The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

A Crop of Justice (readings for August 19)

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grapesIsaiah tells his peers that God is “looking for a crop of justice” and a “harvest of righteousness.”

Somehow, we’ve come to think of justice in a punitive sense: making sure lawbreakers get punished. But I wonder if just-ness in Scripture is meant so negatively. For Isaiah’s language here, like that of Jesus, seems to be more directed to those who turn their backs on others. His message is not vindication for the religious, and certainly not “an eye for an eye,” but a call to abandon behaviors that victimize, and to go serve the poor instead. Jesus never argues for more religion, but rather for more compassion.

It’s a point that’s often missed today. A few examples:  Despite the fact that the Israeli army kills four times as many Palestinians as vice versa, many American Christians, seeing Israel in their religious literature, assume God is somehow on Israel’s side. And despite the fact that dozens of innocent death row inmates have been set free as a result of DNA evidence in the last few years, despite the fact that Texas is about to execute a man convicted of murder whom everyone agrees murdered no one, Texas’ death-row juggernaut has been unstoppable partly because of the support it gets from Christians—who’ve come to view justice as “making sure someone pays,” I guess. And despite the fact that our neighbors to the south struggle desperately to care for their little ones – partly because of our own NAFTA and corn subsidies – we’ve come to see justice as “making sure they pay” for infractions of the civil code, rather than making sure they have enough to eat! Feeding them would be “a crop of justice,” not punishing them!  How is Jesus’ example so far from our minds?

Small wonder that Jesus, in the reading below from Luke, warned that he’d come to bring disruption and confrontation. Defending the defenseless still draws the wrath of the religious.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Monte AsburyProper 15 (20); August 19, 2007
Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2,8-19; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56

Isaiah 5
Looking for a Crop of Justice
1-2 I’ll sing a ballad to the one I love, a love ballad about his vineyard: The one I love had a vineyard, a fine, well-placed vineyard.
He hoed the soil and pulled the weeds,
and planted the very best vines.
He built a lookout, built a winepress,
a vineyard to be proud of.
He looked for a vintage yield of grapes,
but for all his pains he got junk grapes.

3-4″Now listen to what I’m telling you,
you who live in Jerusalem and Judah.
What do you think is going on
between me and my vineyard?
Can you think of anything I could have done
to my vineyard that I didn’t do?
When I expected good grapes,
why did I get bitter grapes?

5-6″Well now, let me tell you
what I’ll do to my vineyard:
I’ll tear down its fence
and let it go to ruin.
I’ll knock down the gate
and let it be trampled.
I’ll turn it into a patch of weeds, untended, uncared for—
thistles and thorns will take over.
I’ll give orders to the clouds:
‘Don’t rain on that vineyard, ever!'”

7Do you get it? The vineyard of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
is the country of Israel.
All the men and women of Judah
are the garden he was so proud of.
He looked for a crop of justice
and saw them murdering each other.
He looked for a harvest of righteousness
and heard only the moans of victims.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 80
An Asaph Psalm
1-2 Listen, Shepherd, Israel’s Shepherd— get all your Joseph sheep together.
Throw beams of light
from your dazzling throne
So Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh
can see where they’re going.
Get out of bed—you’ve slept long enough!
Come on the run before it’s too late….
8-18 Remember how you brought a young vine from Egypt,
cleared out the brambles and briers
and planted your very own vineyard?
You prepared the good earth,
you planted her roots deep;
the vineyard filled the land.
Your vine soared high and shaded the mountains,
even dwarfing the giant cedars.
Your vine ranged west to the Sea,
east to the River.
So why do you no longer protect your vine?
Trespassers pick its grapes at will;
Wild pigs crash through and crush it,
and the mice nibble away at what’s left.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies, turn our way!
Take a good look at what’s happened
and attend to this vine.
Care for what you once tenderly planted—
the vine you raised from a shoot.
And those who dared to set it on fire—
give them a look that will kill!
Then take the hand of your once-favorite child,
the child you raised to adulthood.
We will never turn our back on you;
breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name!

19 God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, come back!
Smile your blessing smile:
That will be our salvation.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Hebrews 11:29-12:2
29By an act of faith, Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground. The Egyptians tried it and drowned.

30By faith, the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and the walls fell flat.

31By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

32-38I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more— Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets….Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

39-40Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
Hebrews 12
Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Luke 12:49-56
To Start a Fire
49-53″I’ve come to start a fire on this earth—how I wish it were blazing right now! I’ve come to change everything, turn everything rightside up—how I long for it to be finished! Do you think I came to smooth things over and make everything nice? Not so. I’ve come to disrupt and confront! From now on, when you find five in a house, it will be—

Three against two,
and two against three;
Father against son,
and son against father;
Mother against daughter,
and daughter against mother;
Mother-in-law against bride,
and bride against mother-in-law.”

54-56Then he turned to the crowd: “When you see clouds coming in from the west, you say, ‘Storm’s coming’—and you’re right. And when the wind comes out of the south, you say, ‘This’ll be a hot one’—and you’re right. Frauds! You know how to tell a change in the weather, so don’t tell me you can’t tell a change in the season, the God-season we’re in right now.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

2 Responses

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  1. a Petition

    All the best

    Monte says: Thanks, Naj! Glad for the tip! I signed it!


    August 14, 2007 at 9:49 pm

  2. There is a concept called restorative justice. This excellent post describes that concept perfectly! Great job as always Monte!

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

    Monte says: Ah, thanks! Perfect term! I want it for my world!


    August 13, 2007 at 6:56 pm

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