May 31, 2015

Isaiah 28-30
Doom to the pretentious drunks of Ephraim, shabby and washed out and seedy—Tipsy, sloppy-fat, beer-bellied parodies of a proud and handsome past. Watch closely: God has someone picked out, someone tough and strong to flatten them... At that time, God-of-the-Angel-Armies will be the beautiful crown on the head of what’s left of his people:  Energy and insights of justice to those who guide and decide, strength and prowess to those who guard and protect....

“Is that so? And who do you think you are to teach us? Who are you to lord it over us? We’re not babies in diapers to be talked down to by such as you— ‘Da, da, da, da, blah, blah, blah, blah. That’s a good little girl, that’s a good little boy.’” But that’s exactly how you will be addressed. God will speak to this people in baby talk, one syllable at a time— and he’ll do it through foreign oppressors. He said before, “This is the time and place to rest, to give rest to the weary. This is the place to lay down your burden.” But they won’t listen. So God will start over with the simple basics and address them in baby talk, one syllable at a time—

Now listen to God’s Message, you scoffers, you who rule this people in Jerusalem.  You say, “We’ve taken out good life insurance. We’ve hedged all our bets, covered all our bases. No disaster can touch us. We’ve thought of everything. We’re advised by the experts. We’re set.” But the Master, God, has something to say to this: “Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, squared and true.  And this is the meaning of the stone: a trusting life won’t topple. I’ll make justice the measuring stick and righteousness the plumb line for the building.  A hailstorm will knock down the shantytown of lies, and a flash flood will wash out the rubble. “Then you’ll see that your precious life insurance policy wasn’t worth the paper it was written on....God will rise to full stature, raging as he did long ago on Mount Perazim and in the valley of Gibeon against the Philistines.  But this time it’s against you. Hard to believe, but true.  Not what you’d expect, but it’s coming.  Sober up, friends, and don’t scoff.  Scoffing will just make it worse....

Listen to me now. Give me your closest attention. Do farmers plow and plow and do nothing but plow? Or harrow and harrow and do nothing but harrow? After they’ve prepared the ground, don’t they plant?  Don’t they scatter dill and spread cumin, plant wheat and barley in the fields and raspberries along the borders?  They know exactly what to do and when to do it. Their God is their teacher.... The farmer knows how to treat each kind of grain.  He’s learned it all from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who knows everything about when and how and where.

Doom, Ariel, Ariel,  the city where David set camp! Let the years add up, let the festivals run their cycles,  But I’m not letting up on Jerusalem.  The moaning and groaning will continue. Jerusalem to me is an Ariel. Like David, I’ll set up camp against you. I’ll set siege, build towers,  bring in siege engines, build siege ramps. Driven into the ground, you’ll speak, you’ll mumble words from the dirt— Your voice from the ground, like the muttering of a ghost. Your speech will whisper from the dust.... Drug yourselves so you feel nothing. Blind yourselves so you see nothing. Get drunk, but not on wine. Black out, but not from whiskey.  For God has rocked you into a deep, deep sleep, put the discerning prophets to sleep, put the farsighted seers to sleep....

The Master said: “These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it.  Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it, I’m going to step in and shock them awake, astonish them, stand them on their ears. The wise ones who had it all figured out will be exposed as fools. The smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing.”  Doom to you! You pretend to have the inside track.  You shut God out and work behind the scenes, plotting the future as if you knew everything, acting mysterious, never showing your hand.  You have everything backward!  You treat the potter as a lump of clay.  Does a book say to its author,  “He didn’t write a word of me”? Does a meal say to the woman who cooked it,  “She had nothing to do with this”?

And then before you know it, and without you having anything to do with it, wasted Lebanon will be transformed into lush gardens, and Mount Carmel reforested.  At that time the deaf will hear word-for-word what’s been written.  After a lifetime in the dark, the blind will see.  The castoffs of society will be laughing and dancing in God, the down-and-outs shouting praise to The Holy of Israel.  For there’ll be no more gangs on the street.  Cynical scoffers will be an extinct species. Those who never missed a chance to hurt or demean will never be heard of again: Gone the people who corrupted the courts, gone the people who cheated the poor,  gone the people who victimized the innocent.

And finally this, God’s Message for the family of Jacob, the same God who redeemed Abraham: “No longer will Jacob hang his head in shame, no longer grow gaunt and pale with waiting.  For he’s going to see his children, my personal gift to him—lots of children.  And these children will honor me by living holy lives.  In holy worship they’ll honor the Holy One of Jacob and stand in holy awe of the God of Israel.  Those who got off-track will get back on-track, and complainers and whiners learn gratitude.”

 “Doom, rebel children!” God’s Decree. “You make plans, but not mine. You make deals, but not in my Spirit.  You pile sin on sin, one sin on top of another, going off to Egypt without so much as asking me,...Anyone stupid enough to trust them will end up looking stupid—All show, no substance, an embarrassing farce.”...

So, go now and write all this down. Put it in a book so that the record will be there to instruct the coming generations, because this is a rebel generation, a people who lie, a people unwilling to listen to anything God tells them.  They tell their spiritual leaders,  “Don’t bother us with irrelevancies. They tell their preachers, “Don’t waste our time on impracticalities. Tell us what makes us feel better. Don’t bore us with obsolete religion. That stuff means nothing to us.  Quit hounding us with The Holy of Israel.”

Therefore, The Holy of Israel says this:  “Because you scorn this Message, preferring to live by injustice and shape your lives on lies,  this perverse way of life will be like a towering, badly built wall that slowly, slowly tilts and shifts, and then one day, without warning, collapses— Smashed to bits like a piece of pottery, smashed beyond recognition or repair, useless, a pile of debris to be swept up and thrown in the trash.”

God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do. ...There’ll be nothing left of you—a flagpole on a hill with no flag, a signpost on a roadside with the sign torn off.”

But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you.  God takes the time to do everything right—everything.  Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.  Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over. Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you. Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: “This is the right road. Walk down this road.” You’ll scrap your expensive and fashionable god-images. You’ll throw them in the trash as so much garbage, saying, “Good riddance!”...

Look, God’s on his way, and from a long way off!  Smoking with anger, immense as he comes into view,  words steaming from his mouth, searing, indicting words!  A torrent of words, a flash flood of words sweeping everyone into the vortex of his words.  He’ll shake down the nations in a sieve of destruction, herd them into a dead end.
 
But you will sing, sing through an all-night holy feast!  Your hearts will burst with song, make music like the sound of flutes on parade, En route to the mountain of God, on the way to the Rock of Israel... Oh yes, at God’s thunder Assyria will cower under the clubbing.  Every blow God lands on them with his club is in time to the music of drums and pipes, God in all-out, two-fisted battle,  fighting against them.  Topheth’s fierce fires are well prepared, ready for the Assyrian king. The Topheth furnace is deep and wide, well stoked with hot-burning wood.God’s breath, like a river of burning pitch, starts the fire.

Luke 10 - Later the Master selected 70 and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he intended to go.  He gave them this charge.”What a huge harvest!  And how few the harvest hands.  So on your knees, ask the God of Harvest to send you harvest hands.  On your way!  But be careful--this is hazardous work.  You’re like lambs in a wolf pack.  Travel light. Comb and toothbrush and no extra luggage.  Don’t loiter and make small talk with everyone you meet along the way.  When you enter a home, greet the family, ‘Peace,’ if your greeting is received, then it’s a good place to stay.  But if it’s not received, take it back and get out.  Don’t impose yourself...Don’t move from house to house looking for the best cook in town....eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!”...The one who listens to you, listens to me.  The one who rejects you, rejects me.  And rejecting me is the same as rejecting God who sent me.”  

The 70 came back triumphant...Jesus said, “See what I have given you!  Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you.  Not what you do for God but what God does for you---that’s the agenda for rejoicing.”  

At this, Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit.  “I thank you, Father, Master of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the know-it-alls and showed them to these innocent newcomers.  Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.”...He then turned in a private aside to his disciples, “Fortunate the eyes that see what you  are seeing!  There are plenty of prophets and kings who would have given their right arm to see what you are seeing but never got so much as a glimpse, to hear  what you are hearing but never got so much as a whisper.”

Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus.  “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”  Jesus answered, “What is written in God’s law?  How do you interpret it?”  The scholar said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence--and that you love your neighbor as you do yourself.”  “Good answer!”  Jesus said.  “Do it and you’ll live.”  Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “ And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”  Jesus then told the story of the Good Samaritan and asked the scholar “What do you think?  Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by the robbers?”  “The one who treated him kindly,” the scholar responded.  Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village.  A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home.  She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said.  But Martha, was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen.  Later, she asked Jesus whether he cared that Mary abandoned her in the kitchen to listen at his side and requested he tell Mary to assist her.  Jesus said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing.  One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it ---it’s the main course and won’t be taken from her.”