As the waters cover the sea

I had been on a rather lengthy spell of reading fiction that just ended this past weekend.  I often read and read and read fiction, and then read and read and read non-fiction, and then go back.  But Saturday night, I finished the novel I was reading and realized that it was definitely time for some non-fiction.  And I was surprised when the right book found me, because I’d expected a book on Dominican spirituality or maybe a memoir.  Nope, nuh-uh.  It was the bible, specifically, this bible.  And once I accepted this choice, I flipped through the pages and decided to start with the prophets.  So in the bathtub that night, I found myself reading Isaiah.

Now, this is not study.  It is simply reading.  I do sometimes happen on a verse or a word that just sings for me, and so I pause and let it soak into me.  This happens when I read other books, too, and it is a nice feeling.  But I’m not picking apart scripture and putting it back together, and I’m not studying to learn the history of Israel.  I’m just… reading.  And The Message is a great translation for this, as it was developed to be a reading bible.

Last night, in my bedtime reading, I came upon this passage:

The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

It is the second half of Isaiah 11:9, and it brought me skidding to a halt.  I stared at this sentence, simply letting the words roll into me and roll around inside me.  And a voice within me said, this is your vocation.  I wasn’t sure whether that voice was part of me, was God speaking to me, or was something else.  I’m fairly certain that it is not the voice of the Adversary, given the basics of Ignatian discernment of spirits, but thankfully I have a meeting with my spiritual director this afternoon, so I can run it by her.

So.  This is my vocation?  What does it mean?

The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

A living knowledge of God, I can see that.  I have seen people who have knowledge of God, but it is not living, not alive; they have a dead and final knowledge of a God who doesn’t care about them, who simply exists and ignores them, who is small and limited and lifeless.  But I know God to be very much alive, to care about us and love us passionately, to try to guide us and help us.  I do indeed brim with knowing God-alive; sometimes I can feel that deep knowing overflow and spill out for others.  And I sense… is it my vocation to bring my own living knowledge of God to the world?  Am I called to brim with knowing God-Alive, to overflow with God’s love for others?

The NRSV translation is a little different, but is the most common English translation of this verse:

The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

This has a wonderful rhythm to it, and I vaguely remember this as part of a song.  And this translation brings a slightly different feel to me, as though the earth is pregnant.  Creation is pregnant with the knowledge of its Creator; we need to allow the waters of this knowledge to cover us, so that we, too, can be filled with this knowledge.  This reminds me of baptism, of the prophet Jonah, of the Spirit of God brooding over the waters at the beginning of Creation.  Is it my vocation to become pregnant with knowledge of the living God?  Am I called to give birth to this knowledge, to bring it out as a child, for everyone to see?

I’ve had some fun at, looking up this verse in all the English translations they have available.  Young’s Literal Translation has an interesting take on this verse, guided by Robert Young’s emphasis on tense.  This translation uses the perfect tense, to say the earth has been full of the knowledge of God, as the waters are covering the sea. See, the past tense implies something that was happening and still is happening, something we can expect to continue: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  The other translations move this knowledge of God into the future, but the original Hebrew shows a continuous knowing, a knowing that has always been there and always will be.  So when the words came to me, saying, this is your vocation, they didn’t say, this will be your vocation.  No, it already is my vocation, always has been my vocation, and will continue to be my vocation.

The words of the New Living Translation were a little bit different, too, focusing on God’s people rather than on all of Creation:

as the waters fill the sea,
so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.

Taken together, as if each translation were a petal on a flower, this little snippet of scripture speaks to me deeply and powerfully.  My work is to continue to listen for God’s voice, for the guidance of God-Alive, for the way to live out this call.  I am a glass overflowing, a creation pregnant with God’s love, a person who knows God.  This is a great gift, and now it is my responsibility to respond.

Thanks be to God, the giver of all gifts.
Thanks be to God, who calls all of us to be filled with knowledge of God.
Thanks be to God, who was and is and ever will be.
Thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia!


One thought on “As the waters cover the sea

  1. The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive,
    a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

    A perfect description of communion with God. Thanks!


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