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ACAD – New Self: Isaiah 57

Israel’s Futile Idolatry

The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness. But you, draw near, sons of the sorceress, offspring of the adulterer and the loose woman. Whom are you mocking? Against whom do you open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of transgression, the offspring of deceit, you who burn with lust among the oaks,[aunder every green tree, who slaughter your children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks? Among the smooth stones of the valley is your portion; they, they, are your lot; to them you have poured out a drink offering, you have brought a grain offering. Shall I relent for these things? On a high and lofty mountain you have set your bed, and there you went up to offer sacrifice. Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your memorial; for, deserting me, you have uncovered your bed, you have gone up to it, you have made it wide; and you have made a covenant for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on nakedness.[bYou journeyed to the king with oil and multiplied your perfumes; you sent your envoys far off, and sent down even to Sheol. You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.[c]

Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied, and did not remember me, did not lay it to heart? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and you do not fear me? I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them all off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain.

Comfort for the Contrite

And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made. Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Footnotes:

  1. Isaiah 57:5 Or among the terebinths
  2. Isaiah 57:8 Or on a monument (see 56:5); Hebrew on a hand
  3. Isaiah 57:10 Hebrew and so you were not sick

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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ACAD – Injustice: Hosea 10

Israel Will Pay for Sin

Israel is like a large vine
    that produced plenty of fruit.
As the people became richer,
    they built more altars for idols.
As their land became better,
    they put up better stone pillars to honor gods.
Their heart was false,
    and now they must pay for their guilt.
The Lord will break down their altars;
    he will destroy their holy stone pillars.

Then they will say, “We have no king,
    because we didn’t honor the Lord.
As for the king,
    he couldn’t do anything for us.”
They make many false promises
    and agreements which they don’t keep.
So people sue each other in court;
    they are like poisonous weeds growing in a plowed field.
The people from Israel are worried about
    the calf-shaped idol at Beth Aven.
The people will cry about it,
    and the priests will cry about it.
    They used to shout for joy about its glory,
but it will be carried off to Assyria
    as a gift to the great king.
Israel will be disgraced,
    and the people will be ashamed for not obeying.
Israel will be destroyed;
    its king will be like a chip of wood floating on the water.
The places of false worship will be destroyed,
    the places where Israel sins.
Thorns and weeds will grow up
    and cover their altars.
Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!”
    and to the hills, “Fall on us!”

“Israel, you have sinned since the time of Gibeah,[a]
    and the people there have continued sinning.
But war will surely overwhelm them in Gibeah,
    because of the evil they have done there.
When I am ready,
    I will come to punish them.
Nations will come together against them,
    and they will be punished for their double sins.
Israel is like a well-trained young cow
    that likes to thresh grain.
I will put a yoke on her neck
    and make her work hard in the field.
Israel will plow,
    and Judah will break up the ground.
I said, ‘Plant goodness,
    harvest the fruit of loyalty,
    plow the new ground of knowledge.
Look for the Lord until he comes
    and pours goodness on you like water.’
But you have plowed evil [iniquity]
    and harvested trouble [reaped injustice];
    you have eaten the fruit of your lies.
Because you have trusted in your own power
    and your many soldiers,
your people will hear the noise of battle,
    and all your strong, walled cities will be destroyed.
It will be like the time King Shalman
    destroyed Beth Arbel in battle,
    when mothers and their children were bashed to death.
The same will happen to you, people of Bethel,
    because you did so much evil.
When the sun comes up,
    the king of Israel will die.

Footnotes:

  1. a. 10:9 Gibeah The sins of the people of Gibeah caused a civil war. See Judges 19–21.

New Century Version (NCV)The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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The people asked for a king: Selling ourselves

God did not create man to dominate other men. Humans were created as sovereign beings with direct access to his and her Creator. We were created to be sovereign leaders of ourselves, partners in marriage, examples of right living to our children and upright representatives in our communities. We were created to live with the knowledge and understanding that God is our King, our Lord, our True Sovereign Leader. He occupies a throne no man can usurp.

Until we attempted to take the throne for ourselves, or alternatively, put someone else upon the throne to rule us. No man can usurp our authority, but we can certainly surrender it.

The most pivotal Bible moment for me in understanding my life today as a black woman in America who is constantly in remembrance of my country’s history of slavery and its legacy of racism, is when I read how Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because of their jealousy of him. And how that one hateful act eventually led to four hundred years of indentured servitude (slavery) for the Israelites. What struck me in this story is that the Israelites made themselves slaves. They were not conquered. There was no war. No battle happened. The hatred and jealousy of ten brothers led them to commit a despicable act against their younger brother. That one act has had repercussions that we still feel today.

How does that compare to enslaved Africans in America? Africans did the same as the Israelites. They sold themselves into slavery. Intertribal wars, in some cases, led to the victors enslaving and selling off the losers. They warred against each other and in many cases the victors stole the natural freedom of their defeated foes.  However, the arrival of the white man added a whole new dimension to the slave trade on the African continent. Before that, people were enslaved through conflicts and for service primarily to the enslaver.  However, after the white man got involved, people were captured and enslaved for profit as a part of a transatlantic industry. This would not have happened if not for the will of the people who sold their own.

In 1999, Matthieu Kerekou, then president of Benin, put out a message to African-Americans:  “His compatriots are sorry for their ancestors’ complicity in the slave trade. During December, he’s going to tell them that at a special Leadership Reconciliation Conference on his soil.” He said intertribal hostility over the slave trade still exists. Many of his people have never seen descendants of their forebears who were shipped off to the Americas (Wright, 1999). He says the problem is in human hearts. ” ‘All have sinned,'” he claims, quoting the New Testament. “All of us need to confess our wrong and appeal to [God] for forgiveness.”

Quite honestly, I don’t remember hearing about this at the time. I studied African-American literature and history in college and I don’t recall this apology ever coming up in conversation. I don’t recall seeing it in the news. I’m certain I would have remembered. It received so little media attention, even now it’s hard digging up stories online. In July, 2003, Benin Ambassador Cyrille Oguin toured schools and churches in the United States to offer an official apology from: “In the name of the government and the people of Benin, on behalf of President Mattie Ke’re’kou, I say to you all, we are sorry. We are deeply, deeply sorry…. We believe it is easy to say that those other people did it, but we also believe that if we are not helping them, if we did not assist them, if we did not play a role in it, it would not have happened.”

“The president of Benin, the people of Benin have asked me to come here and apologize for the government, for the Benin people and for Africa for what we all know happened. Where our parents were involved in this awful, this terrible, trade…. Reconciliation is the first step to healing old wounds and opening economic development. [President Ke’re’kou] knows the damage on our side that came from slavery. He knows how this robbed our own society at home, how it turned us against each other.” (Miller, 2003)

Often, humans are unaware of their own strength and power. If you have no awareness of your own power, how can you imagine yourself a king? How can you imagine yourself as a created vessel of the Lord God Almighty, knitted together in such a way that God can channel His creative power and purpose through you without destroying you? How can you imagine if you aren’t even aware?

In our ignorance, we seek to put others above us. In the process of putting others above us, we dethrone God in our lives. We may look to our own self to be everything we need. We may look to ideals, institutions, governments to provide everything we need. We may hold other people up as examples of what is good and worthy for us to be. We may look to leaders or loved ones to save us. We may put our hope in religious practices and traditions while expecting the leaders of such to guide us.

Time and time again, the Israelites put a man between them and God. They had direct access to the source of life but they wanted it diffused. They asked for a leader. They sought other gods. They asked for a ruler (judge). They asked for a king. God took this as a direct rejection of Him as their King (1 Samuel 8:7-9).

Today’s king is celebrity culture. Many are voluntarily enslaved to it. The pervasive idea is: You’re no one unless a lot of people know you and want to be like you. People worship at the altar of images. People aspire to wealth for no other reason than to consume at a more extravagant level. People condition their bodies for exposure to the masses. This is all in the pursuit of self-glorification or other-idolization. People either want to be idolized or they want to idolize others. Such fanaticism is an affront to God. And because it’s an affront to God, it is also an affront to humanity. You cannot raise up a few without keeping the masses down.

My reasoning may appear to be a direct contradiction of the instruction to “value others above yourselves” but it’s not. The first part of that verse instructs us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3). In addition, giving the best of myself in service of other people has nothing to do with their status, income, social standing, physical attributes or what they can do for me personal. Giving the best of myself to the people I encounter has everything to with my True King, my Heavenly Father and everything He channels through me that represents His Character, Nature and Spirit.

When we are not channeling God, we are essentially channeling the spirit of the world that is represented by whatever culture we are predominantly exposed to. Two thousand years ago, we were forever saved from the dominance of the ruler of this world, when God gifted us all with a Savior King for eternity.

I hope to post more in the coming weeks to address our choice for indentured servitude (either by hurting others or demeaning ourselves), and the King God has made available to everyone. King Jesus came to lead the world out of bondage and into eternal freedom.

Referenced:

Reconciliation: Benin Conference (transcribed speeches):  http://www.dbq.edu/library/FacultyPubs/JohnHatch.cfm

http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4223655/k.90ED/West_Africans_to_AfricanAmericans_We_Apologize_for_Slavery.htm

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2003/07/10/african-ambassador-apologizes-for-slavery-role/