Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Bible Challenge: Day 216

The scriptures read are Isaiah 4-6, Psalm 27 and 1 Thessalonians 4.

Isaiah 4. It's not all gloom and doom. God promises the cleansing of Zion from all violence and the return of his presence and protection.

Isaiah 5. The song of the vineyard. The vineyard is a metaphor for Israel and instead of a harvest of justice, God finds murder and brutality. God is threatening to abandon it to decay.

God goes after the land speculators for evicting people and leaving them homeless. Nothing new under the sun, is there? Next God condemns the hedonists, who drink and party hard. And those who tell lies to sell things and those who are so far gone they have evil and good so confused they can't tell which is which. God will send hordes of foreign invaders to conquer the land.

Isaiah 6. Isaiah's vision of God on his throne. As the seraphim sing "Holy, holy, holy," Isaiah is terrified because he is not holy, least of all his speech. His speech is cleansed and God asks for an emissary. Isaiah volunteers. But the message is not a happy one.

Psalm 27. A wonderfully hypnotic version of this psalm in Hebrew is here.

1 Thessalonians 4. It looks like Paul is wrapping up the letter. He's at the Ethical Advice stage, reminding them to live purely and love one another when he suddenly answers a question the church has about those who have died before Jesus' return. First, he reminds them of the resurrection. But there are those who think that will happen after Jesus' return. Not at all, says Paul. The dead will rise first and then the living will be caught up in the air to greet the returning Christ. The Latin word for "caught up" is where we get the word for "the rapture." But there is nothing about Jesus' descent turning around into an ascent and no other passage in the Bible that speaks of this. The "rapture" is not a rescue mission. The words used for his "coming" and the believers "meeting" him are those used when the Emperor would come to a town or city. The dignitaries would go out of the city to meet him and then escort him into the city. And the trumpet blast and the war shout are military preludes to an armed invasion. Jesus came first as a babe in arms to announce his kingdom and give everyone a chance to become citizens. What Paul is talking about is when time's up and Jesus is returning as rightful king to claim what is his. Good news for his oppressed citizens but not for those who are still in the "might makes right" mode and who resist God's loving offer.

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