Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hebrew Testament text for 8 December 2013

Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Reflection     Is Isaiah talking about utopia? He speaks of wolves and asps, the poor and meek. If it truly was utopia wouldn’t everyone have everything... and surely there would be no insects and no predators? I don’t believe for a minute that the tale of Jesse has anyting to do with Orwellian utopia. Oddly enough I do believe the tale of Jesse is about the absence of fear. 

I suspect those of you who are careful readers are leaping out of your seats protesting... “What about “the fear of the Lord? His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord?”

Let me be crystal clear, I am not talking about the ‘fear of the Lord,” which may be more aptly interpreted “the knowledge and awe of the Lord.” That kind of fear or awe is a direct and appropriate response to the experience of God’s wisdom, understanding, counsel and might. “Fear of the Lord” is the incomprehensible (hence indescribable) heart pounding, experience of the magnitude of God present.

The kind of fear that is absent in Isaiah’s text is the gut wrenching, breath taking, paralyzing angst and trepidation that stops us in our tracks, prods us to build cement walls around our countries, stockpile weapons inside razon wire fences, put gates on our neighborhoods and alarms on our hearts. The kind of fear that is absent in Isaiah’s tale of Jesse’s offspring is the kind of fear that steals our freedom and forgets who and whose we really are.

You see, when we remember that we are the children of God, the offspring of the Lord God who strikes awe in our hearts and wonder in our minds; when we remember that we are the revelation of God whose will and whose way is held back by no things; then we too can be as innocent as lambs lying with wolves, as curious as toddlers chasing havolina. When we remember that we are descendants of the lineage of Jesse and heirs to the kingdom of God (which, by the way is right here) there is no thing on earth to fear because we live and breath and find our being in the awe and wonder, the wisdom and understanding, the counsel and might and knowledge of Lord God.....present.

Remember the extreme sports marketing movement in the 1970s - bumper stickers, coffee mugs and tee shirts displayed the moniker, “No Fear?” The words called us out.. don’t be lazy, don’t be  paralyzed by the fear of death, don’t be locked into the status quo. I suspect the cranky prophet Isaiah would have worn one of those tee shirts, and Jesus too.

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