Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 130: II Kings 7-9; Psalm 108; Acts 23

Jehu's purge; Paul's defense
We pray that God will be with us in our lives. We ask God to watch over us...and those we love...and those for whom we have been asked to pray. We ask God to bless our work, to help us win the Powerball, to keep us safe in the eye of the storms of life. We ask God for victory in our struggles. We pray that God will be with us in our lives.

Jehu drives his chariot toward Jezreel, and  the purge begins
Today, we have to confront just what that God-with-us lifestyle looks like when the messiness of human life and God's intent for creation come into contact with each other. After Joram and Ahaziah engage in the typical shenangians that apostatic kings too often get into in the Hebrew Scriptures, Elisha commands that Jehu be anointed king over Israel. Jehu's purge begins with the deaths of the two kings and culminates with the grisly end of Jezebel. This carnage comes on the heels of a terrible famine, one so bad that cannibalism is commonplace. Israel's and Judah's sins have piled up against them and their kings; and now the debts need to be paid. Elisha's prophecies are scourges to the people, and they serve to cause upheaval throughout the society of the people of God. God-with-us, I think, does not feel so good for Israel and Judah right now. It hurts.

Once again, the Roman cohort is forced to prevent more bloodshed
Paul, in Acts, continues to be in conflict with the religious authority in Jerusalem. His conflict with Ananias is becoming intense. As matters come to a head, so profound is the division in the community, forty of Ananias' faction take a solemn vow that Paul will die by assassination.

The Roman officer charged with keeping the peace in the temple precinct decides to transport Paul to Ceasarea, into the custody of the regional governor. Paul has been blessed with preservation so far...but God-with-us for Paul today is that not only must he flee Jerusalem, he finds out that he is also being sent by God to Rome in order to make his confession and his defense of the name of Jesus...and by witness and defense, I mean martyrdom.

It is hard to discern a God of mercy in today's events. It seems that in the tawdry conflicts we humans too often indulge in that God is, at least in these moments, a willing player. Granted, God's purpose in having Jehu anointed King over Israel is to incite the purge that will correct Israel's errant ways; but that is little consolation to the woman who was forced to give her son over to cannibalim, or to Joram, Ahaziah and their households. Paul, I am sure, received the consolation of God as he was struggling to hold on to life during the beatings and abuse he sustained at the hands of the temple guard; but that struggle reveals again how much human conflict challenges our ability to see God-with-us in a positive light when human violence overshadows our desire to see God as "one of the good guys."

I am not condemning God in the face of all this violence. I see clearly just how bad the apostasy of Israel and Judah have become during the reigns and dissipations of kings who have failed to lead the people in the pathways of righteousness. I see clearly how the tensions between the orthodox and the heterodox factions in Judaism are triggering actual physical violence in the face of the debate caused by Paul's, and the apostle's witnesses to the Glory of God in the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. What I lament is the fact that when God comes near to us, our human reactions do not always exhibit the best in our nature. God-with-us relentlessly works to untangle the messes we make of things. Today, sadly, we see just how bloody a mess we humans can make of God's love in our midst.

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