Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mixed Media, Mixed Message

Reading Isaiah is not an easy thing to do. Practically every metaphor, every phrase, every word, needs to have some kind of context in order to have meaning.

What did those words mean for and to the people of the day?

What could those words mean for us today?

Not a simple task. Not simply a matter of saying, "The Bible is the literal truth spoken and inspried by God, so all we have to do is do what it says."

Isaiah can be tiresome that way. On the one hand, it repeatedly cautions Israel, "Don't flirt with Egypt. Don't think that making an unholy alliance with Egypt will protect you against Assyria." On the other hand, Isaiah says YHWH will use unholy Assyria to essentially do holy work. Isaiah also envisions a coming together, a three-way unification of Assyrians, Egyptians and Israelites who will all worship God together.

Systematically throughout the book, every geographic place name in the world of Israel's vaguest knowledge gets the same prescription from YHWH: I will flatten you. Then I will build you up. Again and again, Israel hears the warning: Your hearts have been hardened and your worship is empty and your leaders are corrupt. I will punish you. Then I will restore you.

Or, at least a remnant.

It's core material in Judaism and Christianity. No wonder some struggling souls have concluded over the years that the God of the New Covenant is not the same God as the God of the First Covenant(s).

Isaiah's global sense was basically a radius of about 500 miles. Mt. Zion was clearly the center of that circle. Only problem is, every other civilization on the planet considered itself to be the center of everything else as well. How would you have ever convinced ancient Americans living around Harney Peak in the Black Hills that Mt. Zion was where God spoke, and the ONLY place where God spoke to people (after speaking at Mt. Sinai)?

And what about the people who lived around what we today call Ayers Rock near Alice Springs, Australia? Actually, they'd probably have had a much easier time accepting a prophet who walked around naked for three years...

Ever tried evangelizing someone alienated from the church after being abused by the church with the image of a prophet who exposed himself for a thousand days?

It's an awful lot to reckon with as we sing "The King of love my Shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never. I nothing lack if I am his, and He is mine forever."

That's Old Covenant also and seen best in the person and work of Christ. And through the Christ in us. WE make the God in Christ real and believable to people when the Christ in us is real and believable to people.

If Portland cops need mental health professionals to ride along with them, I sometimes wonder if we don't also need mental health professionals to ride along with us in daily life and in our walks of faith. And in walking through Isaiah or Jeremiah or Revelation or Daniel or Ezekiel. Or even Psalm 23. Oh, and don't forget Romans, the book Luther said we should know by heart.

After all, there are a lot of mixed messages and mixed media out there.

Lead us, Good Shepherd!



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