Yesterday’s chapter perplexed me, so I consulted James Burton Coffman’s commentary and managed to make some sense of the passage. Today’s chapter also perplexed me, so again I consulted Coffman. And he begins his remarks thus: “This chapter has been considered somewhat of an enigma by commentators for centuries.” Oh boy. And Coffman goes on: “We do not consider the chapter to be more than ordinarily difficult.” Oh, that’s reassuring!
Unsurprisingly, the prophecies continue. Today we’ve got a prophecy that Jesus himself identifies as about him, but before that we’ve got a prophecy about prophets.
You may or may not have gone in with some familiarity as we’ve opened up the book of Zechariah. But you likely recognize Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! …Behold, your king is coming to you…humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus Christ famously fulfilled that prophecy at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to the Last Supper and crucifixion. Of course, it’s not too difficult to acquire a donkey and ride it into Jerusalem, at least compared to the hurdles involved in arranging to be born in Bethlehem or, say, to a virgin.
The bulk of this chapter details the proper use of spiritual gifts, and its instructions are relatively uncontroversial. But near the end, just when you think we’re going to get through this one without any major issues, Paul drops this bomb on us: “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church” (14:34-35). Why’d you have to open up that can of worms, Paul? Come on!
How are you sleeping these days? Lately I’ve been waking up too early and having trouble going back to sleep. I think the experience of perturbed sleep is common to man: we all have times when the demands of life interrupt the regularity of our sleep. I have a lot of respect for people whose jobs require them to keep odd hours, working at night and sleeping when the sun comes up. You know: police officers, night janitors, the third shift of the Levitical priesthood.
When in doubt, start with a summary: you gotta know what the chapter says before you can figure out what it means. This chapter is about God restoring Israel’s fortunes. Remember the last chapter of historical narrative we read, Isaiah 39, where Hezekiah showed the Babylonians all his wealth and Isaiah prophesied that Babylon was gonna come in and take it all? God’s prophetic message in chapter 60 is that there will come a day when Israel will have neat stuff again. Camels and gold and the respect of the nations: in time it’s all coming back.
There’s more on the Messiah in today’s passage. Right off the bat, Isaiah tells us, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit” (11:1). The Messiah will come as a descendant of David, who was possibly Israel’s greatest and most well-known king, the son of an ordinary guy named Jesse. He will usher in a time of righteous judgment on behalf of the poor, a time of peace when “the wolf will dwell with the lamb” (11:6). I wonder if the passage is intended to hark back to the Garden of Eden, free from death and therefore free from predator-prey relationships, an ecology free from suffering.