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Isaiah and the Days of Awe, Day Four: Cease

It’s the Fifth Day of Awe, and the fourth bit of the text:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)

The thing that stands out for me when focusing on the cease to do evil phrase is the readiness factor: first, before you can even begin, you have to wash, then you have to go back and wash again because you need to be clean, then you have to put away the evil, and then you are ready, perhaps, to cease doing evil. Or maybe that’s not intuitive—maybe the intuitive way is that the first thing you do is stop the evil actions. Sort of a stop-digging thing. Although I lean to the other side, I think once you get into the habit of evil, it’s very, very hard to stop. It’s much easier to start doing good than to stop doing evil, which of course is why people do good while they continue their evil ways. Which is just as well, really; if we had to fully stop with the evildoing before beginning the good, we would never get anything done.

You know, there are lots of places where the pull quote from these two verses is simply cease to do evil, learn to do well. It’s always dangerous to truncate a verse of Scripture, but in this case I think its particularly pernicious. Surely what we can see from this verse is that it’s not a simple matter of ceasing to do evil. There isn’t a switch marked evil that we just put into the wrong position. It’s not just opening up the preferences dialogue and changing the setting from evil to good. It takes a lot of preparation to cease to do evil.

That’s an insight I got from taking this a phrase a day this year, so if there isn’t anything else, I’d have to call it a success.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Oh, that's a very interesting thought and makes a good deal of sense. Like breaking bad habits - sometimes you have to figure out how to set things so that continuing the bad habit becomes difficult or unpleasant, which means there's a preparation required.

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