1. In Bringing the Hidden to Light, I read William Schniedewind’s “The Way of the Word: Textualization in Isaiah 55:6-11.” What stood out to me was Isaiah 55:6-11:
YHWH is with you when you are with him, and if you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he shall forsake you.
God will forsake those who forsake him? I guess I haven’t forsaken God yet, for I continue to pray and read my Bible and other devotional literature. “Forsaking” God, to me, means having nothing to do with him.
But I wonder if God is the type of person who forsakes anyone. Even in the case of Israel in exile, God had not forsaken her. She was God’s people, period. If she were to reject God’s plan for her, then God would subject her to further discipline and purification, not ditch her completely.
But is it possible for us to feel as if God isn’t really relating to us, because we aren’t on the same page that he is? One lady told me recently that, back when she was drinking and using, she believed in God, but God didn’t answer her prayers, probably because she wasn’t on the same page that he was. I used to read my Bible and pray to God, but I still felt afraid. My prayers and my Bible reading weren’t empowering me. Nowadays, I believe that I feel God’s presence. But I don’t just rely on prayer and Bible reading. Devotionals and other people offer me tips as to how I can live my life. Before, I may have been religious, but I was reluctant, even afraid, to listen to advice. But God can guide me through other people—which is not to say that I should accept all advice as God-given. I don’t have to accept any advice, for that matter! But I should at least consider it, in my opinion.
Why didn’t God help me when I relied solely on prayer and Bible reading? In my view, it’s because he wanted to use people and circumstances. Those are what put me into relationships, and build in me empathy and compassion. And he wanted to help me when I was ready to receive help.
2. In A Prophet Reads Scripture: Allusion in Isaiah 40-66, on page 66, Benjamin Sommer discusses how the Servant Songs draw on the Book of Jeremiah, for “the servant’s career is modeled on that of Jeremiah”; and yet, “the servant accepts his fate more readily than Jeremiah”.
At the first (and so far, only) Society of Biblical Literature meeting that I attended, a lady presented a paper claiming that the Suffering Servant was Jeremiah, and that Isaiah 53 was Israel apologizing for persecuting and not listening to Jeremiah. She based her argument on the parallels between the Servant Songs and the Book of Jeremiah. My professor then asked her if she considered that the Book of Jeremiah may have drawn from the Servant Songs! That highlights a problem Sommer mentions: that we don’t always know what drew from what!
But, in my opinion, there are still scenarios that can make sense. That lady could construct a plausible scenario in which Isaiah 53 was based on Jeremiah. Would there be a plausible scenario in which Jeremiah would draw from Isaiah 53? I don’t know. I’m not going to rule it out. Maybe the character of Jeremiah identifies with the Suffering Servant, and yet he can’t endure his mission with the patience that the Servant displayed.
Sommer is like that one lady I heard at the SBL conference, and yet his conclusion is different. For Sommer, the Suffering Servant does not equal Jeremiah, but his career is modeled on that of Jeremiah, and yet the Servant does right what Jeremiah did wrong: the Servant accepts his mission.