Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Isaiah 30 - The worth of an Israelite

This chapter begins with a familiar rebuke of Israel for trusting in the world and not in God.  The symbol of the world is given as Egypt, apparently a country to whom Israel was turning for support.  In the end, Isaiah declares, this trust on Egypt will be an embarrassment for Israel.  This is for two reasons:  First, Egypt itself considers Israel worthless- a waste of effort.  Second, Egypt’s help won’t be of any benefit to Israel anyway.   It would be better if they left Israel alone. 

These verses bring to my mind a sad chapter in the history of our nation.  During the cold war, our country conducted many nuclear weapons tests.  When considering places to conduct these tests, the government weighed many factors, including the potential damage to human populations, because they knew the fallout would pose a health risk to those exposed to it.   Two areas were chosen because of their remoteness and because their populations were deemed to be “low use”:  The South Pacific and Eastern Nevada.   In now published government reports, the Polynesians and Mormons of Southern Utah were considered to be expendable in the effort to gain nuclear supremacy.  It is interesting that both of these peoples have claim on the blessing of Abraham through Israelite lineage.

The past prophecies of Isaiah continue to hold true in our day.  The powers of the world look upon the people of God as unprofitable to them.   And the people of God are still tempted to rely on the world for protection and strength.   Yet our greatest worldly strength that we have pursued, nuclear weapons, has not yielded a peaceful world, but instead produced a world full of violence that is standing on the precipice of unprecedented war and destruction.  The lust and envy of nuclear power is propelling many nations of the world into conflicts we are not prepared to fight. 

Ancient Israel did not react well to Isaiah’s prophecies.  They are condemned for being rebellious, and asking for prophecies that don’t sound so dire:

  10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:

  11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.

Isaiah uses to powerful metaphors to describe Isreal’s predicament.  First, people who react to the prophets this way are like barrier wall that is just about to break.  This wall looks sound and tall, but when it breaks, it will come tumbling down in an instant.   Second, Israel shall be broken like a potter’s vessel.   I’ve seen pottery makers at work.  When they make a mistake with an unfired vessel, they break it up and dissolve it back into moist clay so they can use it again.  No vestige of the original piece remains.   The combined metaphor composes a stern warning:  the punishments of God are sudden and complete.

As always, the Lord extends promises along with his dire prophecies and rebukes.  He promises assure us that there is a way out.  Here are a few that I could find in this chapter:

·         (v15) A quiet confidence in the Lord is our strength

·         (v18) The righteous should be patient for the Lord’s judgment

·         (v19) The Lord will hear the cries of Zion (ie: the pure in heart)

·         (v20) Do not despise teachers- make them heard and heed them in adversity

May we all listen and be saved.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shootings in Virginia and the Question of Gun Control

What terrible, tragic news has come to us from Virginia.  I pray the families of dead and injured will find comfort, healing and the grace to forgive.   

People on both sides of the gun issue have been voicing their opinions feverishly in the last 24 hours.   As for me, I feel like the question of whether or not to control guns is divisive, and in my opinion there is another way to look at this.

One day, if we live up to our covenants, we will live in a society without weapons.  All will know the Lord and love peace.   In the scriptures, this society is called “Zion”.   Some features of Zion include self-control, free agency, peace, glory, and divine protection.  Zion will be “terrible”, not because the people are armed, strong, or powerful,  but because the Lord will fight their battles.    Truly, one cannot imagine a more terrible creature than one who is perfectly mild, peaceful, and wise, yet who is also invulnerable and omnipotent because they are surrounded and protected by the glory and majesty of the creator of the universe.   Such people have always instilled hate and fear in the wicked.

There are some who believe that Zion will become possible through the destruction of the wicked.   I do not hold to this belief.  Instead, I believe the wicked will be destroyed when there is a Zion for the Lord to protect.  i.e.: I believe the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be forever delayed until we build Zion as we have been commanded. 

How to we build a Zion that has no weapons?

We cannot do it through laws, because laws remove agency.  Therefore gun control cannot work. 

Neither can do it through weapons, for we must rely on the Lord.  Therefore gun ownership cannot work. 

Instead, there must be courageous people who bury their weapons, unwilling to succumb to the fear-mongering which comes from the lobbies on both sides of the gun issue.    

The terrible things we hear about in the news are isolated, freak events, and the stories are calculated to stir up fear and anger in our hearts.  The actions proposed- outlaw guns, or carry more guns-  are both wrought out of fear and both are destabilizing to the peaceful society we want to create. 

I want to live in a society where no one carries a gun.   Therefore I will begin with myself, of my own free will and choice.  Who will join me?