Advent Day 8

Artwork by Julia Clare Ziegler

He Expected Justice, Watercolor on paper

THE READINGS

Psalm 148 · Luke 7:28-35

Isaiah 5:1-7

1 Let me sing for my beloved

    my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
2 He dug it and cleared it of stones,
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded wild grapes.

3 And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
    and people of Judah,
judge between me
    and my vineyard.
4 What more was there to do for my vineyard
    that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
    why did it yield wild grapes?

5 And now I will tell you
    what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
    and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
    and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will make it a waste;
    it shall not be pruned or hoed,
    and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
    that they rain no rain upon it.

7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
    is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
    are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
    but saw bloodshed;
righteousness,
    but heard a cry!

2 Peter 3:11-18

11 Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? 13 But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

MEDITATION

Our church tends to emphasize the “renewal of all things.” That is, how God is going to renovate the world in which we live. We emphasize the importance of stewarding God’s creation (including our bodies) because all of creation belongs to God and He plans to restore all of it. At first glance, this might seem in contradiction with Peter’s message here. He seems to be saying “it’s all going to burn!” Right?

Sure, there is a little tension, but maybe not as much as we would think. Imagine that you discover an old house for sale. It had been abandoned for 10 years, infested by termites, and used as a crack house. It’s in such bad shape that you can buy it for really cheap. Now you are going to start the process of renovating the house. What is the first step? You will have to gut most of the house. The sheet rock will be removed along with many of the boards framing the house and perhaps the flooring and the plumbing as well. Renovation will begin with demolition. To re-create and re-store the house to its originally intended beauty, you will first destroy much of what is left of it.

When reading the English translation we miss the poetry in Isaiah’s Hebrew:

[God] expected justice (miš·pāṭ
    but saw bloodshed (miś·pāḥ);
righteousness (ṣ·ḏā·qāh),
    but heard a cry (ṣə·‘ā·qāh.) !

In Hebrew, the words for “justice” and “bloodshed,” and “righteousness” and “a crying out” sound very similar—but they are, of course, radically different. The house that God is building, the humanity that He is reconstructing, will be built out of justice and righteousness. Unfortunately the “house” that currently comprises humanity is largely built out of bloodshed and cries of those who are distressed by the evil, oppressive powers of our world systems.

As harsh as it sounds, there is much about our world that requires the dismantling and destructive power of “fire” before God will be able to re-create that we so earnestly long to live in. Injustice has no future in the future that God is bringing about.

- Jon Ziegler

PRAYER

Almighty God, Ruler of the Universe, lover and judge of all humankind, show me those things in my life which have no future in your coming Kingdom. Refine my life with your holy fire, that I might live a life of justice and righteousness to the glory of your name, through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Jon Ziegler