May 24, 2015

 Isaiah 10-12
Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims—Laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children.  A sorry sight you’ll be then, huddled with the prisoners, or just some corpses stacked in the street. Even after all this, God is still angry, his fist still raised, ready to hit them again...

When the Master has finished dealing with Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he’ll say, “Now it’s Assyria’s turn. I’ll punish the bragging arrogance of the king of Assyria, his high and mighty posturing, the way he goes around saying,  “‘I’ve done all this by myself.  I know more than anyone....Like a farmer gathering eggs from the henhouse, I gathered the world in my basket,...Therefore the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, will send a debilitating disease on his robust Assyrian fighters. Under the canopy of God’s bright glory a fierce fire will break out.  Israel’s Light will burst into a conflagration.  The Holy will explode into a firestorm,... God will destroy the splendid trees and lush gardens.  The Assyrian body and soul will waste away to nothing like a disease-ridden invalid.
And on that Day also, what’s left of Israel, the ragtag survivors of Jacob, will no longer be fascinated by abusive, battering Assyria. They’ll lean on God, The Holy—yes, truly. The ragtag remnant—what’s left of Jacob—will come back to the Strong God. Your people Israel were once like the sand on the seashore, but only a scattered few will return... Therefore the Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, says: “My dear, dear people who live in Zion, don’t be terrorized by the Assyrians when they beat you with clubs and threaten you with rods like the Egyptians once did. In just a short time my anger against you will be spent and I’ll turn my destroying anger on them... 

But now watch this: The Master, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, swings his ax and lops the branches, chops down the giant trees, lays flat the towering forest-on-the-march.  His ax will make toothpicks of that forest, that Lebanon-like army reduced to kindling.  A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch.  The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, the Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God....His words will bring everyone to awed attention.  A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked.  Each morning he’ll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots, and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.

The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid. Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them.  Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together, and the lion eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent. Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain.  The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.

On that day, Jesse’s Root will be raised high, posted as a rallying banner for the peoples. The nations will all come to him. His headquarters will be glorious.  Also on that day, the Master for the second time will reach out to bring back what’s left of his scattered people. He’ll bring them back from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Ethiopia, Elam, Sinar, Hamath, and the ocean islands.  And he’ll raise that rallying banner high, visible to all nations, gather in all the scattered exiles of Israel,  Pull in all the dispersed refugees of Judah from the four winds and the seven seas. The jealousy of Ephraim will dissolve, the hostility of Judah will vanish—Ephraim no longer the jealous rival of Judah,  Judah no longer the hostile rival of Ephraim!...

In the end there’ll be a highway all the way from Assyria, easy traveling for what’s left of God’s people— A highway just like the one Israel had when he marched up out of Egypt.  And you will say in that day,  “I thank you, God. You were angry but your anger wasn’t forever.  You withdrew your anger and moved in and comforted me.  “Yes, indeed—God is my salvation.  I trust, I won’t be afraid.  God—yes God!—is my strength and song, best of all, my salvation!”

Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation.  And as you do it, you’ll say,  “Give thanks to God. Call out his name. Ask him anything!  Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done, spread the news of his great reputation!

“Sing praise-songs to God. He’s done it all! Let the whole earth know what he’s done!  Raise the roof! Sing your hearts out, O Zion! The Greatest lives among you: The Holy of Israel.”

Luke 7:1-7:35 -

When he finished speaking to the people, he entered Capernaum.  A Roman captain there had a servant who was on his deathbed.  He prized him highly and didn’t want to lose him.  When he heard Jesus was back, he sent leaders from the Jewish community asking him to come and heal his servant.  They came to Jesus and urged him to do it...Jesus went with them.  When he was still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell them, “Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble.  I’m not that good a person you know.  I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person.  Just give the order and my servant will get well....Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd:  “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how he works”  When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well.

Not long after that, Jesus went to the village Nain.  His disciples were with them, along with quite a crowd...a woman’s only son was being carried out for burial.  And the mother was a widow.  When Jesus was her, his heart broke.  He said to her, “Don’t cry.”  Then went over to the casket and told the boy to get up.  The dead son sat up and began talking.  Jesus presented him to his mother.  They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery that God was at work among them...the news of Jesus spread all through the country.

John’s disciples reported back to him the news of all these events taking place.  John sent two of them to the Master to ask the question, “Are you the one we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” ...In the next 2-3 hours, Jesus healed many from diseases, distress, and evil spirits...Then he gave his answer:  “Go back and tell John what you have just seen and heard...is this what you were expecting?  Then count yourselves fortunate.”  Then Jesus spoke further about how John was a messenger...”Probably the greatest messenger you’ll ever hear.  He is the messenger Malachi announced when he wrote:  “I am sending my messenger on ahead to make the road smooth for you.”  Let me lay it out for you as plainly as I can.  No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer, but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him.  The ordinary and disreputable people who heard John, by being baptized by him into the kingdom, are the clearest evidence;  the Pharisees and religious officials would have nothing to do with such a baptism, wouldn’t think of giving up their place in line to the inferior.  

How can I account for the people  of this generation?  They are like spoiled children complaining to their parents... John the Baptizer came fasting and you called him crazy.  The Son of Man come feasting and you called him a lush.  Opinion  polls don’t count for much, do they.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating