Category: The Prophets

Movie Theatre

Bringing Balance to the Force

A Facebook conversation with a fellow Star Wars nerd reminded me of one of my annoyances in the prequels. If you’ve seen the movies, you probably remember the prophecy that somebody – who turned out to be Anakin – would bring balance to the Force. That’s it that we ever hear about the prophecy itself. One thing I never got is why the Jedi would assume that “bringing balance to the Force” meant anything good for them. They, practitioners of the light side of the Force, have been in power for centuries or millenia (I’m a little fuzzy on my pre-history). Wouldn’t it be logical that balance would mean the light finally losing its power to the dark? I’ve never been able to think about what else it could possibly mean. We left the conversation by essentially saying that the Jedi probably didn’t have any idea what the prophecy meant, and yet they assumed repeatedly that it would be great for them.

Reading the Bible

Which gets me to a key point that applies to biblical interpretation and faith in general: we, those in power, tend to assume that everything in the galaxy is working to help us out in particular.

Sodom and Gomorrah

The Destruction of Sodom

Cue the screams of pain from American dominionists* that the Supreme Court has declared marriage equality a right in all states. Comparisons will be made to Sodom. This comparison is made often. It’s also a really bad self-defeating argument. A simple search of what the Bible says about Sodom reveals this:

“‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were
arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

Ezekiel 16:49 NIV

Ummm… yeah, so even the Bible is pretty clear that Sodom wasn’t destroyed because men had sex with each other.

Isaiah’s Suffering Servant

2nd Isaiah is probably most famous for the poems to the suffering servant. This servant figure isn’t named, so our first instinct is usually to guess who it is referring to. Some scholars suggest that it was meant to be Isaiah himself. Others suggest that it was to be a representation of all of Israel or another individual who was instrumental in achieving the return from Exile. The earliest Christians applied these to Jesus – there’s no doubt of the parallels. In any case, this figure had a unique and essential role as a martyr.

At the heart of this martyr’s witness we see that this Servant gives himself over to government oppression but in doing so frees his people, a statement that would not have sat well with the Persian leadership:

Ethics and Justice - Holding Hands Across the World

Isaiah’s Hope

Most scholars believe that the book of Isaiah was actually written by three different authors: one before the Exile into Babylon, one during the Exile, and one after (some scholars combine the last two). These are simply referred to as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Isaiah and provide a very interesting look at similarities and differences across this span of time. Isaiah is a very hopeful book, acknowledging problems in the present but promising that God will bring greater things in the future.

In this post I’ll cover the theme of hope in 1st and 2nd Isaiah. In the next post I’ll cover 2nd Isaiah’s “suffering servant” poems as well as the justice message of 3rd Isaiah after the Exile.

Ethics and Justice - Holding Hands Across the World

Prophetic Justice: Amos, Hosea, and Micah

Many think of prophecy in terms of telling the future. This isn’t an accurate definition. We could look at it in two different ways instead, as I talked about in the post Nathan and the Prophet/King Relationship: theologically as the speaking of God’s will to other people, or sociologically as the challenging of harmful power structures. As with the Law and really all through Scripture, to see social justice in opposition to religion would be foolish as the prophets show that God is very concerned with speaking about our daily lives.

In this post, we’ll take a look at three of the minor prophets and some of the blatant social-justice statements that they made.

Justice = Forgiveness

There’s a verse most of us have heard often:

9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. (1 John 1:9 CEB)

It’s a verse usually quoted in terms of the importance of confession. It definitely is about that. But just now I’ve realized something else about this text. Not what it says about us and what it is good for us to do, but there is an assumption behind this statement about God which makes it good for us to confess (I will ignore for now whether this is talking about a regular confession or whether it is meant to a one-time repentance).

God’s Ways, Not Mine

Have you ever had an argument refuted by somebody quoting this:

My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my plans than your plans. (Isaiah 55:8-9 CEB)