My friends over at Crackers & Grape Juice are providing daily Advent Devotionals. Last week I offered some reflections on Isaiah 5:13-25. Even though we are
Legislation signed. Check.
Gallows built. Check.
Expecting to be celebrated, Haman illustrated the wisdom of the Proverbs,
“Dig a pit and you’ll fall in it.”
Haman’s fall was not broken by the bottom of a pit.
They hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
Esther is not about Karma. Facing annihilation, God snatched victory for his people from the jaws of the Enemy. Surrounded by powers bent to destroy, God emerged the Victor, his people the beneficiaries. Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, the consequences of which came at their own agency, God’s faithfulness stood in for their lack.
The scenario replays Judah’s confrontation with Assyrian King Sennacherib. Jerusalem was surrounded. King Hezekiah’s put his confidence in the LORD and resists the threats. He instructed the idols in the high places be torn down. As the figure head of all Israel, King Hezekiah led Israel to trust in YHWH. During the night an angel of the Lord struck down the enemy. Judah could not claim victory by its own agency. Only the faithfulness of YHWH could make up for Judah’s unfaithfulness.
And just when it looked like Israel might move ever closer to discovering grace and reveling in it, they illustrate how God described the inclinations of the human heart,
I will never again curse the ground because of human beings, even though the inclinations of the human heart is evil from youth onward.
Fleming Rutledge wrote of Advent,
“ . . . it [Advent] is not for the faint of heart. To grasp the depth of the human predicament, one has to be willing to enter into the very worst. This is not the same thing as going to horror films, which are essentially entertainment.”
The U.N. will request $4 billion in relief aid for Yemen. From March of 2015 through to July 19, 2018, it is estimated 6,500 civilians have been killed. Children make up 1625 of that number. Famine and disease have left Yemen devastated. Meanwhile, Iran and Saudi Arabia engage in a proxy war on Yemeni soil keeping their respective lands unsoiled by the blood of these innocents.
Humanitarian efforts are tricky. Blockades and battle zones make it hard to provide relief. Countries funding material aid to civilians also provide military support for the battle. For example, the United States provides support for Saudi Arabia’s interest. How is it that a Country will spend money on both sides of the conflict? This is not a new practice. And, the United States is not the lone culprit.
In our sins we have been a long time . . .
We set the agenda. Tout a high standard. We want to challenge the murderers responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi. At the same time we must admit we approved aid to the sovereign country that sought his death. We support the agenda in Yemen that results in civilian deaths. We express outrage and threaten to withhold support, not at the death of innocent children whose names do not make the evening news. We wait until a man with a name and a high profile is killed in a foreign country.
We. Us. The prophet Isaiah did not stand outside of the practices that brought God’s judgment. He included himself. Woes figure prominently in the lyrics of the Song in Isaiah 5. Isaiah pronounces the woe on himself in the next chapter. We cannot escape responsibility for what is done by our proxies, by our common community.
No self-justifying argument may be made for unjust scales.
Lyrically the prophet calls attention to the treachery of the people of God. Direct confrontation would result in defensiveness. Israel’s prophets have a history of this practice.
There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very large flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought . . . Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.
David demands justice for the man whose sheep was taken. He hears the prophet say, “You are the man!”
Jesus tells the story about a vineyard owner who having built the vineyard and the watchtower leased it all to tenant farmers. Once he concludes the story with the death of the owner’s son he asks, “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?” As we would expect the answer came, like David’s, rooted in the demand for justice. Just as the prophet informed David he was the man, the chief priests and the Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them.
Maybe Jesus had Isaiah 5 in mind. Rather than a song he told a parable. The net effect is the same. Israel could not be guilty of such crimes. Could they? Would they recognize their error? Not until in exile.
Israel had become Haman.
Digging their pit they had fallen into it.
Therefore my people will go into exile because they lack knowledge; her dignitaries are starving, and her masses are parched with thirst.
Listening to the prophetic songs and startling stories we discover . . . so have we.