In front of the Supreme Court is the statue of “Lady Justice.” This is an ancient symbol of the purpose of law-based society. Notice the “Lady” is blindfolded. In one hand she holds the scales and in the other a sword. The symbolism is clear. The application of the Law will be blind and won’t show favoritism AND the law will be enforced. No wonder St. Paul declares about the authorities “if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain…” (Romans 13:4)
So, let me ask you an honest question: Do you think we live up to those ideals or not? Forgive my cynicism, but clearly we humans struggle with consistency here. So, does that failure mean we stop trying? Of course not. We must always strive for this ideal. So, what keeps us from doing better at this?
Look at our lesson today in Isaiah 5:16-25:
But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness. Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture, fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins. Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, who say: “Let him make haste, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!” Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and smote them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away and his hand is stretched out still.
St. Isaiah continues his proclamation of the truth to the People of God who seem to have forgotten their fidelity to the God Who rescued them from Egypt all those years ago. They, like us, grew satisfied and happy with the results of God’s salvation but forgot to remain grateful and faithful to that salvation. It’s an old story and one we repeat often even in our own lives.
So, how are we to take these “hellfire and brimstone” sermons from our dear Isaiah? Very seriously, that’s how!
While we know our God is love, we are never free to assume that love is anything other than the terrible and awful love of a Creator that made us for Himself and for our good, and the forgetting of that awful love results in a hellish living filled with just the opposite of what our God created us for in the first place. God’s love is actually a terrifying reality when you realize that God loves you so much that He will not allow you to escape the consequences of your childish living. It is ultimately unloving to enable me to remain enslaved to my selfish choices, so God loves me too much to allow me to live in the fantasy world where I’m “rescued” from all my bad choices.
We were not made to “draw iniquity with cords of falsehood” or to “call evil good and good evil. who put darkness for light and light for darkness.” The language Isaiah uses is of a people who are so purposefully confused as to turn society upside down in the name of insisting they know better than the Creator how to run their own lives. These rebels become “heroes at drinking wine.” What a powerful phrase to show society has so forgotten wisdom that they make celebrities out of people who become drunk with their own pleasures. To enable the fantasy thinking of our self-centered delusions is the very definition of a deranged society. Helping people stay sick so you don’t “offend” them is a level of childishness and silly immaturity that should NEVER be allowed to survive! Madness leads to destruction. Thank God!
And, of course, Isaiah reveals that this chaos and purposeful unfaithfulness triggers God’s “anger.” The “anger” of God is nothing less than our loving Creator allowing the natural consequences of foolish living to be undeterred by His power. The people foolish enough to forget God live with the full results of their rebellion against wisdom. This is the “tough love” of the Creator Who longs for your true freedom and not merely catering to your foolish, deluded, desires.
St. Theophylaktos, the bishop of Nicomedia in Asia, was a prime example of someone who refused to participate in the delusions of a society that had moved away from the wisdom of the Faith. He lived in a time when society was gripped by iconoclasm and the State persecuted all those who insisted that venerating the holy icons was both a venerable tradition and consistent with the theology of the Faith that Christ became flesh to make God’s love for humanity visible! the saint was sent into exile where he died after confronting the emperor and rebuking him to his face over this persecution of the true Orthodox Faith.
So, today, are you experiencing the results of foolish living? If you’re like me, you have to answer “yes.” What to do? Remember the season you are in now and embrace the loving wisdom of God in repentance, which isn’t saying I’m sorry for breaking a rule as much as it is confessing just how far I’ve missed the mark of God’s justice and righteousness. Then you’ll be on your way to being Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. You lived a life hidden in God, O all-famed Theophylact, but Christ revealed you unto all as a shining light set upon the spiritual lampstand, and He placed in your hands the tablets of the Spirit’s doctrines; whereby you enlighten us.