jeudi 26 juin 2014

Consider these things, and reflect on what might happen (Isaiah 47:5-7)

In yesterday's reading the prophet invited his listeners to realise that Queen Babylon was not all-powerful and to remember that the Lord Almighty was on their side. In today's reading we find out more about what was wrong with Babylon’s actions. And we discover a paradox.

We learn that God himself handed Israel over to Babylon. She was the Lord's instrument, carrying out his will. However, she stands condemned for the way in which she did so. She has acted with great cruelty, typified by her ill-treatment of the elderly (verse 6). Her merciless actions would be considered as crimes against humanity by contemporary standards, and even by the standards of her own day, she was a byword heartless pride. She mistakenly thought that her success was her own doing, and that she was answerable to no-body. Indeed her arrogance has amounted to blasphemy.

This should make uncomfortable readings for Christians, because they remind us that it is possible to do the right thing in entirely the wrong way.

From the Crusades to the Magdalene Laundries, history provides too many examples of Christians carrying out acts of cruelty “in the name of the Lord”. At a more mundane level, when our own plans succeed, we, like Babylon, may assume that it is because of our own virtue, and that success itself is proof that we are in the right.

The prophet's condemnation of Queen Babylon's thoughtlessness (verse 7) should act as a reminder to us. As we work to advance God's kingdom, do we stop to reflect on how we are going about it, or are we tempted to sacrifice ethical behaviour on the grounds that we are sure that we are “doing the Lord's will”?

As individuals and as churches, when we are absolutely sure that we are doing God’s will, how do make sure that the means we choose to use are worthy of the ends we are pursuing and the Lord we are serving?

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