"Upon what shall we stand?" Isaiah 32

4 The minds of the rash will have good judgment,
    and the tongues of stammerers will speak readily and distinctly.
5 A fool will no longer be called noble,
    nor a villain said to be honorable.
6 For fools speak folly,
    and their minds plot iniquity:
to practice ungodliness,
    to utter error concerning the Lord,
to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied,
    and to deprive the thirsty of drink.
7 The villainies of villains are evil;
    they devise wicked devices
to ruin the poor with lying words,
    even when the plea of the needy is right.
8 But those who are noble plan noble things,
    and by noble things they stand.

Isaiah 32 (NRSV)

I’ve been writing, preaching, and reading a lot about God setting things right.[1] Things are not right.  They aren’t right here or there. Things aren’t right everywhere.[2] I see justice and mercy in Isaiah as God’s methods for achieving rightness.[3]  And to my interpretive eyes rightness equals shalom—all-encompassing peace with God, neighbor, and creation.[4][[5]

The above is one of Isaiah’s laundry lists of obstacles to shalom.[6] We can’t have shalom when rulers make life hard for the poor.  We can’t have shalom when iniquity passes for wisdom.  We can’t have shalom when the true character of Christ is ignored, while a false Christ, the Christ of petty vindictiveness, is paraded in public hearings.[7]  We can’t have shalom when villainous dictators and governments honor themselves while they squash their people. We can’t have shalom when even one stomach goes empty.  Or when one well is contaminated.  We can’t have shalom when people are kidnapped or when even one among us wishes in his heart to take a hostage. 

On the one hand, shalom is the end of days, when Christ returns and accomplishes all his work.[8]  On the other hand, I do not believe in an absent God, waiting in repose for the right time to jump in and save us.  If shalom is what he wants, can we not be assured that he is working even now to accomplish it?  That he is beckoning to hearts in every corner of the world to join him; to plant seeds even in the most arid of places? To turn the unjust and merciless world upside down? Are we not among these agents of shalom?

It seems to me that the stakes are as high now as they were when Isaiah was written.  I implore you to hear the still small voice of our God call you into his action.  Let us together lay a foundation for noble things at the corner of 8th and River; that we and our neighbors shall have sturdy ground upon which to stand, to stand for the Lord’s shalom.   Let us prepare a highway for our God that his rightness shall come quickly here. 

May it never be true among us that villainy thrives, foolishness passes as wisdom, a false Christ is praised and preached, the hungry go unsatisfied, the poor ignored or wicked plans are devised. No! Instead, may this be a place where minds are renewed and stammered speech is smoothed out; where we stand on the vision of Christ's rightness, not the frailty of self-interest. 

[1] It seems to me that this is the essence of Isaiah . . . and perhaps of the whole Bible?
[2] Please excuse my inner Dr. Suess.
[3] Justice is God’s advocacy for the poor and unheard, his punishment, his surrendering Israel to the consequences of their sin.  Mercy is his steadfast presence; his promise to never withdraw from them.
[4] Someday I want to compare shalom to the Greek word for unconditional love: agape.  It seems to me that this pivotal word serves a similar purpose in the New Testament.  They are both deep, pervasive, intricately woven into all of God’s actions, and best describe the foundation of God’s ultimate plan.
[5] Also, shalom is a word of even more fullness than the definition I’ve given you.  Its most basic meaning is “well-being.” It refers both to physical well-being, spiritual well-being, relational well-being, and often societal well-being. 
[6] They are everywhere in the book, especially chapter 1.
[7] Or the Christ who doesn’t oppose greed. Or the Christ who thinks that homosexuality is the worst sin there ever was.  Or the Christ who really just wants the Church to give him awesome music and kitschy sermons. Or the Christ who is ashamed of you unless you read your bible every day.  Grinding a few of my axes, apologies.
[8] Only then shall all truly be well and new (see Rev. 21, especially verse 5).


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