We continue sharing from Richard’s 1980 series on the Hebrew prophets. In this talk, Richard focuses on the prophet Isaiah and the meaning of biblical faith:
Isaiah [the author of Isaiah 1–39] is above all else the prophet of faith. He begins to define the quality of faith and what it means to trust in God. It’s a whole new capacity for God and life…. Biblical faith, especially for Isaiah, is a quality of being, a quality of perception.
We might try to describe it as a type of internal authority that comes from listening to everything, a going beyond fear so that one becomes intimate with everything. Such people know the truth out of which they speak. They have somehow heard Divine Love speak their name. I don’t know how to describe such mysteries. It’s like there’s a place within us where those names have become one, God’s name and our name. That’s the source of the authority out of which we speak, that we know God has called us by name and we know God has been revealed to us. We know God and we know God knows us. We begin to draw our authority from that point.
That’s the only way that we can stand firmly in this world. Otherwise, we’re always searching outside of ourselves for the approval of others, the applause of others, or some group to find our identity. And so we don’t have to have a personal identity. Faith is obeying your deepest heart. It’s being true to your deepest self.
God offers Isaiah a loving and surprising response to the people’s stuck faith:
In the middle of Isaiah, the prophet seems to be repeating his basic belief and testimony. He calls it the precious cornerstone of his teaching, which is “whoever has faith shall not be shaken” (Isaiah 28:16). Now we’re beginning to see why Isaiah is called the prophet of faith. God says, “I will make justice the measure, integrity the plumb line” for those who live this radical faith (Isaiah 28:17).
“Yahweh has said: Because this people approaches me only in words, honors me only with lip service while its heart is far from me, and my religion, as far as it is concerned, is nothing but human commandment, a lesson memorized” (Isaiah 29:13). And here’s God’s response right after: I’m going to go on acting in surprising and wondrous fashion, “being prodigal of prodigious prodigies with this people,” as The Jerusalem Bible translates it (29:14). God is saying, as it were, “You don’t know my love. You’re satisfied with verbal religion, with lip service. The only way I know how to get you out of it is to love you more.”
How beautiful! That’s always the way of God. God shakes a finger at the people and yet says, “The way I’ll call you out of it is by loving you even more than I love you now.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Prophets (San Antonio, TX: Catholic Charismatic Bible Institute, 1980), audio recording. No longer available for purchase.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, Bisti Badlands. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 6. Jenna Keiper, Taos Snow. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Like this bird, the Hebrew prophets sing truth from new vantage points.
Story from Our Community:
As a university chaplain, I often began my days by savoring the wisdom of the CAC Daily Meditations. In the words, I found the courage and compassion required for the arduous work of pastoring, mentoring, and reconciling clashing of world views. Now retired, I continue to read the Daily Meditations. At this stage of my life, I feel encouraged to “let go” of ego attachments that dissolve as my professional identity becomes less relevant. I seek to greet each day as an empty vessel, with what Buddhists call a “Beginner’s Mind.” That way, I can ensure that these words become seeds that take root and grow within me as I continue to grow. —Mark F.