Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday in Advent 2

Isaiah 7:1-9
v. 2 When the house of David heard that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim [Israel], the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
v. 9b If you do not stand firm in faith, you will not stand at all.

Remember yesterday I said that when we answer the call, we have to be prepared to say "No" sometimes. "What is should not be." Sometimes saying "No" means saying "No" to fear and doubt.

There's a context to today's reading: The Jewish people live in two separate kingdoms: Israel to the north (above called "Ephraim," perhaps its major tribe) and Judah to the south. The prophet Isaiah operated in Judah in the days of King Uzziah and his successor Ahaz. At one point, Israel militarily threatened Judah along with Aram, a kingdom to the northwest, as its ally (this is all mentioned in 2 Kings 16:5-9).

Ahaz gets himself worked up into a state, and, of course, when the leader gets anxious the people follow (sound familiar?). They are all "shaking like trees in the wind." That means the enemy has them right where he want them. There is no vulnerability like a self-imposed one.

Isaiah is dispatched to say "No." In one sense he is called to say "get over yourself" and "it's not about you." You are the House of David, he says, with whom God is in stadfast relationship, one which is not (yet--the exile is coming in another 75 years or so) to be broken. "If you do not stand firm in faith, you will not stand at all." Kind of a prophetic Yogi Beraism.

But oh so important for Ahaz and his people and us. When faith wavers we waver. When we doubt that God is Emmanuel, God for us, we believe God either does not care or just isn't around.

We all do have times like that, of course. I know them myself, perhaps more frequently then I care to admit. But when we can't have faith ourselves, when we are shaking like trees in the wind, God gives us prophets, someone else to have faith for us and call us back home.

The greatest compliment I ever got was from an elder in my previous congregation who said to me not long before she died, "You have taught us that we have the water, we have the bread and wine, and we have each other, and we do not need anything else." I said, "I wish I actually believed that all the time." She said, "You don't have to, that's the point." She was my Isaiah that day.

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