— The Lord’s Day —

Week 2: Sunday

Pondering Jesus’ victorious Word

εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication (צֶדֶק, tsedeq) shines forth like the dawn
and her victory (יְשׁוּעָה, yshuwʿah) like a burning torch.
Nations shall behold your vindication (צֶדֶק, tsedeq),
and all the kings Your glory;
you shall be called by a new name
pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.
You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
a royal diadem held by Your God.
No more shall people call you “Forsaken, “
or your land “Desolate,”
but you shall be called “My Delight,”
and your land “Espoused.”

θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

The Divine word voiced by an unstoppable Isaiah rumbles through the cosmos this Sunday with news that breaks the fabric of day-to-day tedium announcing an entirely new way of living. “Vindication” and “victory,” as sounded in the translation heard today, offers not only a “new name” but also a new way of covenanting with God as “My Delight,” “My Espoused.” Key to this new way of relating to and with the Lord lies in the Divinely initiated and sustained works of “vindication” and “victory.”

What exactly does Isaiah mean by “vindication?” In our present culture, we tend to view “vindication” as ‘being proved right,’ especially after some ordeal or confrontation. There may even be a hint of revenge or punishment added for good measure that attempts to justify oneself as the person-in-the-right after a contentious argument or hurtful ‘discussion.’ Biblically though, “vindication” translates the Hebrew word צֶדֶק, (tsedeq). Tsedeq is part of a family of Hebrew words formed from the Hebrew root word צָדַק (tsadaq). While conveying a legal aspect of ‘being in the clear,’ ‘being not-guilty,’ the root tsadaq fundamentally has to do with ‘right’ in the sense of ‘right-living,’ ‘right or proper order,’ ‘right, just, or proper relationship.’ In addition to “vindication,” tsadaq and its forms often appear in English biblical translation as “just,” “justice,” “right,” or “righteous.”

Tsadaq, especially when it is applied to people throughout the Scriptures, refers often to living in proper relationship: proper relationship with God, with others, with the true self and all of creation. Used extensively by the Fathers of the Church, tsadaq (the Fathers used the Greek of tsadaq: dikaios) expressed the original harmony that radiated from creation. Original Justice is ‘original tsadaq’ declaring, that since all reality flowed from the hand of the Creator, all reality originally was in right-relationship with the Creator; all creation was tsadaq with the Creator. Far from a contemporary usage and understanding of ‘justice,’ biblical justice is first and foremost about living life relationally as well as each relationship in its proper place, a relationship that ruptured into disorder with the advent of sin.

Yet as Genesis makes clear in that protoevangelical verse (3:15), help is on the way to heal the rupture and disorder humanity caused.

In the translation proclaimed this Sunday, that healing is “victory (יְשׁוּעָה, yshuwʿah).” Yshuwʿah, like so many Hebrew words, is grounded in a root word and in this case it is (יָשַׁע, yashaʿ). Yashaʿ is the Hebrew root from which many of the “salvation” words are derived in Sacred Scripture. While later usage of yashaʿ will include aspects of ‘healing’ and ‘restoration,’ the original usage of yashaʿ is ‘grounded’ in Ancient Near Eastern understanding of ‘land.’ In that world, land was never owned. Purchasing land and receiving legal title or deed to the land is a much later historical development. Initially, land was a gift, a gift that was ‘wide, broad and spacious (yashaʿ).’ How is it that this word yashaʿ, which is all about wide, broad and spacious land, come to mean “victory” or “salvation?” For the ancients, to live on a ‘wide, broad, and spacious land’ meant to have all the necessary resources to live. Land that was ‘wide, broad and spacious’ would have a better chance of access to water, sufficient room to farm and to herd as well as the ability to protect oneself and family. When all of these resources were present, one lived yashaʿ, one lived “victory,” one lived the life of salvation.

Once again, the central event of Christianity and the core message of this Year of Mercy rings through these Biblical texts. Yashaʿ, while the root of the words that provide Biblical “victory” and “salvation,” yashaʿ is the Hebrew root for the Divine Name, Jesus! No longer “victory” and “salvation” grounded in land that is wide, broad and spacious, salvation is the right-relationship (tsadaq) with the Divine Person Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God Who walked the land of earth. Being in relationship with Jesus Who blesses one with the Gift of being “My Delight ... My Espoused” is both an event of victory and healing, a living of salvation. Far from a perceived notion of mindless, heartless, obligatory living of a moral code divorced from a Person and laced with images of ‘doing good to earn heaven,’ Christian salvation is about the Person Jesus Who desires to encounter, to befriend and to love us. The ‘moral code,’ those ways of thinking, speaking and acting are rooted in a response to Him as a Person within a relationship of love. One avoids sin and seeks His Face and His Kingdom way of living not because of a whimsical edict, but because of a graced-movement of the heart and intellect that desires the Truth of Divine Love. One lives this “Way” because of love, Divine Love revealed and embodied in a Person, Jesus.