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Isaiah 44

Today’s Old Testament reading in the daily office is a favorite of mine.1 The reading is Isaiah 44:9-20 and it’s a little long to reproduce, particularly in poetry form, so here’s a link.

It has a nice dose of prophetic judgment, but it’s the incredulity of Isaiah that really stands out. “Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?” (v. 10, ESV). Who does that? No, seriously, who does that? The passage follows immediately after YHWH’s reminder of his character, his essence. Looking upon God and his nature—proven by his acts among and for his people—how could these people make idols?

Isaiah continues, decrying the very absurdity of any idol-making. You cut up some wood, you throw some in the fire. Get yourself warm, cook up some vittles. And with the leftover bits, carve yourself a nice god!

Who. Does. That.

Oops.

Me. I do that. We do that.

It’s easy to think that I don’t since I don’t do any actual idol-carving. But we as residents of “the developed world” are in fact quite quick to look to our own achievements for salvation. There is a common rhetoric about about idols that decries setting any particular thing up in the place of God as the one we ultimately serve. The downside of this sort of talk is that it neglects all of the small idols we make and set out for ourselves. We are quick in our personal lives and as a society to identify a problem (or, more likely, misidentify a symptom as a problem) and then figure out how we can fix it. It’s easy to see this in technology, medicine, politics, education—you name it. If we just had a new tool. If we just had a new medicine. If people only knew. If we all just banded together.

But the Bible is quick to point out that our problems are far deeper than they appear. “Humans striving and failing to fix problems by themselves” is a repeated theme of the Old Testament. Humans misidentifying symptoms as root problems is also a repeated theme.

The things we build are not deserving obedience or obeisance. We are deluded when we think that what we fashion can save us from problems that are in fact bigger than we are. They are powerless and they make us powerless because they separate us from God.


  1. You probably know by now I have a lot of favorites. #sorrynotsorry

On Trying Not to be a Jerk

Somebody I follow on Twitter retweeted this crack against the Pro-Life movement (and the NRA to boot):

And my initial desire was to reply to both the source (Jesse LaGreca) and the re-tweeter.1

But, before I posted, I remembered that the young woman who retweeted—who I have not met in person, only  exchanged Twitter replies with a few times over the last few years2—had recently shared the story of a pregnancy that she and her husband chose to terminate by abortion. Form a worldly perspective, they had a “good” case. Based on their story, this wasn’t birth control or family planning. In any event, there’s no way to reply in 126 characters and not be a complete jerk. Nothing I could say succinctly would likely be taken by anybody in that situation as anything but personally accusatory and condemning.

Which is frustrating. Of course no tweet (or tweetstorm) of mine is going to change the mind of LaGreca or his admirer. But the silence of “crackpots” like me has for too long been taken to mean that we disagree in theory or on abstract religious grounds, but that we basically accept abortion. I, for one, do not find it acceptable. I believe that because life is sacred, that all are created in the image of God, that life is a gift from God, and that therefore the killing of the unborn is infanticide. Homicide.3 Nobody has the right unilaterally to decide they may take the life of another. Our government declaring it to be so does not change the moral truth.

Planned Parenthood and the NRA will both be held accountable for their actions. The blood of the innocent stains the soil of this nation, and it cries out for justice. God hears. God hears.

And of course, if the young woman whose actions got this whole blog post going were to suddenly agree with me, she would have to deal with a terrible problem. She has done the unthinkable. She has taken the life of a child. Unforgivable? If I asked her today, I suspect she would indeed say that such an act is unforgivable. And I, who on the one hand seem at first to be judging her harshly, can tell her that there is one who suffered even more greatly at the hands of evil men, while yet more innocent. And this Jesus died so that she could be forgiven, that he rose from the dead so that she could die and be raised to new life, that he ascended to the right hand of God so that she could spend an eternity with God.

Apropos of nothing, anybody know anybody who became a Christian because of a tweet? No. I guess I’ll stick with not being a jerk.


  1. I did reply, eventually, to LaGreca, who then made it personal and prompted me to take my Twitter account private. Because it’s always the conservative Christians who are vitriolic and vengeful, right?

  2. mainly about funny parenting moments

  3. If there is a case to be made that homicide is sometimes justified, then it’s not unthinkable there could be justification to terminate a pregnancy. But not everybody believes even self-defense justifies homicide, and if a person kills someone and claims self-defense, there are machinations of the justice system that go to work. There is no justice system on earth for the unborn. An innocent life can be ended on a whim.

Can You Learn the True Meaning of Christmas from TV Specials?

From Experimental Theology:

I was so addicted to these shows that, looking back, I can now discern that everything I know about Christmas I learned from TV. Specifically, I learned from TV three big lessons about Christmas.

I do think Rudolph and the Grinch teach things about Christmas that are true. And I think, of course, that Linus’ monologue in Charlie Brown is great! But I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could plop somebody in front of these three a couple of times and expect that they could explain what God accomplished in the Incarnation! That said, these are probably my favorite three Christmas movies, and I’m looking forward to sharing them with Micah.

Even Rudolph (I’m not all that pleased with the way Santa mythology has just overwhelmed Christmas—but I think the story, particularly in this movie, can be a good one).

Just because I think about what I’m going to say does not mean the words are less genuine or heartfelt. It means I’m trying to convey exactly what it is that I’m thinking, or feeling. I want to mean what I say, and say what I mean.

Learn something new every day: “by the skin of my teeth” is a Biblical Hebrew idiomatic phrase.

 וָאֶתְמַלְּטָה בְּעוֹר שִׁנָּי

It appears in this morning’s readings (Job 19:20). I always thought it was a relatively recent English expression.

Benedictus es, Domine

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

This Morning’s Psalms are Beautiful

Since Elise and I have been doing a modified Lectio divina I haven’t been doing Morning Prayer, but in my first morning alone I thought it would be nice. Psalm 113 and 115 are appointed for today and they are just beautiful.

Psalm 113

1 Hallelujah!
     Give praise, you servants of the LORD;*
     praise the Name of the LORD.

2 Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,*
     from this time forth for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down*
     let the Name of the LORD be praised.

4 The LORD is high above all nations,*
     and his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,*
     but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

6 He takes up the weak out of the dust*
     and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

7 He sets them with the princes,*
     with the princes of his people.

8 He makes the woman of a childless house*
     to be a joyful mother of children.

Psalm 115

1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us,
     but to your Name give glory;*
     because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

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