Tuesday Morning Meditation, 14 September 2010

•September 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The book of Isaiah begins with imagery so vivid that a reader might be shocked. God is not messing around, God is not sugar-coating the news. Straightforwardly, God says to the people that they have become such a mess, they have strayed so far, they have been such hypocrites, they have turned their backs on God so defiantly that God can barely stand their acts of worship, and is weary of the burden of carrying them. This passage, as so many others in Isaiah, the Old Testament, and the New Testament, reminds us that to be God’s people means we are called to live a particular way. Being Christian doesn’t mean simply that whatever we choose to do has a nice blessing on top. Instead, it means that what we choose to do reflects whether or not we are following God.

When the people of God hear this passage from Isaiah’s prophecy, they are being warned. A warning can be threatening: “you had better do this or else.” But a warning can also be a voice of protection and care: “don’t touch the hot stove, you’ll burn yourself,” or “don’t swim out past the buoys where the water is too deep,” or “remember to take your antibiotics for the whole two weeks.” Warnings such as these are motivated by guidance, not destruction. They are words that help us find direction, not words that are bound up in self-absorption and a desire to control.

Consider this from Isaiah 1:

The whole head is sick,

and the whole heart faint.

From the sole of the foot even to the head,

there is no soundness in it,

but bruises and sores

and bleeding wounds;

they have not been drained, or bound up,

or softened with oil.

The description of the people as a body is crushing to hear. Who wants to be told they’re a mess? That they’re one big gaping wound, with sores that need to be drained, they have bruises, and they’re bleeding? None of us want to hear that. We do not want to hear we’re a mess. Of course, the way we hear this is from people or from the various voices of society who don’t care about us. When we hear these words they are usually spoken with disdain.

But this is not how God speaks. God expresses sorrow that the wounds of the people have not been tended. Sores that need to be drained haven’t been drained. Wounds have not been bound up so that they can heal. Bruises have not been massaged with oil so that the ache of muscles is relieved and strength can be regained.

In this chapter, God desires to work with the people of Israel, so that they may become a healthy body. God wants them to choose a healthy life, a life of well-being.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your doings

from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.

To be clean, healthy, and whole means to live toward God instead of away from God. And to live towards God means that we learn to do good, we seek justice, we help those who are oppressed, and we defend those who are vulnerable, like orphans and widows.

Those who live this way understand how it makes them healthier people. Christians, who, out of faith, serve others in need, often find themselves gratified because they have participated in God’s work in the world. In these words, then, we hear the promise that daily acts of compassion and kindness – service to others, resisting evil and doing good hour by hour, no matter who we are – are signs that we are living towards God, and are becoming healthier people, whole people, people who are turned towards God who loves us enough to help us heal.

Blessings to you all,


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•June 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

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