New Wine is Present in the Cluster

Photo by Jodie Morgan on Unsplash

 

Isaiah 65:1-9
Psalm 22:18-27
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

It is difficult to jump into chapter 65 of any book, let alone Isaiah, and understand what is going on, but we will try. We know that Isaiah was a prophet to a dying nation, a nation headed to captivity. It should be no surprise that God asked the prophet to remind the people of their failings and to remind them that God expects them to obey Him.

In the preceding chapter, we read in verse 4; It is because You are angry that we have sinned; we have been steeped in them from of old, and can we be saved? JSB Can we be saved? That was the key question of Isaiah.

As is typical of Isaiah, passages of blame and suffering, followed by forgiveness and hope. In 64:7 we see Isaiah, and hopefully, some of the people, saying, But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are the Potter, we are all the work of Your handsJSB

Before we start singing the hymn, look back to the first part of verse 4. Yet you have struck him who would gladly do justice, and remember You in Your waysJSB Some of us are following your ways, but we are also being punished. That’s not fair.

This whole chapter is a back and forth; we sin, we deserve punishment; it is not our fault; we are sorry. It is exactly like children caught doing wrong. I didn’t do it. OK, I did, but it was not my fault. Please don’t punish me. Etc.

The chapter ends with verse 11. Will You stand idly by and let us suffer so heavily? JSB

The response from God comes in the next verses. I responded to those who did not ask, I was at hand to those who did not seek Me; I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that did not invoke My name. I constantly spread out My hands to a disloyal people, who walk the way that is not good, following their own designs; the people who provoke My anger, who continually, to My very face, sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on tiles; who sit inside tombs and pass the night in secret places; who eat the flesh of swine, with broth of unclean things in their bowls; who say “Keep your distance! Don’t come closer! For I would render you consecrated.” JSB

To rephrase: God, don’t you care that we are in pain? Where are you? To which God says, “Here I am.” I want to be close, but you shut me out. You don’t want to be Holy.

I constantly spread out My hands refers to the Jewish way to pray to God. Both hands are raised with the fingers splayed out. Here, God says I’m praying to you even though you won’t pray to Me. That’s how much I want you to listen. Sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on tiles. A common pagan practice. Sit inside tombs. Ancestor worship was a common practice then, much like it still is in Asia, especially Japan.

The Good News comes in in verse 8. As, when new wine is present in the cluster, one says, “Don’t destroy it; there’s good in it. So will I do for the sake of My servantsJSB

Now God makes it clear that He is mindful of the faithful. They may have to suffer with the rest of the nation in this world, but they will be wearing white robes in the New Jerusalem. Those who continue to sin will not be beside them.

Please do not read this with the idea that Isaiah was talking about Israel and Judah. He is speaking to us in our own sin. We eat the flesh of swine, with broth of unclean things in our bowls. It is to be human. We read the lives of the saints, starting with Peter and the gang, and we expect to be just as pure as they were. Yet, even the scriptures make it clear that they were saints with feet of clay. There are no perfect humans. You should be most suspicious of anyone who pretends to be.

We may wade in the muck, but we know God will wash us white as snow. Don’t be afraid to be human; God loves humans. He knows that we cannot be perfect in this world. We live life the best we can. We try to do what God wants us to do. We strive to become the saints we know we will fail to be. When we fall, we pick ourselves up, sometimes with help, and we strive for the goal again. If we are lucky, we might live a life like Jim Ryun who, owning the world records in the mile and the metric mile, went to three Olympics and came home with only one silver for all his years of work. It is not the rewards that matter; it is the effort. The reward of life in the New Jerusalem will be worth the work and suffering.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Truth Will Set You Free

Sternberg Museum, Hays, Kansas
In 1952, Sternberg discovered this 14-foot Xiphactinus (Zie-FACT-i-nus) with its final meal, a 6-foot Gillicus, preserved within its ribcage.

 

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

Psalm 8

An interesting thing happened on my way to researching this week’s readings. The Gospel of John—GJohn—has a thing about Truth. I did a word search of the Bible for “truth” and found, to my surprise, only 35 mentions in the whole of the OT, the most in Jeremiah at 7. It appears 102 times in the NT with 23 in GJohn and 19 more in his three letters. By comparison, all of Paul’s letters use the word 29 times, GMatthew 1, GMark 2, and GLuke 1. The word “true” adds another 15 in GJohn and 11 in Revelation. This count is all from NIV.

A search of ESV yields GJohn “truth” 23 and “true” 22.

Without going into detail, the newer translations have included all the new studies of the oldest manuscripts and have updated some of the sentences. How a word is used in a given sentence depends on the context of the sentence, or even the who section. It can also vary from writer to writer—remember that professional scribes did most of the writing. The result is that GJohn 9:24 now reads, A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” NIV The underlined phrase is not found in older translations.

I checked the Greek words used by GJohn and found aletheia used 18 times, alethes—true—3 times, alethines—true—once, and kalos—good—once. Notice that all but one are essentially the same word. In the three letters, John used aletheia all 19 times.

John’s stress on truth cannot be ignored, especially in our current cultural climate. How can two deeply committed Christians have opposite views on Trump, climate change, vaccinations, and the age of the universe? Why can’t we both look at the known facts and agree?

It turns out that we can’t even agree on what is a fact. I told my high school students a zillion times that a fact can be proved true or false. Yes, a fact can be false, but only if it can be proved.

Is the world flat or a sphere? There is still disagreement. Some argue that a scientist cannot be trusted. Nor can the government. Contrary to popular misconception, few sailors believed the world was flat, and they would fall off the edge if they sailed too far. Having watched ships appear on the horizon, top sails first, then mid, then bottom, and finally the boat itself, how could they not realize the roundness of the earth. If you stand on the eastern border of Colorado and look west, you should see a 14,000-foot mountain only a couple of hundred miles away. But you can’t.

Do you take my point? We can’t even debate because we disagree on the facts.

It turns out we are motivated by our emotions rather than our knowledge. Facts are less important than feelings.

https://www.niemanlab.org/2019/05/fact-checking-cant-do-much-when-peoples-dueling-facts-are-driven-by-values-instead-of-knowledge/?utm_medium=10today.ad3li.20190509.421.2&utm_source=email&utm_content=article&utm_campaign=10-for-today—4.0-styling

What does that have to do with today’s lesson?

Everything.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to youESV

These are the words of Jesus. We must accept them as true, unquestionable. What did he mean when he said, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth? The root for understanding is to remember that God is Truth. If I am in close relationship with God, His Spirit will fill me with the Truth of God. His Truth is not limited. It includes the universe and all that is in it. But that universe is a small portion of His Truth.

Some Christians who insist that the earth is 6,000+ years old say that God created this earth with rock formations that included rock that looked like animals. Dinosaurs never existed. If they had, Noah would have had them on the ark. When scientist say that they have proof that the rock containing what appears to be bones is 60 million years old, some simply say that is impossible because the Bible does not lie.

What is the truth? To say that God created rock layers containing bone-like rocks is to say that God lied to us. God who is Truth.

The examples like that are endless. Facts vs. emotion.

Jesus does not want us to love him with our hearts alone. We must commit our minds and bodies as well. If I believe in my heart that America is the New Jerusalem, what does God have to say about that? In the May 19 reading we learned that the New Jerusalem will come down from Heaven at the end of time. Is America the New Israel? Again, we see the Twelve Tribes in Heaven and in the New Jerusalem.

We can’t let our emotions take over our thought processes. God as the God of Truth wants us to study and understand the world and universe around us, the better to understand who He is and our role in the lives He has given us.

It is too easy to assume that I meet people and see things happening and from all that I assume I understand the world. The reality is that what I see, read, and hear is only a sliver of reality. I need to trust experts who study tens of thousands, even millions, of examples before reporting to us what they have found. It is a fact that most Americans living below the poverty line work an average of 60 hours a week. It is a fact that Spanish speaking immigrants increase our national wealth. It is a well-documented fact that vaccinations are a safe prevention of deadly diseases.

When we attack people without checking the facts we are turning away from the God of Truth.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence