ISSL Reflections May 9, 2021, Isaiah 29:13-24 Post 3

VII.
In the Scripture passage we read this week, what did Isaiah see and hear in his day that led him to believe the people were not on the path of covenant life with God?

Maybe we could make a list. Here a few things I notice –

The people’s personal investment in their worship practices were lacking something –

these people draw near with their mouths
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote; (Isaiah 29:13)

Some spend more time thinking about doing harm than doing good –

For the tyrant shall be no more,
and the scoffer shall cease to be;
all those alert to do evil shall be cut off (Isaiah 29:20)

What people often regard as the smart ways to get ahead not always lasting –

The wisdom of their wise shall perish,
and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden. (Isaiah 29:14)

People can no longer look to find justice in the courts –

those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit,
who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate,
and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right. (Isaiah 29:21)

Isaiah’s disappointment with the people is not just about things “religious” or what we often call “spiritual” but extends to every part of life including what the folk think are the “smart” ways to live and behave and seeing justice done for all people not just those with power to force their “justice” on others lacking resources and power.

What else do you see that gives Isaiah cause to weep for the people and to call them to the way of the covenant?

VIII.
What does Isaiah offer as the way to bring the people back to the covenant?

You turn things upside down!
Shall the potter be regarded as the clay?
Shall the thing made say of its maker,
“He did not make me”;
or the thing formed say of the one who formed it,
“He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:16)

… and maybe …

On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a scroll,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 29:18-19)

How are these words from The Prophet actualized –

they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who grumble will accept instruction. (Isaiah 29:23-22)

Might Isaiah’s observations fit not just in Isaiah’s day but maybe in our day also?

How does God call me to live as part of the Kingdom of God?

Take a moment more to read these words in The Message translation and notice what they bring to mind for you –

Isaiah 29:13-24 (The Message)

“These people make a big show of saying the right thing,
but their hearts aren’t in it.
Because they act like they’re worshiping me
but don’t mean it,
I’m going to step in and shock them awake,
astonish them, stand them on their ears.
The wise ones who had it all figured out
will be exposed as fools.
The smart people who thought they knew everything
will turn out to know nothing.”

Doom to you! You pretend to have the inside track.
You shut God out and work behind the scenes,
Plotting the future as if you knew everything,
acting mysterious, never showing your hand.
You have everything backward!
You treat the potter as a lump of clay.
Does a book say to its author,
“He didn’t write a word of me”?
Does a meal say to the woman who cooked it,
“She had nothing to do with this”?

And then before you know it,
and without you having anything to do with it,
Wasted Lebanon will be transformed into lush gardens,
and Mount Carmel reforested.
At that time the deaf will hear
word-for-word what’s been written.
After a lifetime in the dark,
the blind will see.
The castoffs of society will be laughing and dancing in God,
the down-and-outs shouting praise to The Holy of Israel.
For there’ll be no more gangs on the street.
Cynical scoffers will be an extinct species.
Those who never missed a chance to hurt or demean
will never be heard of again:
Gone the people who corrupted the courts,
gone the people who cheated the poor,
gone the people who victimized the innocent.

And finally this, God’s Message for the family of Jacob,
the same God who redeemed Abraham:
“No longer will Jacob hang his head in shame,
no longer grow gaunt and pale with waiting.
For he’s going to see his children,
my personal gift to him—lots of children.
And these children will honor me
by living holy lives.
In holy worship they’ll honor the Holy One of Jacob
and stand in holy awe of the God of Israel.
Those who got off-track will get back on-track,
and complainers and whiners will learn gratitude.”

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections May 9, 2021, Isaiah 29:13-24 Post 2

This link will take you to our Scripture focus for the week-
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+29%3A13-24&version=NRSV

IV.
I have often become frustrated with Scripture passages like this one and like I see so often in the Psalms.

There is some part of me that wants the Prophet (or Psalmist) to stay on point.

That is I want one theme, one point, one consistent word from the speaker.

I don’t want this going back and forth between accusation and promise, words of judgement, if you will, and words of promise for some future time.

I can’t say I fully know why I feel that way, except maybe it makes things “easier” for me to understand.

Or, at least it used to.

V.
Maybe there is another reason.

I closed the last post by asking “After you have rested in the Prophet’s words, what do you find draws you the most? His words of accusation or words of promise?”

Have you ever known folk who love to hear the words of judgement? It seems to me they delight in that kind of tone. Kinda like, “God’s coming to get you and give you a whipping! Get ready for it!”

Those folk seem more (or mostly, or entirely) drawn to the words of accusation and judgement.

Others are drawn to the words of promise and hope and perhaps would prefer not to hear of problems and failures at all.

VI.
What do you want to hear today from the Prophet? What do you need to hear today from the Prophet?

I’m coming to the opinion I need to hear from a Prophet who can speak realistically of both problems that surround us (some of which we might personally have created), and speak of the reality of the kind of hope that is part of the core of the Kingdom of God Jesus spoke of and drew pictures of for us.

What pictures is the Prophet Isaiah drawing for us? Pictures of his time and maybe ever pictures of our day and age.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections May 9, 2021, Isaiah 29:13–24 Post 1

I.
The word from the Prophet we look at this week covers a lot of ground and a lot of what has been the lives of the people and will be in their lives.

Let’s start off slow, if you will, and see what “all” we can take in from the Prophet.

In our “slow” start let’s read the passage three times.

First, don’t rush through the passage, but listen deeply. You may want to stop frequently, maybe with each sentence or thought and let it sink in.

In the second reading pay attention to the words of accusation, of judgement, of calling attention to where the people have left their covenant with The Lord. Again, pay attention and let it sink into your mind and heart.

In your third reading pay attention to the words of hope, words of encouragement, words of promise, where the prophet speaks of the new day, the new start The Lord will bring to the people. Notice how the words of hope work for you.

II.
Isaiah 29:13-24

The Lord said:
 Because these people draw near with their mouths
     and honor me with their lips,
     while their hearts are far from me,
 and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote;
 
so I will again do
     amazing things with this people,
     shocking and amazing.
 The wisdom of their wise shall perish,
     and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden.

 Ha! You who hide a plan too deep for the Lord,
     whose deeds are in the dark,
     and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?”

 You turn things upside down!
     Shall the potter be regarded as the clay?
 Shall the thing made say of its maker,
     “He did not make me”;
 or the thing formed say of the one who formed it,
     “He has no understanding”?

 Shall not Lebanon in a very little while
     become a fruitful field,
     and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?

 On that day the deaf shall hear
     the words of a scroll,
 and out of their gloom and darkness
     the eyes of the blind shall see.

 The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
     and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

 For the tyrant shall be no more,
     and the scoffer shall cease to be;
     all those alert to do evil shall be cut off—

 those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit,
     who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate,
     and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.

 Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:

 No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
     no longer shall his face grow pale.

 For when he sees his children,
     the work of my hands, in his midst,
     they will sanctify my name;

 they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
     and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.

 And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
     and those who grumble will accept instruction.

III.
After you have rested in the Prophet’s words, what do you find draws you the most? His words of accusation or words of promise?

Do you have any questions for the Prophet? What do you want to ask?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections May 2, 2021, 1 Kings 22:15-23, 26-28 Post 3

Take some time to refresh this scene –
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?Search=1+Kings+22%3A1-28&version=NRSV

VIII.
The image of the 400 or so prophets is still holding my attention.

Especially as I hear King Jehoshaphat ask King Ahab, “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?” (1 Kings 22:7)

And then even as King Ahab protests, we watch Micaiah appear on the scene.

IX.
I have to admit this provokes a question for me.

Who do I listen to?

Who do I gather around me to give me advice and direction when important decisions must be made. Or even when “not so important” choices present themselves.

We hear Jehoshaphat tell Ahab, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:5)

Certainly that is advice always to be followed.

But even as we might say we are doing that, we probably also seek counsel from those around us we trust.

Who are they?

Do we tend to gather around us those that we know agree with us? Those that have a perspective similar to, if not identical, with our own?

If we do, what is the point in seeking their advice? We, in most all cases, already know what they will say. They likely will say what we want to hear?

Well, maybe that’s just me.

X.
How do we get those folk to come around us, who are so well grounded as disciples of Jesus, that we know we can trust their counsel not just to be an echo of our own mind and wishes?

Can a Micaiah show up for us?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections May 2, 2021, 1 Kings 22:15-23, 26-28 Post 2

You can find this week’s Scripture passage at –
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+22%3A1-28&version=NRSV

V.
All these prophets (“about 400”) have a hold on my attention. I just keep “looking” at them and “listening” to them. Is that what King Ahab did?

I Kings 22:5-6, 10-12

But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.” Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred of them, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” They said, “Go up; for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”

Now the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. Zedekiah son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron, and he said, “Thus says the Lord: With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.” All the prophets were prophesying the same and saying, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”

VI.
Who are they?

When King Jehoshaphat tells Ahab to “Inquire first for a word of the Lord” these are the ones Ahab “gathered.”

Had they demonstrated they were The Lord’s spokesman before this?

Were they just close enough to the King geographically to be called together or were they close enough to the King politically and culturally to be called together?

Did they have a “history” of always taking the King’s side?

Were they other “prophets” the King did not gather here?

Micaiah was not in this group.

Were there other prophets like Micaiah who the King knew he did not want to hear from?

VII.
And how did these prophets think of themselves?

Did they “inquire … for a word from the Lord”? Or might they have enjoyed the King’s favor so much they were inclined to see things as the King saw things?

Might they have been “faithful” to The Lord in other situations but with about 400 speaking as one voice was it “too much” to say a different word to the King? It can be very hard for one or two voices to stand out in such a crowd which seems so sure of what is right.

Who were they?

What was their priority? From whom did they “Inquire first for a word from ….”?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections May 2, 2021, 1 Kings 22:15-23, 26-28 Post 1

I.
Who does this week’s passage put before us?

Kings, prophets (unnamed except for Micaiah), The Lord, the host of heaven. And if that were not enough I want to add a bit more scripture for our reading to see some of what leads up to these encounters.

Let’s start by reading some Scripture and pay close attention to the interactions we see –

II.
1 Kings 22:1-28

For three years Aram and Israel continued without war. But in the third year King Jehoshaphat of Judah came down to the king of Israel. The king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, yet we are doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?” He said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are; my people are your people, my horses are your horses.”

But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.” Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred of them, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” They said, “Go up; for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?” The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.” Jehoshaphat said, “Let the king not say such a thing.” Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.” Now the king of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them. Zedekiah son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron, and he said, “Thus says the Lord: With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.” All the prophets were prophesying the same and saying, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king; let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak.”

When he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” He answered him, “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” But the king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” Then Micaiah said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep that have no shepherd; and the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each one go home in peace.’” The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favorable about me, but only disaster?”

Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing beside him to the right and to the left of him. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ Then one said one thing, and another said another, until a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ ‘How?’ the Lord asked him. He replied, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.’ So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has decreed disaster for you.”

Then Zedekiah son of Chenaanah came up to Micaiah, slapped him on the cheek, and said, “Which way did the spirit of the Lord pass from me to speak to you?” Micaiah replied, “You will find out on that day when you go in to hide in an inner chamber.” The king of Israel then ordered, “Take Micaiah, and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son, and say, ‘Thus says the king: Put this fellow in prison, and feed him on reduced rations of bread and water until I come in peace.’” Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, you peoples, all of you!”

III.
First we see King Jehoshaphat of Judah and King Ahab of Israel in a conversation (negotiation) regarding war with Aram.

What does Ahab propose and what does Jehoshaphat propose?

Enter 400 prophets. What do they say of Ahab’s plans for war?

How does Johoshaphat respond?

So we hear of Micaiah now. Why was he not with the 400 prophets we heard from earlier? How does Ahab regard him? Why would Ahad send for him?

On the way to see the King what counsel does Micaiah receive from the King’s messenger?

When Micaiah is before the King and is asked about going to battle, why does Micaiah respond, “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”

Is King Ahab angry? How would you describe his reaction?

What then does Micaiah tell the King?

And what about the picture Micaiah paints of The Lord and the host of heaven? How do you understand that scene?

IV.
So much going on here.

Spend time with this account and notice not only what you read but the spirit and nature of the people you see and your response to all of it.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections April 25, 2021, Lamentations 5 Post 3

Once again you can read Lamentations 5 at –
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=lamentations+5&version=NRSV

VI.
The people of Jerusalem were able to explicitly name their situation, discouragement and pain.

One hope I have for us in reading and spending time with this painful passage is to see this came from a people still seeking God and still hoping in God.

Yes, they were in pain.

Yes, they were discouraged.

Yes, they wanted answers.

Yes, they were in the midst of a terrible time.

Yet …. What did they do?

They spoke it all in the hearing of one another and they spoke it to God.

VII.
Notice these words –

But you, O Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.

Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—

unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure.
(Lamentations 5:19-22)

In a few words they speak of the pain, the fear, and the hope – their faith.

Does our faith allow this full relationship with God. This freedom to name our pains and fears and yet, as it were, “to hope against hope”?

And even to end our prayer asking, “What’s next? When will it end?”

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections April 25, 2021, Lamentations 5 Post 2

You can go to the link before to read Lamentations 5 in the New Revised Version and to find other translations –
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=lamentations+5&version=NRSV

IV.
This passage not only calls upon God to, “Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us …” it asks God to “look” at their condition, and then points out what the condition includes, and how they are forced to live in a world where “The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning.”

What is their world like? How are they having to live in that world? What pain do they name in this prayer?

V.
They found the freedom to explicitly express to God their pains and their questions.

Maybe they were familiar with the laments that occur time and time again in the Psalms. Maybe that helped them know how to be brutally honest with God.

What about us?

How honest can we be in our prayers? In our conversations with God?

What would you name in your lament before God?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections April 25, 2021, Lamentations 5 Post 1

I.
If you sent out an invitation to a “pity” party you would probably get some folk RSVP’ing. But what if the invitation was for sharing your “anguish,” your deepest pains? Maybe not so many would want to come?

Yet our Scripture focus this week from the closing chapter of the book of Lamentations puts before us a deeply felt and experienced corporate lament that draws us to the people’s pain at the destruction of Jerusalem.

Notice this lament, this prayer, begins with,

Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace!

At times our prayer lives are so “restrained,” this might be the extent of our “lamenting.” Not so here.

Take time to read these words and take time to process some of the pain expressed by this community, and see how they can express their pain to their God.

II.
Lamentations 5

Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us;
look, and see our disgrace!

Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers,
our homes to aliens.

We have become orphans, fatherless;
our mothers are like widows.

We must pay for the water we drink;
the wood we get must be bought.

With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven;
we are weary, we are given no rest.

We have made a pact with Egypt and Assyria,
to get enough bread.

Our ancestors sinned; they are no more,
and we bear their iniquities.

Slaves rule over us;
there is no one to deliver us from their hand.

We get our bread at the peril of our lives,
because of the sword in the wilderness.

Our skin is black as an oven
from the scorching heat of famine.

Women are raped in Zion,
virgins in the towns of Judah.

Princes are hung up by their hands;
no respect is shown to the elders.

Young men are compelled to grind,
and boys stagger under loads of wood.

The old men have left the city gate,
the young men their music.

The joy of our hearts has ceased;
our dancing has been turned to mourning.

The crown has fallen from our head;
woe to us, for we have sinned!

Because of this our hearts are sick,
because of these things our eyes have grown dim:

because of Mount Zion, which lies desolate;
jackals prowl over it.

But you, O Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.

Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?

Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—

unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure.

III.
Does this prayer feel uplifting to you or does it make you uncomfortable? Or maybe even both?

Can you think of a time you wanted to express this much pain to God? What did you do? Why?

What strikes you as the deepest pain this prayer expresses?

Over the next days, let’s spend time with their lamenting and see what it might tell us about how we can approach God.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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ISSL Reflections April 18, 2021, Nehemiah 2:11-20 Post 3

Take time once again to reread this week’s focus passage –
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Nehemiah+2%3A11-20&version=NRSV

VI.
Often Nehemiah is thought of as “builder.”

Do you know someone you would regard as a builder?

If so, what does that person have in common with Nehemiah?

VII.
What do you have in common with Nehemiah?

What in Nehemiah’s life and work encourages you?

As you have thought about Nehemiah’s work, what goal comes to mind that you might be “inspired” to work toward?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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