Sunday, March 24, 2024

Isaiah’s Lamentations?

If we accept that circa 34 A.D., Jesus commanded His people to
“search the words of Isaiah” because “all things that [Isaiah] spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake,”1
then do we ponder our place in those lamentations? Or are we so immersed in the environs of Babylon, like fish in water, that seeing, we see not how surrounded, compromised, distracted, preoccupied, addicted2 we are? Do we ever ask how Isaiah’s words might apply to us in this very hour? how near his warnings might be to literal fulfilment?

What are we to make of these three lamentations out of many possible?
4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
5 ¶ Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
7 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8 And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
10 ¶ Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah (Old Testament | Isaiah 1:4–10).

8 ¶ The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.
9 And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart,
10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
11 Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together;
12 The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
13 ¶ For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.
14 Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day.
15 The ancient and honourable, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.
16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.
17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one is an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.
18 ¶ For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.
19 Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother (Old Testament | Isaiah 9:8-19).

9 ¶ Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech.
10 Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come.
11 Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones: strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins.
12 They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.
13 Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city:
14 Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; (Old Testament | Isaiah 32:9-14).
Let us take time to ponder: How much social-consensus and self-centrism is manifest in our thoughts and behaviours? Have we any awareness of how our society has initiated and embraced the return of the old world gods Baal, Moloch, and Ishtar3 — the gods that caused so much prophetic lamentation in the past? How many of us naively participate in or affirm the rites, rituals, fashions, philosophies, and parades of the revived gods? And if we have somehow avoided the lure of Babylon and her resurgent gods, are we content with the praise of our goodness? the preaching of a 180 gospel of love and mercy almost completely ignoring justice and judgment, except for our judgments of the transparently wicked world?

Except, to whom were the majority of Isaiah’s lamentations and warnings directed?

1.  Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 23:1-5 (Bold emphasis added.)
    AND now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.
    For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles.
    And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.
    4 Therefore give heed to my words; write the things which I have told you; and according to the time and the will of the Father they shall go forth unto the Gentiles.
    And whosoever will hearken unto my words and repenteth and is baptized, the same shall be saved. Search the prophets, for many there be that testify of these things.
2. New Testament | Acts 17:21
   21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) (Bold emphasis added.)
3. Cahn, Jonathan. The Return of the Gods. Charisma House. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Where Are the Lamentations?

This year marks the 62nd anniversary of the 1962 publication: The Prophets by Abraham J. Heschel1 where Heschel profiles the lamentations, pathos, and pleadings of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk. And what were the outcomes (even in the old New World) of these old-world prophetic lamentations? Too often, rejection and responding lamentation
... because the Lord would not always suffer [the people] to take happiness in sin (Book of Mormon | Mormon 2:13)2.
Today, there are street-preachers, pastors, podcasters, watchmen, et al. in the style of the old prophets lamenting the state of our degraded world, followed by  rejection and lamentation from many of their hearers. Just listen to the activists and advocates preaching social / power consensus and self-as-sovereign while stridently decrying transcendent / divine — another déjà vu of lamentation on both sides.3

Yes, we are told to be of good cheer,4 but also to study Isaiah, one of the prolific lamenters of the world; and not just Isaiah, but to “search the prophets,”5 which if we do, exposes us to litanies of lamentation.

Here are some Heschel insights about these lamenters:
The prophet is not only a prophet. He is also poet, preacher, patriot, statesman, social critic, moralist (p. xxii).

The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism. He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected. His fundamental objective was to reconcile man and God. Why do the two need reconciliation? Perhaps it is due to man’s false sense of sovereignty, to his abuse of freedom, to his aggressive, sprawling pride, resenting God’s involvement in history (p. xxix).

The things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world (p. 3).

Indeed, the sort of crimes and even the amount of delinquency that fill the prophets of Israel with dismay do not go beyond that which we regard as normal, as typical ingredients of social dynamics. To us a single act of injustice—cheating in business, exploitation of the poor—is slight; to the prophets, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence: to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world (p. 4).

Their breathless impatience with injustice may strike us as hysteria. We ourselves witness continually acts of injustice, manifestations of hypocrisy, falsehood, outrage, misery, but we rarely grow indignant or overly excited. To the prophets even a minor injustice assumes cosmic proportions (p. 4).

The prophet’s words are outbursts of violent emotions. His rebuke is harsh and relentless. But if such deep sensitivity to evil is to be called hysterical, what name should be given to the abysmal indifference to evil which the prophet bewails? They drink wine in bowls, And anoint themselves with the finest oils, But they are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! The niggardliness of our moral comprehensions, the incapacity to sense the depth of misery caused by our own failures, is a fact which no subterfuge can elude. Our eyes are witness to the callousness and cruelty of man, but our heart tries to obliterate the memories, to calm the nerves, and to silence our conscience (p, 5).

The prophet is a man who feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden upon his soul, and he is bowed and stunned at man’s fierce greed. Frightful is the agony of man; no human voice can convey its full terror. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet’s words (pp. 5-6).

The mouth of the prophet is “a sharp sword.” He is “a polished arrow” taken out of the quiver of God (Isa. 49:2).
    Tremble, you women who are at ease,
    Shudder, you complacent ones;
    Strip, and make yourselves bare,
    Gird sackcloth upon your loins.
Isaiah 32:11

Reading the words of the prophets is a strain on the emotions, wrenching one’s conscience from the state of suspended animation (p. 8).

Israel’s history comprised a drama of God and all men. God’s kingship and man’s hope were at stake in Jerusalem. God was alone in the world, unknown or discarded. The countries of the world were full of abominations, violence, falsehood. Here was one land, one people, cherished and chosen for the purpose of transforming the world. This people’s failure was most serious. The Beloved of God worshiped the Baalim (Hos. 11:1–2); the vineyard of the Lord yielded wild grapes (Isa. 5:2); Israel, holy to the Lord, “defiled My land, made My heritage an abomination” (Jer. 2:3, 7) (p. 17).

The prophet hates the approximate, he shuns the middle of the road. Man must live on the summit to avoid the abyss. There is nothing to hold to except God. Carried away by the challenge, the demand to straighten out man’s ways, the prophet is strange, one-sided, an unbearable extremist (p. 19).

It is embarrassing to be a prophet. There are so many pretenders, predicting peace and prosperity, offering cheerful words, adding strength to self-reliance, while the prophet predicts disaster, pestilence, agony, and destruction. People need exhortations to courage, endurance, confidence, fighting spirit, but Jeremiah proclaims: You are about to die if you do not have a change of heart and cease being callous to the word of God. He sends shudders over the whole city, at a time when the will to fight is most important (p. 20).

They had to remind the people that chosenness must not be mistaken as divine favoritism or immunity from chastisement, but, on the contrary, that it meant being more seriously exposed to divine judgment and chastisement (p. 39).

How does one reconcile the tenderness of divine love with the vehemence of divine punishment? Clearly it is not a love that is exclusive and that ignores the wickedness of the beloved, forgiving carelessly every fault. Here is a love grown bitter with the waywardness of man. The Lord is in love with Israel, but He also has a passionate love of right and a burning hatred of wrong (p. 61).
So where is our lamentation? the “sighing and crying” of Ezekiel 96? OR the self-centrism and clamour of “Do not challenge my or society's ways and beliefs”? “Do not speak of judgment or punishment, only of love”?

But where is the love in neglecting to assure a wandering, confused soul that God “also has a passionate love of right and a burning hatred of wrong” — that His are the standards that govern; that repentance triggers His mercy and grace?

Where are the latter-day lamentations?
The prophets of Israel proclaim that the enemy may be God’s instrument in history. The God of Israel calls the archenemy of His people “Assyria, the rod of My anger” (Isa. 10:5; cf. 13:5; 5:26; 7:18; 8:7). “Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, My servant” whom I will bring “against this land and its inhabitants” (Jer. 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). Instead of cursing the enemy, the prophets condemn their own nation.

What gave them the strength to “demythologize” precious certainties, to attack what was holy, to hurl blasphemies at priest and king, to stand up against all in the name of God? The prophets must have been shattered by some cataclysmic experience in order to be able to shatter others (Heschel, p. 14).
1. Heschel, Abraham Joshua. The Prophets. (1962) HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
2. Book of Mormon | Mormon 2:13 (full verse)
    13 But behold this my joy was vain, for their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.
4. New Testament | John 16:33
    33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
5. Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 23:1-5
    1 AND now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.
    2 For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles.
    3 And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake.
    4 Therefore give heed to my words; write the things which I have told you; and according to the time and the will of the Father they shall go forth unto the Gentiles.
    5 And whosoever will hearken unto my words and repenteth and is baptized, the same shall be saved. Search the prophets, for many there be that testify of these things.
6. Old Testament | Ezekiel 9:4
    4 And the LORD said unto him [v. 3 the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side] Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.
See also:

Monday, March 4, 2024

What / How to Pray for “Enemies”?

First: three case studies in brief (from the global, to the group, to the individual):
Case One
Billions of people worldwide are warned of an emerging virus that might kill hundreds of millions. Masking, washing hands, isolation, lock-downs, social distancing, etc., etc. are mandated till miracle vaccines can be developed. No protocol of treatment is offered before hospitalization, and some viable healing options banned. PHOs and media foment fear while professional colleges step in between doctors and their patients, de-licensing non-conformers during the height of the alleged public health crisis. The vaccine arrives and is declared “safe and effective” when there was no way such could be known. The Pharma and big business windfall is astronomical; small business and employee losses are staggering. Adverse events and sudden deaths skyrocket. Despite exposés, whistle-blowers, facts, and damning stats, the narrative, lies, pretense, censorship, and tyrannies persist.
So what and how does one pray for these enemies of truth, science, honor, and integrity?1

Case Two
A 14-year old scout is groomed and incrementally abused in a church-sponsored scouting group. He doesn’t know how to escape the trap and the shame but when the abuser begins to target his younger brother, he reports the abuser to his scout hierarchy but is assured that things will be taken care of; no need to report to other authorities; he is not even to tell his parents in order to protect the reputation of the sponsor. However the abuse continues. At last, at a scout camp, the boy becomes aware that there are many victims. When an instance of abuse becomes so blatant and public, the boy calls the police after the other scout leaders refuse. Sometime later, he and his father campaign to change statute of limitation laws and he launches a lawsuit to try and get documented abusers removed from positions and re-assignments. For some years, he and his family are targeted and persecuted for not dropping the case and the campaign. Some years later, in therapy, he and his then wife suffer therapy abuse by a church-approved therapist which results in the breakup of his marriage. It is a traumatic, painful story still unfolding where tens of thousands have been abused and abandoned.
So what and how does one pray for these enemies of truth, justice, honor, and integrity?2

Case Three
A young (NPD3?) mother of three is willingly seduced by a spouse predator.4 In a flood of self- and others-deception, she divorces her children’s father and soon denies him access to the children who are encouraged to call her paramour “daddy.” While awaiting an access hearing date, a temporary, limited access agreement is reached where the parties covenant not to disparage one another5 and the ex-husband will not speak about the paramour in front of the children. On the first, 1/4 day visit in circa two years, the 4-year old comes, wearing a hoodie under his jacket. When the jacket is removed in the presence of other close family members (who were also denied access to the children for almost two years), the new hoodie is exposed: vividly marked with the child's nickname6 down the sleeve length and the paramour's last name on the back in large letters. Considering the mother’s ego-driven history, this cruel “joke” — this blatant breach of non-disparagement — along with the innocent child’s incessant (pre-coached?): “Do you like my hoodie?” is not out-of-(vindictive)-character.
So what and how does one pray for this “enemy” of truth, morality, honor, and integrity?
These offenders and destroyers of rights, relationships, and families are becoming tragically common. The continuum of BPD, NPD, psychopathy, etc. is stressing so many to the breaking point. They agonize: “Do I keep trusting in God when things only seem to go from bad to worse? or do I give in to revenge, retaliation, eye-for-eye, despair? How do I endure this continual drama? the continual scaling up of bullying and tyranny? these unimaginable breaches of trust and promise? these brutal cruelties?”

Most of us know of many other dreadful, agonizing situations. We know, too, that:
43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? (New Testament | Matthew 5:43-46)
But how do we reconcile a deep sense of and need for justice with the unjust cruelties of wickedness, especially if we also recognize our own weaknesses and failings? Here is a suggestion:
Please bless ____________________________ with those experiences that will bring _____ to repentance, and if _____ refuse(s) Thy mercy and grace, please bless _____ with exposure and accountability, justice and judgment.
And because we are all susceptible to misjudgment, mis-perception, and self-deception, perhaps our addendum to every such earnest prayer should be to finish with “me / I” in the blank spaces.

2. Signs of a Sexual Predator
Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on December 16, 2022
For more info on this story search “Adam Paul Steed”
3. NPD - narcissistic personality disorder:
4. Did Your Marriage Fall Prey to a Spouse Poacher?
Is A 'Partner Predator' Circling Your Husband Or Wife?
5. which the ex had never done for the sake of the children, also believing his beloved wife would wake up and seek to return.
6. A nickname given to the child by his mother or her paramour after the separation with the husband, so the mother and the paramour could avoid using the name given to the child at his birth — a name bestowed in honor of his step-grandpa, (who, at the separation, had spoken too much truth, but had thereafter extended an increase of love to the mother only to be given the order of no-contact, no birthday gifts, no Christmas gifts for her or the children.