Friday, January 28, 2011

Down, Down, Down She Goes

Here today.  Gone tomorrow.  Down, Down, Down she goes….
The Valley sweet with burning perfumes
Cloud of myrrh and aloes 
Up the glossy hills to call her down… .down
Leave her, He says, Let her go
The dazzling drink that dulls the eyes
A companion to the shamed
She who makes a bed in the paradise
Of wantings that promise a silky wrap of visible fame
Down, down to buy yourself a blessing
To retain free gifts at a price
The body moans and is spread with the fragrance
Burning sacrifice on the coals of a life
Down she goes and all lovers
Leave her, He says, Let her go
‘Til the wasteland of Admah has overcome the finery
Riches spoil and bodies grow old
Ah my materials!  Lavishly piling underfoot
Ah their grasping coils, how they billow, they cover me
Unclean
The windows are open, the curtains are sheer and 
All the dark fires are visible beneath
For shame to cover shame
For wealth to be rotting treasure, but surely today
It prizes her, when she is not down
Down, down, down

And Israel’s Divine Lover says, “I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me,” Hosea 5:15.  He will let her go down, down to the pleasures of sin for a season… .until they are through with her… .until she pursues and is worn out.  “She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them.  Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then then now’,” Hosea 2:7.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Avoiding Risk

What is the attraction to serve a “ba’al” over Yahweh?  Service to the ba’als was degrading and impersonal, yet, it practically attracted Israel over and over again in history. 
 And we are often attracted as well.  The fact that “ba’al” worship is impersonal is the feature that can make it most attractive to us.  Personal relationships require the conditioning of humility, the willingness to listen, the courage of communication, compromise and cooperation.  They require bravery when situations involve a measure of greyness or uncertainty.  We can never be absolutely assured of how things will go.  We may face betrayal and deep pain.  Personal relationship is risky.  It is this risk of our heart that causes us frequently to run away.
The ba’als offered to Israel an opportunity to have the benefits that Yahweh promised, without personal relationship.  There would be no need to examine motives and test the quality of love.  Simply insert your quarters in the slot and enjoy the outcoming shiny pink gumball.  The Hebrews could solicit what they needed from a ba’al without risking any personal investment in the other party.  The mechanical requirement?  Base, naturalistic urges and acts. One could always think about self.  No personal risk involved that invested integrally in the other relator.  
Remember Jesus in Luke 4, verses 1-13?  The Adversary offered Jesus Christ wealth, power and authority if He would just. ….bow to him.   I give you what you want if you give me what I want.  
No restrictions.  No need to be concerned about another’s welfare.  No risk involved.  The Hebrew did not develop a relationship with his or her ba’al.  No worries about betrayal, loss or pain.  Naturally, there had to be a cost to such a simple means of gain.  After all, as they say, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.  And so it was for Israel….  .they could also expect no quality friendship and mutual respect, deep affections and romance….  
They would not be treated humane…

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The East Wind

An arid eastern breeze tickled the dusty passions of Achor.  There lay the superstitious at every threshing floor.  Was Gomer one of them?Shrine prostitution was the most common activity used to secure fertility.  It was believed that this practice aided the ba’al powers in fertilizing the soil and the womb.  Was Gomer one of them?  And who was the biological father of Lo-Ammi?
Yahweh spurned the eastern wind with blows of conscience.  “Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,” Yahweh accused, “and the house of Israel with deceit… .Ephraim feeds on the wind and pursues the east wind all day long, they multiply falsehood and violence; they make a covenant with Assyria and oil is carried to Egypt!!” Hosea 11:12-12:1.  Gomer and Jacob had tip-toed together beyond the reach of accountable eyes.  There were more influential men, powerful gods and wealthier nations to pursue.  Who needs Yahweh… .all the time?  He is useful for some things, at some times.  We will sacrifice and eat at His table but why can we not eat with Egypt and Assyria too?  Jacob grasped the heel in a manipulative strategy and Gomer woed another man to fill her empty purse.  The two were victims to their own games… .their own wind chasing…
Yahweh supplied Israel with whatever they needed but it wasn’t enough.  “…it was I who gave her the grain, the winde, and the oil, and who lavished n her silver and gold…” Hosea 1:8.  It was I!  …but it was not enough… .Jacob and Gomer wanted to attain equality in the known world with their lusty neighbors.  They wanted pomp and the wealth of kings, influence and authority over the hearts of cosmic powers.  So they mixed and mingled, bought and sold, bartered and beckoned and broke all of the commands of Yahweh… .an old, faithful covenant.  Too simple perhaps.  Too nomadic.  Too much like the homestead of Hosea.
 Yahweh, faithful, but not enough.  Hosea, honest, real, but not enough.  The superficial enterprises of the known world - a constant chasing after wind, an empty mouthful that rushes in and leaves again - yet deemed a worthy desire.  “What has a man for all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils under the sun? ….This also is vanity and a striving after the wind,” Ecclesiastes 2:22, 26.  Vanity.  
And their vanity will catch them in the presence of the vain… Isreal, Gomer, “Exult not like the peoples; for you have played the whore, forsaking your God,  You have loved a prostitutes wages on all threshing floors.  Threshing floor and wine vat shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail them.  They shall not remain in the land of the Lord, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria,” Hosea 9:1-3.  Their vain ba’als and lords would require their presence at the filthy feasts and dying battles… .they would go down with them.  Don’t be heady Gomer…. .lament… .chasing vain winds will only wear you out and make you servile…

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mechanical Lords

The Canaanite deity, Ba’al Hadad, brewed a stormy rivalry against Mot.  The husbanding Lord of the land commanded rains of creaturely and earthly fertility while Mot cast a sterile, deadly shadow.  The cosmic games were manipulated by the very creatures that depended on Ba’al’s gift.  Ba’al! Ba’al! comes the cry, We need your rains!  And under every spreading tree the prostitutional persuasion begins… (Isaiah 57:3-10)
The word “ba’al” means “lord”.  The word “lord” in itself is not a negative term.  It refers to an individual who has authority, rank or ownership.  The term “baal” was used by the Canaanite nations surrounding Israel in reference to the “lords” or “gods” of different spiritual function.  These spirits governed different areas of the material world.  Ba’al Hadad was the most prominent of these Canaanite deities; god of rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture.  His mythological lordship of the land required sexual acts and child sacrifice as fuel for his pleasure and supremacy in battle.  
Israel, throughout its history, often adopted several baals at a time and performed these sickening superstitious rituals to gain favor in the material realm.  Since these baals were not personal in nature, the obligations were more mechanical; such as, if I put a quarter into a gumball machine, I get a gumball.  This sort of relationship didn’t require any selfless sacrifice or communication or negotiation or mutual respect or anything else that accompanies personal relationship.  
Yahweh was personal.  Institutions of sacrifice or ceremony or ritual in the Jewish faith were not for any mechanical purpose whatsoever.  Sacrifice and ceremony did not actually secure rain or harvest or paternity or any other material function.  The religious system was set up as a constant reminder of the personal and selfless covenant that Yahweh had established with Israel.   God set relationship before Israel and then provided several avenues of communication and relational function as well as constant pictorial and audible reminders of the nature of their union.  
These pictures were also presented as a stark contrast to the ritualistic labors of Israel’s neighbors.  In this sense, they were evangelistic.  Yahweh said over and over again “I am completely different from your mechanical and capricious gods.” God gave favor and abundance to Israel because He loved them… .not because they persuaded Him.  His only requirement was that they treat one another with the same favor and abundance.  Sadly, Israel never kept their part for very long…

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How Can I Give You Up?

Hosea starred at the sleeping bodies of his wife and daughter.  Gomer wore the expressions and aging of inappropriate use.  In prayer, before God, Hosea unburdened his heart with words and decrees and laments over the dying dispositions of both Israel and his precious Gomer.  “Plead with your mother, pleeeaaad – for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband!”  Hosea yelled and kicked at the four walls.  “I will strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst!  Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom!” Hosea’s pain lay with him on the cold floor, for in the end he knew he would show mercy.  His sighing body melted over the stone.
 Hosea couldn’t harm her.  Mercy restrained the just requirements of the Law.  The Law had not changed or been emptied of its good justice, yet, Yahweh’s kindness had entered Hosea’s personhood to reveal that patience was powerful to encourage repentance… .more powerful than Law.  Hosea was forced to watch Gomer harm herself.  In the end, she would be the victim of her own mercilessness and the mercilessness of the men, the many “baals”, that used her up.  
The sleeping infant girl known as Lo-Ammi, “not loved”, was the loveliest part of Hosea’s broken world.  You are not loved by liars and thieves Gomer and Lo-Ammi, but you are loved by me.  Sweat and tears poured from his face and mingled inside his cupped palms, “How can I give you up?”  
“Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths.  She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them.  Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’
  And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.  Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness.  Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.  And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts.  And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’  I will make then a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them.  And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her loves and forgot me, declares the Lord.  
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.  And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor (trouble) a door of hope.  And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.  And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me. ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal’,” Hosea 2:6-16.
God is in love.  He watches us go in and out chasing the fantasies and frivolities of relationships and ideas that have more interest in using us up than protecting us.  Humanity has the potential to tear Yahweh’s affectionate heart out of His chest.  His head is level and He always pursues a just course but this doesn’t mean He is not deeply affected by our choices to ignore His goodness and seek out other forms of pleasure and provision.  And He therefore gives aid to anything that will facilitate making our pleasure seeking less pleasurable.  He wants our baals and valleys to become trouble to us – to be known for what they are…. .for He cannot easily give us up…

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Silly Games

Hosea held the infant with one strong arm close to his chest.  With gentle strokes he caressed the newborns forehead and sang a soft Hebrew blessing.  The child slumbered peacefully.  Now and then she inhaled a deep baby breathe of contentment.  Hosea’s heart secretly elated in each one.  Gomer was also slumbering in another room of the house; all of her energies completely expended in twelve hours of labor and birth.  Hosea starred hopefully at his new daughter.  Her features were not yet defined for she bore a wrinkled resemblance to all Jewish infants on the day of their birth.  Hosea would not know for at least a year whether this child was actually from his body as well…  
When Hosea took Gomer to be his wife, he knew exactly what she was.  Gomer made an active living through prostitution.  Gomer’s father had died when she was only nine.  Local Jewish government’s had been long corrupted by various styles of baal worship and endless superstitions.  The Hebrew God, patient and merciful, stirred various Jewish men and women with prophetic inclinations to, you might say, gently tap Israel on the shoulder.  Yahweh continued to try and remind the Jewish leadership of their responsibilities to one another according to the Mosiac Law that had been instituted between God and man.  Yahweh was very long suffering.
 In the mean time, however, as God was tugging at Israel’s heart, individuals, such as Gomer, suffered.  Gomer’s mother had sold herself and all eight of her children, including the young Gomer, into slavery.  They could not pay their debts and laws to protect widows were not justly carried out.  Gomer’s heart and mind were captivated by a slave’s perspective of the revolving world from a keenly impressionable age.  At fourteen, Gomer was allured by the financial offers of men who took an interest in her overnight company.  At seventeen, she bought herself out of forced slavery and entered into a full occupation of voluntary slavery… .but, of course, she did not see it as such.  By nineteen, her reputation had become fastened in society and could not be unstained.  In spite of this, Gomer enjoyed the daily comforts and extravagances that prostitution afforded her and this softened the blow of lacking true friendship.
When Hosea politely interrupted Gomer’s life, she swooned and pranced about him assuming the same opportunities that she arranged with other male inquirers.  But Hosea had arrived with hands full of romance.  She eyed is suspisciously.. .even playfully.   What on earth to do with this?  
Hosea cried.  Hosea cried often for several months while trying to gracefully woo Gomer.  The plan was never to purchase her like a common commodity but to marry her!  And he was now twenty-one.  Well past the average marrying age for a Jewish man.  He desired marriage but with honesty and sincerity and none of these silly games. Like any man, he held on to the normal inclinations for a mate equal to his heart and stature.  
At twenty-one Hosea had not yet married because God had showed up like a poet in his life and begun to pluck his heart with a longing for Israel to be like a Lover again.  Hosea hurt for Yahweh’s loneliness of affections.  The small nation measured its equality and stature against other nations that were more prosperous in power and wealth than they.    Being connected with the God who created nations was no longer enough.  They longed for greater comforts and extravagances and they played the alluring silly games… .silly and destructive games.  They took greater pleasure in being an influence and status symbol among those faithless nations than identification with a faithful, patient and humble God.  A God not building His ego through imperialism or satisfying whims through manipulation.
Creator God had lost His First Love when He lost the heart of Israel.  And Creator God watched lives consumed and carried away in the midst of the offerings to any baal that would aid them in their superficial causes.  Then, God asked Hosea to do something most painful…

Monday, January 17, 2011

Zion, Part 3

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.  I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.  No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.  They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  They shall not build and another inhabit. They shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.  They shall not labor in vain or bear children to calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them.  Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.  The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord,” Isaiah 65:17-25.   
She is a new creation.  Although the nations rage all around, within Her is found joy and gladness and longevity, abundance and strength.  Everything She puts Her hands to, prospers.  Within the holy mount Zion, the aggressive and the passive, come into agreement. ..the Lion and the Lamb lie down together.  Wars and destruction are not found in Her. 
“Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain,” Zechariah 8:3.   
She will be as He is. …faithful, holy.  
“On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them.  And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn,” Zechariah 12:8-10.  
No longer a victim concerned about Her own wounding, but an Intercessor concerned about His.  He is for Her and She is for Him.  The Lord and Zion sympathize for the other.  Salvation has come.  Zion is free from Her pain.  She is free to consider the oppression, lack, and desperation of others and She is empowered by an internal source to work salvation for them, in His Holy name.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Zion, Part 2

“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’  If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of street to dwell in,” Isaiah 58:8-12.   
A city, a mountain, where justice is the atmospheric condition.  Justice for justice: She pours Herself out for the needy and He pours Himself out for Her cause.  
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.  The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.  You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.  You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is In Her and your land Married, for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married,” Isaiah 62:1-4.  
Someone will live only to defend Her and speak up for Her.  Someone who will fight all Her battles for Her so that Her peace can be very still.  Someone will exalt Her in view of all the nations because She has not exalted Herself.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Zion, Part 1

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth,” Zechariah 9:9-10.   
A melody is carried upon the breezes from a distant place. 
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way…” Isaiah 43:18-19.  
The atmosphere is changing and a possibility has opened up.  
“Go through, go through the gates; prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway; clear it of stones; lift up a signal over the peoples,” Isaiah 62: 10.  
And a Man rides upon its openness. 
“…and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forever more.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this,” Isaiah 9:6-7.  
He has come down to rule in a new way from a new place.  
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’.  The voice of your watchmen – they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion.  Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.  The Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God,” Isaiah 52:7-10. 
Good news. …an Intercessor to make intercessors from the inside out.  Someone to soothe and comfort and save us.   In Him, a meeting place has been established where God and man could agree with one another again.  A King enthroned within Zion to work justice from inside her walls…. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Inside Her Walls

“Return O virgin Israel, return to these your cities… .For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth: a woman encircles a man,” Jeremiah 31:22.
She felt His hand brushing the moss-covered stone… .it was wet with morning dew.  The irreproachable eyes surveyed the height of Her chiseled towers, their rims gathering the waters of bottomless tears.  He lay His beardless cheek against Her wall.  Undivided drops created rivelets in the testimonial cracks of old age.  He loved Her.  His bruised fingertips studied the form of each weary stone.  He studied with His fingers not His eyes.  “You are mine,” said He.  It had been so long.  She bestowed a smile and watched Him kneel to hold a handful of Her dark, full-bodied soil.  His palms coveted the misused earth like a chaste treasure. “Thank you,”  to the heavens.  He molded the sweet substance into the plot from where it came.  Not one remnant should be wasted.  
He stood.  He shook.  He shouted.  The euphoria was inexpressible… .incontainable.  He exhaled violently, “Seeellllahhhh!  Think on this you heavens and think on this you earth below!”  The atmosphere shifted.  The romance announced.  The burdened histories peered and whispered.  They considered flight into a momentary dance.  Reverberant energy swept through barren streets.  He began to run them.  Peels of thunder.  Flashes of rapture. 
Possessing His fervency in an ear to ear smile He threw Himself down at a familiar pool.   She smiled back at Him.  The waters held their breath to facilitate the moment.  He lay Himself down along the edge of the pool and let His arm fall into it.  He lay there long, listening to Her speak.  The voice of song.  A sweet soprano melody and the hum of violins.  She was beautiful.  He answered Her with memories of all the times He caught Her tears and played with Her children.  “I have missed You,” He said.  The subtle currents chorused.  They rose and ruminated about a sustained love affair.  Yet there was more to this love….
The covenant recalled its generational designs.  Two lovers brightened their gaze to the pilgrimed horizon.  He mounted the stairs of Her highest tower.  From the eastern window He could see the ravages of many flesh and blood wars.  The hills answered His scared body with their embattled brokenness.  A cry of empathy; the sound of relief.  Many enemies had run against these walls and now Her mortal exile was over.  Let the streets brim with honorable life again.  He inhaled the graces and gathered up His authorized might. “I will love You forever!” He bellowed to the ruins of coming justice and mercy.  That’s all it would take for the refugees to find their way home….
Her heart would be His encircled throne inside these rising walls…
Isaiah 62

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Written

It got very personal when He saw Her and decided to pursue Her.  
She hadn’t seen Him.  She didn’t know Him.  So He was personal from a safe distance.  
But Her circumstances and condition were His problem from a distance.  So He watched Her and paid attention to any possibility for His intervention.

It got very personal when Anther saw Her and decided to pursue Her.   
He watched invasions of Her privacy and the usurping of Her Person.  And He confronted only the Other with the acts of exploitation.  
He walked around Her.   He didn’t touch Her.  He waited for an invitation.

It got very personal when She saw Him and assumed He was an enemy.  She enlarged the distance and barred the entrance.  She saw Him pointing at Her vulnerability.  
She gathered darkness like a fortress.  He kept His distance.  His arms were quivering.  

It got very personal when She got curious about the Man not moving closer.  
He wasn’t hunting. He wasn’t shouting.  He was just standing there, arms wide open.  
She stepped forward and then backward and then forward yet some more. 
He endured long, so She came closer to the inaudible implore .

It got very personal when She was attainable and She was staring at His hand.  
He wasn’t moving.  He was just quivering.  Sweat was running from His forehead.  
His eyes were praying, like intercession, for Her to marry Him someday.  She didn’t get it.  This Man was different.  This Man was quiet.  
This Man was patiently persistent.

It got very personal when She squinted to view the writing on His palm.  The word “Betrothal” was neatly scripted.  He held it up for so very long.  And then below it, where all could see it, an advertisement of His love.  While life was unfolding, He was out there exposing His glorious designs for One True Love.

On His Hand, Her name had always been written.

“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me,” Isaiah 49:16.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Neither Do I, Part 2

A plainly dressed Jewish Rabbi was the principle character of consideration.  He had not moved for 90 slow seconds.  He stood.  Deep, painful questions spread across His savory gaze.  She was a beautiful woman and He noticed her beauty.  Her painted appearance did not disguise the hidden wonders of her long ago humanity.  The wasteland held treasures no man had ever perceived.  
God-fearing grief circulated her anatomy.  Very uncomfortable.  Her flesh tingled and she cast her gaze to the dirt she had been thrown upon, not daring to lift it.  The hot anger smoldered and halted in a short puff.  It billowed away as a feminine warmth brought strange tears to the artistic black rim around her eyes.  Shivers went up and down her spine.  She felt a perplexing shame and could perceive suggestions of pure affections towards her.
“Get up women!”  A forceful hand propelled her upward for further lawful disgrace.  A bright blush of foolishness rushed into her skin.  The Rabbi was still looking… .thinking something.  She could feel His thumb reach up under her dark hair and brush the tear away… .yet, He hadn’t touched her.  He had not come one step towards her.  She could sense a whisper of concern render righteous intentions in her ears… .yet, He had said nothing to her.  He had not spoken to anyone in the square. 
“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground,”  What was He writing?  A sizzle of conversation stirred.  His finger dragged and scribbled in the dirt.  Doodles?  Really?  At a time like this?  The Pharisees balked with annoyance.  “She has broken the seventh commandment.  The Law of Moses demands that we stone her.  You who say you are the Son of God!  Who claim to uphold our Law!  What do you say to this?!”
  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Women”…
The adulterer did not move.  Even the blood stood still in her limbs.  The oxygen thinned in her consciousness and she nearly fainted as a lilting voice apprehended her from a timeless distance.  “Woman where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”
She looked up slowly.  Her vision swam about the barren arena.  A multitude of stones in various sizes and shapes were scattered across its floor leading all the way up the temple stairs.  “No one Lord,” she whispered.  Like a dream, her adulterous life had become a past accusation.  “No one.”
Jesus  looked at her.  She looked at Him.  She felt sorrow.  Very, very sorry for the first time in a long time and she felt very, very washed away.  “Neither do I condemn you” He paused.  She pulled her garment closer.  She straightened and brushed her hair behind her ears.  She stood before the Son of God.  “Go, and from now on sin no more.” 
John 8:6-11.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Neither Do I, Part 1

“O taste and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8.  
This woman had tasted an apple before; the forbidden fruits of several male lovers.  For less than an hour she would be held, kissed and wanted.  Her soul was in need of such wanting.  There seemed to be nowhere else to find it except deep inside this lifestyle of sin.  She never actually experienced the love she desperately longed for, but this was better than nothing.  She settled.  Her heart had to have a little food and a little clothing even if it was barely enough to fill a quarter of her hunger and the clothing left her soul primarily exposed.  In time, indifferent shrouds enveloped the heart in a light coating of dust dulling the initial sting of agony that pleaded with her desire to live joyfully.  It was just a matter of surviving now.  
The old remorse was replaced by the triumph of seduction and the sound of cold coins in her purse.  She had stopped caring how the sin affected the life of her customer.  She had developed little regard for life at all.  She buried her heart deeply beneath this wasteland.
When they came to get her, she was fully engrossed in her work and they were happy to find her that way.  They all knew what she did for a living but hadn’t bothered saying anything until now.  She was barely given enough time to put on her robe.  This band of Pharisitical leaders grabbed her away with a theatrical display of pomp and circumstance and her shameful appearance was paraded through Jerusalem streets into the temple court…
“Rabbi!” The white robbed witness presented the bait, “This woman was found committing one of the grossest sins against the command of Moses!”
The busy square pressed sweaty bodies against the courtroom drama and a slow silence tip-toed over the rising realization that this woman could be put to death.  Several ashen-faced men excused themselves stealthily from the scene.  There came low groans from the empathetic and fistfuls of stoney anticipation from the zealous.  The accusers waited.  This was just too perfect!   They poised themselves quite favorably against the backdrop of their own supposed success.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Favor

The righteous are those who wait for the Lord to justify them and the wicked are those who arrange justice for themselves.  
In the lines of Psalm 37, David identifies this contrast between the righteous and the wicked as well as these others: The righteous are those who generously promote Life; while the wicked are those who aggressively promote destruction and Death.  The righteous are those who turn the other cheek when stolen from; while the wicked are those who angrily demand more then they have ever lost… .and so on.
David concludes that all who wait on God for justice… .all who in the mean time do not demand it for themselves from any other source, but rather they turn the other cheek and feed and clothe and pray for their enemies. …will have the justice of their cause promoted by the Lord - as inescapably promoted as the noonday sun!   At some point in the scope of eternity, those who put their trust in the Lord in an everyday, personal way, will receive an advertised judgment in their favor.  
 Security is personally realized with the acted upon conviction that you exist inside a system designed to promote your highest good… .and all you have to do is trust a capable, eternal Person in everything, all of the time.  All you have to do is believe His everyday Words to you.  All you have to do is enjoy His interceding Spirit.  All you have to do is join Him in loving Life.  He’s got the rest.  He will not abandon you to Sheol, the grave.  But He will love and exalt your life because you chose to save lives with Him at any cost.  
  “I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.  O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.  O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit,” Psalm 30:1-3.  
Noonday sun. …can’t miss it.  And you can’t miss a New Creation who has put their full trust in the Lord for redemption and restoration.  You are not a victim to your losses.  You are victorious Zion - eternally, favorably judged - where Christ dwells…

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Psalm 37: Noonday Sun

 Have you ever been foolish enough to stare long and hard at the noonday sun?  Only as a child was I ever so daringly foolish.  My mother used to scold me and warn me that it would damage my eyes.  I am very thankful that it didn’t!  And yet, I would not encourage staring at the noonday sun.  My good eyes are probably only a testimony to the faithfulness of my God having grace on the ignorance of a child.
The noonday sun cannot be missed.  It climbs the open sky until it is suspended directly above us like a ball of burning yellow heat.  If you don’t see it, you feel it.  None can escape the noonday sun… 
 “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!  For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.  
Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.  
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.  But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.  The wicked plans against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.  
The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.  
Better is the little that the righteous has then the abundance of many wicked.  For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. 
The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever, they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance.  
But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish – like smoke they vanish away.
The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off.  
The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.  He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.
Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.  For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints.  They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.  The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.  
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.  The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.  The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death.  The Lord will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.  But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. 
Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.  But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him,”
Psalm 37
Selah.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

He Who Dwells

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High…”  He who is at home with God.  “…will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”  Will receive the protection and provision of the Mightiest among Men.  “I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’.”  I will testify openly that I choose Him as my Eternal Source.  “For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.”  He will pull you free of the fowl and deadly diseases of the soul.  “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge.”  He will hide you inside of His loving, cleansing words so that you cannot sense the accusations.  
“His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.”  His faithfulness is your protection from deceivers who offer their resource.  “You will not fear the terror of the night…”  Uncertainty will not haunt you.  “…nor the arrow that flies by day…”  Purposeful attacks will not damage your faith.  “…nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness…”  Suspicions will not engage you.  “…nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.”  The unjust assaults will not wear you out.
“A thousand may fall at you side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”  You will not be a casualty with those caught up in the flesh and blood warfare.  “You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.”  You will only be an observer of the destruction that befalls those who love to live by the sword.
“Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.”  You who live inside of His heart and are surrounded by His favorable Might, will not experience the deadly venom that plunges the homes of the wicked into hell.
“For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”  He will send help to protect you from the vile stirrings of the godless.  “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”  They will be attentive to the preservation of your person.  “You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.”  You will not flinch in the presence of intimidation and deception but merely pass over them on your way.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life I will satisfy and show him my salvation.”  Because he chooses to love Me and call on Me and trust in the resources of My authority, I will be his all in all.  I, the Lord, will restore all of His losses and preserve His life eternally.
Psalm 91

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

He Brings Us Under

“O Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, the city that kills its prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” Matthew 23:37.
God’s message to us, so expertly caught up within the thin leaves of our Holy Bible, is not a strong herald on how to do everything right in a mundane and messy world.  Morality and virtue are not the length and breadth of perfection.  To be perfect as our Divine God is perfect, one is not expected to be perfect…. .at least not under the influence of its popular definition.  The Hebrew prophets, those intercessors and peacemakers of old, did not risk life and limb to utter convoluted mysteries on how one might attain divinity of mind and heart by precise application of ambiguous laws - a confusing contradiction in itself.
Those nervous prophets stood before kings with messages of justice and mercy.  They preached a perfection that began and ended with a deep respect for one’s neighbor - be that neighbor Divine or human.  They continue to remind the readers of Holy Bibles everywhere that perfection is about honoring rights, blessing instead of cursing and forgiving debts of every shape and size.  In simple terms, to be perfect is to learn how to relate to the failing flesh all around you as God Himself has chosen to relate to that same failing flesh.
And how has God related?  Divine Justice took a shocking step in our direction and threw His mercy over our naked inabilities.  Rather than pointing out where we might have done better so as not to incur such guilt, Justice rendered us truly and hopelessly guilty and then covered it up.  In essence He said, “Yes, you are wrong but I am here to take your mockery and I will confront anyone who chooses to mock you.”
Mercy did not mock us in our miserable condition.  Mercy took our mockery on Himself…. .and this is perfection.
This is the perfection that the prophets came to preach.  Cover the condemned, they said, remember that you also are dust.  Make peace with all those humans that are failing just like you.  Take care of the flesh and blood that relies upon your mercy to retain their necessary rights… .don’t abuse them.  Forgive debts for you are also a debtor.  Bless when you are cursed for often they do not know what they are doing.
We are just a brood of half-feathered humans desperately in need of intercession.  We need someone, all someones, to cover us when we fail and fall short.  We depend upon the faithful defense of our fellow humans when we are defenseless in our shame.  We need Divinity to forgive us and our brothers and sisters to say very little to us while they provide salve and clothing for the broken, bare places.  Let us be perfect in this way that God is perfect.  Let us all come under the influence of the Divine Heart…

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wings

It’s a beautiful portrait: the vision of prodigious wings billowing upon our planetary chaos and assailing the fierce powers of the air.  Under the shadow of a mighty Messiah await the convicts of justice… .human men, women and children of every race and creed… .considering His fierce accountability and honoring this merciful opportunity.  There, in the arena of human destinations, are a multitude, a small, small multitude of decisions; each one hoping dearly for the promised acquittal in the flesh.  Prayers and paupers, everyone.  The powers rally their arguments in the most honest historical assault for which there are never any further arguments and the winged Messiah descends at the brink of His own final answer….
“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings,” Malachi 4:22.
All the Guilty have no arguments and no fingers to point.  All the Guilty have surrendered to the honesty of their guilt.  What more is there to do if there is no hope?  A bowed head.  A passing shamed thought.  An acknowledgment of impending doom.  And there in the clouds is a Holy One with all rights of accusation.  But, it has been said that He comes with an unfamiliar cause, yet, one heard of, written down, preached and prophesied.  The cause of joining justice to mercy and mercy to justice.  The cause of proclaiming them equals in purpose.  This fierce Bird of Prey has turned to become their Deliverer.  
A picture has been painted to glare in our eyes of a strong and mighty Deliver high above us.  He is the brightness of the sun, a metaphorical bearer of justice.  The Sun rises in righteous judgment.  He is the shadowy cool of a mother’s wings covering the unfeathered bodies of her young.  The Winged Creature unfolds in merciful healing.  The Guilty are brought under.
Yes, it is a beautiful portrait.  The Son of God, righteous in judgment has brought His person over our vulnerable convicted flesh and covered us.  This Bird of Prey dares anyone to lift even a feather and expose our broken spirits.  Will anyone consider pointing a finger?  I dare so, no.  The powers of the air shriek a buzzardly concert.  They also will keep their good distance.  For who can question His choices?  Who can change His mind?  Who dares to suggest that this Jesus make an alternative judgment when He has fixed mercy in His mind and heart as its equal?  Who can question… .and who can understand?  For whom the Deliverer chooses to acquit, cover and protect, let not mankind presume to suggest any other judgment.

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