HURTFUL WORKS . . . Brings forth vengeance from God

Behold, saith the Lord, I will bring plagues upon the world; the sword, famine, death, and destruction. For wickedness hath exceedingly polluted the whole earth, and their hurtful works are fulfilled. Therefore saith the Lord, I will hold my tongue no more as touching their wickedness, which they profanely commit, neither will I suffer them in those things, in which they wickedly exercise themselves: behold, the innocent and righteous blood crieth unto me, and the souls of the just complain continually. And therefore, saith the Lord, I will surely avenge them, and receive unto me all the innocent blood from among them. “ (Reference: 2 Esdras 15:5-9 )

And it is asked, “How can a merciful caring God allow disaster and catastrophe to happen?” And what can we answer? That the innocent must suffer with the guilty because the guilty are deserving of it but the innocent are unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or is it that the innocent blood that is spilled is what God receives to the God-self? Does this mean then that innocent blood must be spilled in order to avenge the innocent who have suffered? Oh beloved, this line of thinking and conversation could become depressing, maudlin, and weepy. It needs a lighter hand than I have now. Fortunately five years ago on this day (or at least when I wrote the post for this day) I had a lighter hand. In the five years that have past there have been some changes, but I will deal with much further down the page. This is what I wrote for Nov 25, 2009.

Cleaning up the mess

Our cat is afraid of vacuum cleaners. Or more precisely, afraid of vacuum cleaners that are turned on and move. He can be quite brave and nonchalant about vacuum cleaners sitting around and silent. But if I start to move it or start the motions to get it out and use it, he takes off for parts unknown. And what, you may ask, does that have to do with today’s verse? Well, I need to vacuum today. In fact, after I finish this blog entry for today, and I am just thinking about the comparison between how the cat will feel about that and how the “wicked” inhabitants might feel about the Lord’s plans. The Lord does not ‘bother’ them when the Divine is upset but not doing anything. No, it is when the Lord makes movement or motions to start a plan that they might get upset.

It is probably not a stretch to say our cat feels like the vacuum is a plague, and dirt on the carpet could be seen as pollution; dirt as hurtful acts may be a stretch. And if you permit me to be briefly and superficially in the role of God, I am not holding back any more in my plan to clean. And I do desire the ‘innocence’ of my floor, that is dirt etc free. And if I was to anthropomorphize the carpet, it might be less than thrilled to be pounded upon and subjected to the vacuum; but it might also recognize the need for cleansing. So sure, why not let the metaphor stand. You see, much of what has ‘polluted’ the carpet is cat hair. Aahaa, you say! Now it is clear! The cat is the ‘villain’ in the metaphor.

The Anabaptists also had villains who they took to task for their behavior. Jakob Hutter in a scathing piece wrote about the lords and rules of his time. “[T]hreefold woe to you Moravian lords into all eternity! You have given in to [King] Ferdinand, the awful tyrant and enemy of divine truth—you have agreed to drive those who love and fear God out of your lands. You fear a weak, mortal man more than the living, eternal, almighty God and are willing to expel and ruthlessly persecute the children of God, old and young, even the Lord’s widows and orphans in their need and sorrow, and deliver them up to plunder, fear, great suffering, and extreme poverty. It is as if you strangled them with your own hands. We would rather be murdered for the Lord’s sake than witness such misery inflicted on innocent, God-fearing hearts. You will have to pay dearly for it, and you will have no more excuse than Pilate, [John 19:6- 12] who also did not want to crucify and kill the Lord Jesus. Yet when the Jews threatened him (by God’s plan), fear of the emperor made Pilate condemn an innocent man. You do the same, using the king as your excuse. But God has made it known through the mouth of his prophets that he will avenge innocent blood with terrible might on all who stain their hands with it.” But notice in Hutter’s remarks that Pilate was fulfilling God’s plan. In other words, Pilate could no more avoid doing as he did than our cat can avoid shedding.

This is so often the catch when we see evil happening in the world. Evil and all the other terrible things that happen in the world happen because evil first came into the world not through humanity, but through immortal opposition to God’s good. And so it is important that we leave vengeance, which is the theme for the next few days, in God’s hands. I can vacuum up what the cat sheds, but I cannot prevent the cat from shedding. And preventing the cat from shedding would take action that would severely injure the cat. So too is the task of humans on this world. We can mend as best we can the hurt the world suffers, but it is beyond our capacity to stop the Evil One.

Everyone that is touched by evil suffers; the innocent and the guilty. The innocent because the suffer for actions that they did not undertake. And the guilty because they will be punished at some point by God. May you, gentle reader, take only that action which is rightly in your power. And may God comfort you as we comfort our cat when the time of cleansing is over. Selah!

 

Since I wrote this our cat aged and passed away. He was almost 12 years old at his passing – a quite respectable age for a cat. And he is dearly missed. I loved him almost as one would love a family member. And while I might have written this in a teasing fashion, I would avenge any hurt that might have come to him, and on several occasion did!

I think that is what the writer of Esdras is saying, that our God so strongly loves and protects the innocent that the Lord’s vengeance is so all consuming. Or to borrow the metaphor in the piece I wrote some five years ago – our cat found out my desire to clean was so all consuming that I set aside my concern for him in order to clean.

Do think this is possible beloved? That God’s need and desire for vengeance against the wicked and their hurtful works is given greater priority than what might happen to the innocent? And in the shifting sands of understanding, might have the “Moravian lords” decided that order and establishment of authority take precedence over the innocents who were rounded up and persecuted? Or perhaps King Ferdinand decided that an example of not flouting civil authority must be set for other citizens under his rule?

See, I am descending into depressive and maudlin thinking! But issues of evil, wickedness, vengeance and shedding of blood are sad and despairing. May the Lord comfort you, beloved, when it feels like God’s wrath against wickedness has spilled over on to you. And may God’s comfort enfold you and heal you. Selah!

IN THEIR POWER . . . Alas

“Alas for those who devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in their power. They covet fields, and seize them.” (Micah 2:1-2a from Micah 2:1-11 )

Just before reading this I read article on Third Way Cafe‘s website entitled Persisting for Peace. It tells the story of one family in Israel who have tried to build and literally maintain a home for themselves and their family. I have spoken before about the situation in the Middle East where it does not seem to matter which side you speak of because both sides have suffered and caused suffering. Very much, in fact, like biblical Israel. I take no sides; I just comment on the lack of and need for peace.

And it is not just in the Middle East where homes and families are destroyed. Pick an continent in the world and you will find oppression and oppressors – people who have power and use that power to make others suffer. The prophet Micah say this as well as other biblical prophets. Modern prophets and preachers have also named and berated those who cause destruction and evil. Travel through time and you will see people forced out of their homes and families torn apart simply because someone had (or thought they had) the power to do it.

However, Micah uses “alas” not as I have – alas that this happens – but “alas” as in these people will suffer. The Lord, Micah says, has “plans” for them that will cause them suffering as they caused suffering to others. I have wondered about this, reading this biblical prophets, that is seems the Lord (according to what they prophets say) punishes those in the same way that the “evil” and “wicked” have caused suffering to others. Not so much an “eye for an eye” but more of a cause and effect. So if I wonder where the God of compassion is when the God of vengeance is roaring, perhaps it is not so much a change in the nature of God as it is the evil one’s actions reflected back on to themselves by God.

Alas that they are evil, because they commit evil deeds. But alas that they are evil, because “evil” will be done unto them. And still, we are an unfathomable distance from shalom. But in the fact of this, gentle reader, shalom for your day!

THE WICKED – Why are they the way they are?

“The wicked remove landmarks; they seize flocks and pasture them. They drive away the donkey of the orphan; they take the widow’s ox for a pledge. They thrust the needy off the road. “ (Job 24:2-4a from Job 24:1-25)

I’m having problems with this one – knowing what to write. And I have been trying to figure out why; haven’t gotten very far on that one either. The only thing I can come up with is that I just don’t understand “wicked”. I like to think of myself as “edgy”, “controversial”, “irreverent”. But based on the response I get from people it seems more likely I am “bland”, “tame”, “mild”. So when it comes to talking about “wickedness” I am lost. It’s not that I don’t know wickedness when I see it; I just can’t understand why people would do it! And each time I realize that I am seeing wickedness, I am taken by surprise. Obviously this is an extreme case of NOT being in right relationship with one’s neighbors nor with God.

On the other hand, I am thinking, “What’s the point of noting this?” So people are wicked. There have always been wicked people, and until it truly is on heaven as on earth, there will always be wicked people. A lot of Job is a rant of “why me?!” which evolves into a rant against all of the things that Job feels is unfair. People who are “bland”, “tame”, and “mild” are always going to be taken aback by the terrible things of this world.

BUT it does not mean we “milquetoasts” are going to do nothing. Oh no! That is when we get “edgy”, “controversial”, and “irreverent” defending the weak and marginal from those who are wicked. But again, so? Restore the landmarks! Recover the stolen flocks! Return the donkey! And redeem the widow’s ox! Stand up to wickedness and defy it! Say we are not going to allow it to happen!

May you gentle reader confront wickedness where you find it! Shalom for your day!