Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Two woes, and what to do about it

In today's Old Testament reading, the prophet Isaiah issues two woes. First,
Woe to those who make unjust laws
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless
Isaiah 10.1-2
It's interesting to me how God is so interested in the plight of the poor. With general elections coming up in a couple of months, I sometimes think it would be convenient if one major political party were unambiguously aligned with the prophets' proclamations and the other weren't. But this isn't the case.

Then he talks about the day of reckoning and disaster. This is about the northern kingdom of Israel, which was conquered by the Assyrians and scattered. (In his introduction, Isaiah says the word of the Lord came to him during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. These were kings of the southern kingdom of Judah, which you may recall was deported to Babylon and restored some decades later.)

That was the first woe. Now the second:
Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
I send him against a godless nation,
I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder
and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
Isaiah 10.5-6
But the king of Assyria doesn't want to just stop there. He thinks he's going to rule the whole earth, like God. So God says
"I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes"
Does the ax raise itself above him who swings it
or the saw boast against him who uses it?
As if a rod were to wield him who lifts it up
or a club brandish him who is not wood!
Therefore, the Lord, the Lord almighty,
will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors;
under his pomp a fire will be kindled
like a blazing flame.
Isaiah 10.12, 15-16
So the king of Assyria is likened to a tool or weapon that rebels against the hand wielding it. You may recall from 2 Chronicles 32 that this judgment came to him when he attacked Jerusalem.

When I read this passage, though, especially at this time of the year, I think about the 9/11 attacks on the US, which seemed to me a wakeup call. Our country was settled by people who wanted to worship God in truth, but have we as a nation been arrogant (Isaiah 9.9-10)? Have we deserted God (9.13) and made unjust laws (10.1)?

It sure looks like "yes" to me.

And if the 9/11 attacks can be likened to Assyria's attack upon the northern kingdom (which isn't a slam-dunk), have the terrorists gone beyond what God wanted them to do?

Their propaganda makes it sound like "yes" too.

If those attacks were a rebuke to us Americans, but even if they weren't, I think it's important that we return to God, treat the poor as he commands, and humble ourselves before him. This has to begin with you and me as individuals, but we probably need to apply these principles in the voting booth too.

And that calls for wisdom.

posted 9/12 7:07am from japan

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