Silence and Speech

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, 
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
until her vindication shines out like the dawn, 
and her salvation like a burning torch. … 
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have posted sentinels;
all day and all night
they shall never be silent.
You who remind the LORD, 
take no rest, 
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it renowned throughout the earth. 

from Isaiah 62:1, 6-7; from Isaiah 62:1-7

Jan. 20, 2019

I’m cheating.  Is it cheating?  The lectionary text is Isaiah 62:1-5, but I’m reading two more verses.  Because what catches me is not the imagery of Zion as a bride (v.4), nor Jerusalem renamed (v.2), nor whether the crown of beauty and royal diadem (v.3) should be understood as reference to the rebuilt walls of the post-exilic city — all of which are important issues, properly the focus of scholarly and devotional attention.

What catches at me is the very first line:  ’For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent.’

Silence.  Enjoined.  Invited.  Unbearable.  Unsustainable.  

Silence and speech.  Recurring motifs throughout the book.  I’ve spent the past few years focused on them, from the prophesied hardening of Isaiah 6:6-10 (‘… stop their ears and shut their eyes’), through the renewed call to listen and to look (Isa 42:14-18), on to the servant, ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ (Isa 42:19), yet ‘given the tongue of a taught-one* … to sustain the weary with a word,’ whose ear the LORD wakens (Isa 50:4), and further to the promise that ‘all your children shall be taught-ones* of the LORD’ (Isa 54:14).  Silence and speech.  I had followed that thread so far and am not sure that I ever had hit upon this particular passage.  Or been struck by it.

Silence and speech.  I thought that first line caught because of the work I have done.  Now I wonder if the work itself caught me first.  Because I have felt silent.  Because I want to speak.  Because my ear has been wakened.  Because it’s no good listening if I cannot tell others what I hear.  Because I don’t always know what I’ve heard until I say it to someone else.  Because the imperative to speak is given so that I know.  So that I am known.  So that I know I am known.

Yet this passage says even more.  Something new to my ears.  

‘For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.’  

Zion.  Jerusalem.  The LORD’s bride; ’My Delight’; ’Married’ (Isa 62:4)  This is not about me as an individual nor about a particular other to whom I might speak.  This is about the people of the LORD.  Whose vindication, whose salvation, will shine out  like the torches of dawn … so long as I do not keep silent.  

Is it is as conditional as that?  Does the vindication of the Zion depend on my voice?  Of course not!  Yet might it require it?  Might the raising of my voice towards that end effect its realization?  Might my speech expand not just the expression but the experience of God’s grace?  Might I be obliged, even if not responsible?

Words reminding me.  Speech reminding Zion.  Utterance reminding the LORD.  That vindication is promised, salvation is sure, glory is to be seen and a new name given and claimed.

‘For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.’  

I raise my voice to participate in the promise.

*literal translation of the Hebrew

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