of order in this way, either.

In chapters 36 and 37, the king of Assyria, rather than defeating Israel in battle, seeks to conquer them by making them disbelieve God’s power and support. Take away the people’s hope/vision and it won’t matter what you do to them after that.

Why does the Assyrian king talk instead of fighting, especially when he apparently has the military advantage? Maybe he figures he can defeat the Israelites for all time at less cost if they give up hope. Without hopes/dreams, we are lost.

While in the lectionary the text is paired with Matthew 5:14 about being the light of the world/city on a hill, I find myself thinking of other passages.

Psalm 138 talks about kings who, like Hezekiah, rely on God
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+138&version=NRSV

2 Timothy 4:1-5 about the people having “itching ears,” hearing what they want to hear
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Timothy+4&version=NRSV

In John, Jesus praises those who believe without seeing. In a sense, the king of Assyria is contrasting his own visible, physical rule with that of the (unseen) god of Hezekiah that must be believed without being as visible.
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+20%3A26-29&version=NRSV

Below are angles on the king of Assyria’s attempt to kill the Israelites’ hope

See Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs+13%3A12&version=NRSV

and Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision/hope, the people perish
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+29%3A18&version=KJV
Also see Langston Hughes’ poem, “Harlem,” which begins: What happens to a dream deferred?
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46548/harlem
and this piece emphasizing “when your dreams meet reality, choose hope”

Click to access 2551.pdf


In Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” hell is the place where all hope is abandoned
Maybe abandoning all hope = hell
https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/abandon+hope%2C+all+ye+who+enter+here
Liturgical resources related to this aspect of the passage

Collect/invocation:
O God of Israel, Hezekiah, and Isaiah,
who sustained the hope of your people Israel,
threatened by Assyria’s words and weapons
embolden us to face all threats to our faith and hope,
that we can serve and praise you with our whole selves for our whole lives.
Amen.

Confession of Sin (the refrain is from Isaiah 37: 31, Isaiah’s prophecy to Hezekiah)

 

O God, you shatter the powers of this world.

You conquer all that separates us from you and from one another.

Yet we remain captive to doubt and fear.

 

When the problems of the world and our own problems overwhelm us, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When we look at our challenges as though we must meet them ourselves, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When our lack of seeing threatens to result in a lack of believing, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When hopelessness is contagious and cynicism reigns, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When we give in to meeting hate with hate, forgetting to listen, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

When our lack of seeing threatens our believing, forgive us.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

God promises that we will sow and reap;

taking root below and bearing fruit above.

Out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,

and out of Zion a band of survivors.

The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.

Thanks be to God!

 

Prayers of the People

The leader part could also be prayer concerns/petitions/prayers of the people, with the refrain as a call to action: As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

This might open with the closing from above:

 

God promises that we will sow and reap;

taking root below and bearing fruit above.

Out of Jerusalem will come a remnant,

and out of Zion a band of survivors.

The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.

Thanks be to God!

 

For newly elected leaders, that they may serve the people and thus serve you, we pray and take action. As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.

 

For victims of wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters, we pray and take action.

As your faithful remnant, root us below that we may bear fruit above.    Etc.

 

(Closing) God, make us part of your zeal, praying and working as members of your kingdom, the faithful remnant.

 

 

Prayer of Great Thanksgiving (Note that aspects of this prayer may also be used when the Lord’s Supper is not celebrated)

 

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 

God make us truly thankful to you.

For all that you have made, for the world and the people in it, we give thanks.

For the witness of your people and your prophets, we give thanks.

For your providence and your promises, we give thanks.

For sowing and reaping; for harvest and feasts, we give thanks.

For the planting of vineyards and the reaping of their fruit, we give thanks.

 

For your presence as Creator, Redeemer, and Spirit, we give thanks.

For the sustaining gift of this Supper, we give thanks.

 

As Hezekiah came to Isaiah

when external and internal threats seek overwhelm,

when forces that destroy hope are gaining power,

when those who do not believe in you belittle you—and us,

we come to you.

 

In this meal, we come to you,

to partake what you offer:

your constant presence and power,

your everlasting hope,

nourishment and strength for the journey of faith.

 

Send your Spirit upon these gifts of bread and cup,

that they may be for us the body of your Son, Christ Jesus,

so that we may be the body of your Son in the world.

 

Hymns relating to various themes of the passage

From Glory to God: Presbyterian Hymnal

 

#53: O God, Who Gives Us Life

#168: Within Your Shelter, Loving God (Psalm 91)

#177: I Will Come to You, You are Mine

#339: Lift Every Voice and Sing

#356: Praise to God, Whose Mighty Acts

#357: The Days Are Surely Coming

#373: O Day of Peace (swords into plowshares)

#463: How Firm a Foundation

#706: Commit Your Way to God the Lord (Psalm 37)

#758 Why Do Nations Rage Together (Psalm 2; swords into plowshares)

#776 O God, Be Gracious (Psalm 4)

#781 Hear My Cry, O God, and Save Me! (Psalm 77)

#782 Hear My Prayer, O God (Psalm 43)

#790 In Silence My Soul Thirsts (Psalm 62)

#812 O Save Me, God, and Hear My Cry (Psalm 54)

#817 We Walk by Faith and Not By Sight (John 20)

#818 By Gracious Powers

#831 I Depend upon Your Faithfulness

#841 God Is My Strong Salvation (Psalm 27)

#842 The Lord is My Light (Psalm 27)

#843 My Soul Is at Rest (Psalm 62)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note that if you have access to ATLA, you should try articles there, which are peer-reviewed.

 

Other open access materials are mainly of the conservative persuasion.

They include:

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-36/

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-37/

This commentary notes the text of Isaiah 36-37 is nearly identical to that of 2 Kings 18-19 and that the events are also provided in a more summary fashion in 2 Chronicles 32:1-19.

 

For a side-by-side comparison of the three from the KJV with summary and commentary

http://bibletrack.org/cgi-bin/bible.pl?incr=0&mo=10&dy=2

 

For a commentary from Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, probably the most conservative branch of Lutheranism in the US:

http://www.iowaeastdeaf.org/dit/eiit04/documents/eiit04_2_1_PeoplesBibleonHezekiah.pdf

 

 

Less conservative takes on the 2 Kings version include

 

This blog tells the story all the way through the defeat of the King of Assyria

https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/05/09/commentary-on-2-kings-18-19-   hezekiah-and-sennacherib/

 

Here’s a Schmoop summary of the 2 Kings version

https://www.shmoop.com/2-kings/chapter-18-summary.html

https://www.shmoop.com/2-kings/chapter-19-summary.html

 

 

The Siloam Tunnel, also called Hezekiah’s Tunnel, relates to the potential siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siloam_tunnel

On another tack, note the (Advent-ish) phrase “Do not be afraid,” delivered by Isaiah, God’s messenger (37:6).
“Be not afraid”
https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=be+not+afraid&qs_version=NRSV
“Do not be afraid”
https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=%22do+not+be+afraid%22&qs_version=NRSV
John Michael Talbot song, “Be Not Afraid,”

Liturgical resources related to “Be not afraid”

Collect/Call to Worship
O Lord, you continually cast out our fear,
calling us to trust in you rather than we can see—and cannot see—
in the world around us.
Visit us this day with your courage and strength,
that we may know that our hope is in you alone,
and share that hope with one another and the world.
In the new creation of the Father,
the victorious action of the Son,
and the ongoing action of the Spirit,
hear our prayer. Amen.
Note that if you have access to ATLA, you should try articles there, which are peer-reviewed.

Other open access materials are mainly of the conservative persuasion.
They include:
https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-36/
https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/isaiah-37/
This commentary notes the text of Isaiah 36-37 is nearly identical to that of 2 Kings 18-19and that the events are also provided in a more summary fashion in 2 Chronicles 32:1-19.

For a side-by-side comparison of the three from the KJV with summary and commentary
http://bibletrack.org/cgi-bin/bible.pl?incr=0&mo=10&dy=2

For a commentary from Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, probably the most conservative branch of Lutheranism in the US:

Click to access eiit04_2_1_PeoplesBibleonHezekiah.pdf


Less conservative takes on the 2 Kings version include

This blog tells the story all the way through the defeat of the King of Assyria
https://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2016/05/09/commentary-on-2-kings-18-19- hezekiah-and-sennacherib/

Here’s a Schmoop summary of the 2 Kings version
https://www.shmoop.com/2-kings/chapter-18-summary.html
https://www.shmoop.com/2-kings/chapter-19-summary.html

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