Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advent, Day 10: All You Zombies

Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite
   and opened its mouth beyond measure;
the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down,
   her throng and all who exult in her.
People are bowed down, everyone is brought low,
   and the eyes of the haughty are humbled.
But the Lord of hosts is exalted by justice,
   and the Holy God shows himself holy by righteousness.
Then the lambs shall graze as in their pasture,
   fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins. 

- Isaiah 5:14-17

Isaiah refers to the Babylonian exile, an event you won't read about in a typical book of children's Bible stories, but certainly one of the two or three most crucial events in the Old Testament. Where the parting of the Red Sea stands as a sign of God's ability to free the people from slavery, the exile stands as a sign of God's ability to punish the people for their sins.

Most of the Old Testament was first written down on the other side of this event, with the knowledge eating at the people that God had not allowed the Kingdom of Israel to continue forever as an earthly kingdom. The various prophets and scribes dealt with it in different ways, but it is always there under the surface of all but the oldest sacred stories.

Does God punish individuals? Does God punish collective groups of people? Or does God simply allow consequences to occur? These are some of the thorniest theological questions, thorny enough to make some people throw up their hands and stop believing in God altogether. And obviously, they can't be solved or even adequately tackled in a blog post.

The prophets' words address real situations of suffering, and yet they always end on a note of hope: "Fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins." Today, enjoy a song from the 1980s that presents some (admittedly simplistic versions of) Bible stories and then urges us: "All you zombies, show your faces." There shall be a reversal. "All you sitting in high places, the pieces gonna fall on you." Justice will come.

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