In this series, we will read the Holy Scripture with the Church through the lens of the Holy Fathers who lived the Scripture and bequeathed their inspired interpretations to later generations for their edification and spiritual growth.
And if ye be willing, and hearken unto me, ye shall eat the good things of the land: 20 But if ye be not willing, neither hearken unto me, a sword shall devour you; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken this. 21 How is the faithful city Zion become an harlot! (once) full of judgment, and in her righteousness did rest; but now murderers. 22 Your silver is base; thy hucksters mix the wine with water: 23 Thy rulers are disobedient; companions of thieves, that love gifts, that pursue a recompense; that judge not for orphans, and attend not to the cause of a widow. 24 Therefore thus saith the Ruler, the Lord of Hosts, Ah, the strong ones of Israel! for my wrath shall not cease upon mine adversaries, and I will exact judgment from mine enemies. 25 And I will turn mine hand upon thee, and burn thee into purity, and the disobedient will I destroy, and take away all transgressors from thee, and will humble all arrogant ones. 26 And I will set up thy judges as in former time, and thy counsellors as from the beginning; and after that thou shalt be called City of righteousness, faithful mother-city Zion. 27 For with judgment shall her captivity be saved, and with mercy. 28 And the transgressors and the sinners together shall be broken in pieces, and they that forsake the Lord shall be brought to an end. 29 For they shall be ashamed for their idols, which themselves desired, and shall be ashamed for their gardens, which they longed for. 30 For they shall be as a terebinth that hath cast off its leaves, and as a park with no water. 31 And their strength shall be as a stalk of flax, and their works as sparks of fire, and the transgressors and the sinners shall be burned up together, and there shall be none that shall quench them. 2:1 The word that came from the Lord to Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and concerning Jerusalem. 2 For in the last days shall the mountain of the Lord be clearly seen, and the house of God upon the top of the mountains, and it shall be uplifted above the hills, and all the nations shall come unto it. 3 And many nations shall go, and shall say, Come, let us go up into the mountain of the Lord, and into the house of the God of Jacob; and he will proclaim to us his way, and we will walk in it. For out of Zion shall a law come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Devote Yourself to Fasting and Prayer
St. Ignatius the God-Bearer1
I exhort you in God, that you add [speed] to your course, and that you vindicate your dignity. Have a care to preserve concord with the saints. Bear [the burdens of] the weak, that “you may fulfill the law of Christ” (Ga 6:2). Devote yourself to fasting and prayer, but not beyond measure, lest you destroy yourself thereby. Do not altogether abstain from wine and flesh, for these things are not to be viewed with abhorrence, since [the Scripture] saith, “You shall eat the good things of the earth” (Is 1:19). And again, “You shall eat flesh even as herbs” (Ge 9:3). And again, “Wine makes glad the heart of man, and oil exhilarates, and bread strengthens him” (Ps 104:15). But all are to be used with moderation, as being the gifts of God. “For who shall eat or who shall drink without Him? For if anything be beautiful, it is His; and if anything be good, it is His” (Ec 2:25, LXX; Zec 9:17) Give attention to reading (cf. 1 Ti 4:13), that you may not only yourself know the laws, but may also explain them to others, as the earnest athlete of God. “No man that wars entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier; and if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully” (2 Ti 2:4). I that am in bonds pray that my soul may be in place of yours.
Eat of the Good of the Land Through Baptism
St. Hippolytus of Rome2
Come then, be begotten again, O man, into the adoption of God. And how? says one. If you practice adultery no more, and commit not murder, and serve not idols; if you are not overmastered by pleasure; if you do not suffer the feeling of pride to rule you; if you cleanest off the filthiness of impurity, and put off the burden of sin; if you cast off the armor of the devil, and put on the breastplate of faith, even as Isaiah says, “Wash, and seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow. And come and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, I shall make them white as snow; and though they be like crimson, I shall make them white as wool. And if you be willing, and hear my voice, you shall eat the good of the land” (Is 1:16-19). Do you see, beloved, how the prophet spoke beforetime of the purifying power of baptism? For he who comes down in faith to the laver of regeneration, and renounces the devil, and joins himself to Christ; who denies the enemy, and makes the confession that Christ is God; who puts off the bondage, and puts on the adoption,-he comes up from the baptism brilliant as the sun, flashing forth the beams of righteousness, and, which is indeed the chief thing, he returns a son of God and joint-heir with Christ.
This says the Lord Almighty: ‘Behold, I am saving my people from the land of the east and from land of the west, 8 and I will lead them and settle them in the middle of Jerusalem, and they will be to me a people, and I will be to them a God, in truth and in righteousness.’
He Will Rescue Us
St. Didymus the Blind3
To give confidence to look forward to what seemed beyond hope, the text says that the Lord almighty promised to do it. The Lord almighty says this: Lo, I shall rescue my people from the land of the east and from the land of the west. I shall bring them back and shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and they will be my people and I shall be their God in truth and righteousness (vv. 7–8). Just as the title “man of God” is given to the person who worships and serves him, so the people that comprises only those who are devoted to God in every way is styled God’s people. It is his people whom he rescues from all over the world and its limits, his promise stating, Lo, I shall rescue my people from the land of the east and from the land of the west, says the Lord almighty. This people is not only the one of the circumcision, but the one of all the nations who believe in the savior in keeping with the Gospel.
In former times, remember, one single nation, that of the Hebrews, was the people of the one who created everything, his lot and portion, according to the testimony of the revealer when he said, “When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he scattered the sons of Adam according to the number of God’s angels, Jacob became the Lord’s portion, Israel the cord of his inheritance” on account of the beauty of its behavior and life in keeping with the text of the forty-seventh psalm, uttered by the saints in these terms: “He chose us as his inheritance, he loved the beauty of Jacob.” Of similar intent is the direct statement in the teaching of Moses, “Lo, this great nation is a wise and discerning people,” devout and resistant to sin, according to the verse in the admirable Wisdom of Solomon, “The one whose soul is unfamiliar with vice and whose body is not a victim of sin” is a recipient of God’s wisdom and the sacred discernment corresponding to it. Consistent with this view is the statement by a God-fearing man to a person of real worth about God’s word: “Lo, fear of God is wisdom, and resistance to vices is discernment” (Dt 32:8–9; Ps 47:4; Dt 4:6; Wis 1:4; Jb 28:28).
In company with this wise and discerning nation that is “a royal priesthood, a people as a special possession,” all the nations rejoice at the birth of the savior, which they ardently looked forward to in accord with the blessing that spoke of a savior’s rising from Judah, which is consistent also with what is expressed this way in Isaiah: “There will be a root of Jesse which will rise to command nations; in it nations will hope.” In reference to the common pleasure and satisfaction of all human beings, Scripture says, “Rejoice, nations, with his people,” which is no longer composed only of the one nation of the Hebrews, but of all who together adore and worship God according to the statements in the Psalms, in one place, “All the nations will serve him,” and in another, “All the nations you made will come and bow down before you, and they will glorify your name,” Lord, and again, “The ends of the earth will remember and will return to the Lord, and the families of the nations will bow down before him, because kingship is the Lord’s and he is master of the nations” (Ex 19:5–6; 1 Pt 2:9; Gn 49:10; Is 11:10 LXX; Dt 32:43 LXX; Pss 72:11; 86:9; 22:27–28).
True Worship in the Spirit
St. Cyril of Alexandria4
In former times also God saved those in the line of Israel who were scattered in war, assembling them in Jerusalem and dwelling among them, at least by rebuilding the divine Temple and permitting them once more to placate him with sacrifices according to the Law, offer prayers, and celebrate festivals. But to say rescuing his own people from the east and the west would rightly be applied to Emmanuel, who called all of earth under heaven, landed by faith those from the end of the earth as his catch, and gathered the whole flock of the nations into the truly holy and celebrated city, “which is the Church of the living God” and heavenly Jerusalem. How is it not a simple claim that he dwelt in its midst? After all, he became like us, and “dwelt among human beings” in the flesh. God foretold this to us through another prophet: “Be of good cheer, Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The Lord your God is in your midst; as a warrior he will save you. He will bring joy upon you, and will renew you in his love” (1 Tm 3:15; Bar 3:37; Zep 3:16-17). He is with us still, however: far from leaving us orphans, he sent us in his place the Paraclete, and through him he is with those who love him, as he will confirm in the words, “Behold, I am with you all days until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Accordingly, we have become his people, after once being no people (Mt 28:20; Hos 1:10; 1 Pt 2:10), only worshipers of stones; abominating the ancient and loathsome error, we have chosen him as our God, in truth and righteousness. Far from adhering to types and shadows, like those in love with the letter, we instead welcome into our mind and heart the splendor of the evangelical preaching and perform the true worship, and, holding fast the righteousness acceptable to him, we perform the worship in the spirit. “God is spirit,” as the Son himself says, remember, “and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (2 Cor 3:6; Jn 4:24).
- Pseudo-Ignatius of Antioch, “The Epistle of Ignatius to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 113. ↩
- Hippolytus of Rome, “The Discourse on the Holy Theophany,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. S. D. F. Salmond, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 237. ↩
- Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Zechariah, ed. Thomas P. Halton, trans. Robert C. Hill, 1st ed., vol. 111, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2006), 168–169. ↩
- Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Twelve Prophets, ed. David G. Hunter, trans. Robert C. Hill, vol. 124, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2012), 169-170. ↩