Isn’t it amazing that we humans all share some similar fears no matter what culture we come from. Most cultures have horror stories about zombies and vampires and ghosts. Why is that? I’ll tell you why. We humans are aware enough of our own existence that we fear mortality, but we also fear the unknown. And look, our common fears show up in our stories about the dead surviving to haunt the living. We humans fear retribution. We fear getting what’s coming to us. Hey, that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Look at our lesson today in Isaiah 26:21-27:9:
For behold, the LORD is coming forth out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed upon her, and will no more cover her slain. In that day the LORD with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.
In that day: “A pleasant vineyard, sing of it! I, the LORD, am its keeper; every moment I water it. Lest any one harm it, I guard it night and day; I have no wrath. Would that I had thorns and briers to battle! I would set out against them, I would burn them up together. Or let them lay hold of my protection, let them make peace with me, let them make peace with me.”
In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit.
Has he smitten them as he smote those who smote them? Or have they been slain as their slayers were slain? Measure by measure, by exile thou didst contend with them; he removed them with his fierce blast in the day of the east wind. Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be expiated, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces, no Asherim or incense altars will remain standing.
The prophet tells the people of God that God will one day insist the earth reveal all the blood shed upon it! The earth will be commanded to hide nothing anymore! Of course, this isn’t so God can discover what has happened. He already knows. As usual, God will command this to occur for our sake, for our, can I really say “benefit?” It doesn’t feel like a “benefit” does it?
But, regardless, the Lord promises He will command all secrets to be uncovered and destroy all that terrorize and oppress, whether it is people or systems. Everyone and everything will be set right. So much so that the Lord describes the world set right as a “pleasant vineyard” with God Himself as the keeper of the vineyard. And, amazingly He insists that this event isn’t about WRATH! No, this day of revelation, this Day of setting all things right isn’t about wrath but righteousness. It is a Day of Love and Life, not Anger and Retribution.
So, where do we get such fears?
These fears flow from our own self knowledge that we are not ready to encounter such love and life. We are afraid of the fire of such love. We have so very little experience with such love. Wrath, we know. Anger, we know. We have hated those who have mistreated us and we have wished on them judgement and retribution. Oh yes, we know that feeling and desire all too well. But a Love that Loves and does not return wrath for wrath and wrong doing for wrong doing? Terrifying!
It is when we have the courage to embrace this Love, this knowing of God in Christ, that all false worships are seen as the brittle “chalk” of the flimsy “altars” of those false worships that only reinforce false notions of God. When we dare to know God in Christ, and His eternal love for us and His eternal purpose to do us NO HARM but call us to Himself in such a way that, like metal in fire, we glow with His Life as we stay close to Him and become like Him.
Today, the life of the Faith is a life of practiced, disciplined love. To stand close to the God Who loves us and intends no wrath toward us, is a terrifying and lifegiving revelation. When you dare to move beyond your fears and toward the awesome reality of Jesus Christ you will finally know what it means to be Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. I am so looking forward to being in Duluth, MN with the 12 Holy Apostles parish as they celebrate their Centennial this weekend! I am honored to be speaking at several events open to the public during this celebration and would love to meet you. Go to https://www.12holyapostles.org/centennial.html for more information.