A classic tough love chapter. It’s full of dire prophesy, and it’s moving because of the universality of hardship that befalls the human race, and because of the conflicted pain it causes our creator. The poignancy here is in the core irony that God’s blessing breeds contempt for him.
God sandwiches the following promise between saying there will be no compassion, and that he will be wild as an attacking lion:
“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?Verse 14
God can’t stop saving us even as suffering and mortality are unleashed on us.
The palm Sunday sermon I listened to online yesterday addressed this question of judgement and suffering. He said that since Jesus, there is not direct old testament-style punishment for sin. Our promise is that Jesus has taken all the punishment, we are not punished as our sins deserve. At all.
So you are left with simple cause and effect. This flu that has swept the world has transferred from animals. Could happen any time.
God’s wisdom about how to live is still relevant. The pattern of living described in places like proverbs and in Jesus’ teaching is still the key to happiness.
And there will still be some sorting of the sheep from the goats – Jesus taught. The ultimate wisdom is to repent and acknowledge Jesus as lord.
I have a strong sense of how underestimated wisdom is from these old testament readings. Young people rebel against religion as being rule bound. And then life teaches them that the closer they live to essentially god’s model of stable loving, trusting relationships of honesty and kindness, the better life actually is.
The period of earthly judgement that so much of the Bible is given to was a one off, where God assigned judgement to things that go wrong all the time anyway, like sucumbing to invasions and losing wars. And the larger truth of God’s saving nature underlies the message the whole time, bursting out of the short term pain.
The point of the prophets was to show that the spiritual is more solid than the concrete. That is in every book. We know there were lots of prophets who didn’t make the Bible. Perhaps it was this key foretelling of the truth of the reign of grace that unites those that did.
Blessing still breeds contempt, the pain and suffering that is part of life in this broken world still produces some of our finest moments of generosity and self sacrifice.
Beauty out of pain. It’s all too much but it’s starting to hang together in a crazy kind of way. As the death count climbs daily from this one disease, this single global frailty.