Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday in Advent 3

Isaiah 10:5-19
v. 12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride.

In the days of First Isaiah (Isaiah of Jerusalem), the dominant "superpower" in the region is Assyria. Assyria acts like all superpowers act, believing most of all in its own autonomy. "Nobody tells us what to do." What other point is there to being a superpower?

The prophet says that even the superpower is not autonomous. Even the superpower must answer to God. The arrogance and pride of even the superpower will be brought low. Indeed Assyria as the regional superpower will not last. Babylon is coming. And then Babylon will not last, Persia is coming. And then Persia will not last, the Greeks are coming. And the Greeks will not last, the Romans are coming. And on and on, each superpower losing its way in its own arrogance, which turns out to be its greatest weakness.

It is hard to be a superpower, much less "the only one." The temptation to arrogance is beyond great. "To be large and in charge" is every child's dream.

Of course, to be "large and in charge" is potentially to use one's authority for good. Such would please God. God is perfectly willing for Assyria to play this role; certainly his own people are not doing a very good job at it. But alas it seems to be the nature of empire to lord it over others and to enact policies of violent oppression.

I pray hard these days for our president-elect, who is about to become "large and in charge" of the "large and in charge" country on the world stage, the closest thing to empire that our current world knows. It is a very dangerous place to be. I am comforted to know that he is a man of faith, but will his faith be enough to give him the strength to abstain from arrogance? As he approaches his inauguration, I pray this question is on his heart. May it be on the hearts of all of us, citizens of this "large and in charge" country.

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