“Nations rage, kingdoms topple.” (46:7)
Anger is not a good emotion for a leader. Anger clouds the mind and perverts judgement. Angry people make poor decisions, leading to poor outcomes. Anger is a volcano – showy, frightening, and generally destructive. Good may come from volcanic anger, but only after a long cooling off period. Hawaii of course was built by a volcano, but the beautiful fertile volcanic soil took eons to form. Volcanic anger can lead to Pompeii, Minoa, and Montserrat, which never recovered, and to Mount St. Helens, which exacted a toll of over $1 billion in damage to industry, massive environmental damage, and 57 human lives. A good leader knows how to calm rage before it reaches destructive proportions.
“Send forth Your light and Your truth.” (43:3)
Israel is described by Isaiah as an or goyim, “light of the nations.” By the example of their behavior, Israel is charged with the responsibility to teach the non-monotheistic world about belief in one God. In the ancient worldview of of the Hebrew prophets, there were God followers and there were pagans. The former were moral because of their adherence to God’s revealed scripture, and the latter were immoral because they ignored God’s instructions to the world. In our world we have several monotheistic God-following religions, several ways to follow God, all of them true. Our job, is to show that the way we live our lives is illumined by one of those sets of truths.
“He does not reject evil.” (36:5)
It is not enough to passively avoid evil. If your friends are doing bad things and you close your eyes, you become a party to it. Shetika k’hoda’ah dama’i, silence is the equivalent of consent. Edmund Burke said, “As the great parliamentarian Political philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people*] to do nothing.” If you hear a racist/sexist/homophobic joke, the only acceptable response is to reprove the teller. You don’t need to shout. You need only to clearly and calmly state your objection.
*actual quotation, “men”
“Pay them according to their deeds.” (28:4)
Reward and punishment do not always work out perfectly. Sometimes, good people do not prosper and evil people do not suffer. However, most of the time, in the long run, goodness is recognized. People are attracted to good people. They will have better and deeper friendships. Good people will tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives. Truly good people do not do good things because of recognition or reward. Goodness is not a tool to be used as a means to get something. Good deeds are an end unto themselves.
“May integrity and uprightness watch over me” (25:21)
We need that little voice to whisper in our ear when we are tempted to stray from the path of goodness and righteousness. When no one is watching, it is easy to talk ourselves into taking shortcuts, eating unwisely, and letting loose our selfish inclinations. We need to listen to the still, small, voice of our conscience telling us that even if no one else knows, we know whether we live with integrity or not. And when we succumb and habituate ourselves to giving in to evil in private, it will infect our public lives as well.