Don’t You Remember What I’ve Done for You? : Isaiah 56- 66

Talks of rebirth and salvation. The destruction of man and their culpability.

Besides a brief stint about fasting, the book of Isaiah begins to repeat itself with the same old smotings and threats. But one verse (or rather, one part of one verse) spoke to me:

Whom have you so dreaded and feared
    that you have not been true to me,
and have neither remembered me
    nor taken this to heart?
Isaiah 57:11a (NIV)

This seems to be a statement of bitterness, akin to “don’t you remember what I have done for you? Why then do you reject and forget me?” This is an odd thing to read, especially considering the flux nature of some of my closest familial relationships. My parents never said this, but I also felt as if my choice to embolden my sexuality (and start this blog) was construed as a rebellion against not only God, but also them. A rejection of their values. And look at all we have given you, they thought. How could you do this to us?

Let’s widen a bit, though, and consider the grander implication. If God created us, breathing life into us as a master necromancer, then He has truly bestowed one helluva significant gift: to live rather than to idle. And then, if He truly does love us, then He is doubling-down on His risk – He is setting Himself up for the possibility that now we will act in a way that will reject His love. And if we then do reject that love, if we ignore His stipulations and behave selfishly, then frankly, we are a bunch of jerks. We are openly rebelling against the Being that is solely responsible for our existence – how arrogant is that?

But the problem arises in the faith question. If you are to believe in God, then you must acknowledge the dilemma that He has placed at all of our feet. Through fossil records and scientific theories and not-so-theories (facts), we are constantly bombarded with a scrolling counterpoint argument of the biblical claims. The Earth was not created in 8,000 years ago! We are evolved beings and we can prove it! These are FACTS! If God inspired the Bible, then why did He allow for scientific understanding to so clearly contradict its claims?

I am not asking devout Christians to defend their belief that science is wrong and the biblical account of creation is correct. I simply want some empathy for thinking hey… that doesn’t really add up in my head. And then when I try to mix the two, when I try to adapt what I read to what I see and know to be true, I am met with shouts of disbelief and rebellion. How dare you say anything contradicting what you KNOW to be true. I want to scream back, I don’t KNOW it to be true, I was TAUGHT it to be true.

I don’t want any more biblical signs or wanders. I have no interest in testing the existence of God with a jilted promise. I just want a bit silence and reflection. And during the time, shouts of condemnation should be waiting outside.

The Allure of Hypocrisy: Isaiah 45 – 55

You who take oaths in the name of the Lord
    and invoke the God of Israel—
    but not in truth or righteousness—
Isaiah 48:1b (NIV)

Much of Isaiah, I have come to learn, is a discussion of God’s greatness as compared to our vileness. It’s a tough book to stomach – it’s a tough thing to deal with in general. Insanely intense scrutiny can light a fire under some people while completely disabling others. For me personally, I require constructive criticism to succeed, but outright rejection and mockery tends to get under my skin, paralyzing me. I hate that it has that effect on me. I shouldn’t let it control me so much. I’m working on it.

Isaiah rebukes the Israelites specifically for their hypocrisy. They follow God and make the covenants when convenient, but then ignore them when true desire combats their fiven morality. And so they try to have it both – the parties and the pieties. And that dual-lifestyle works for so many.
You may not drink. So what do all the hapless, freckled teens do? They stuff Tanqueray bottles in linen closets and wait for the parents to go to sleep. They take turns wincing down shots mixed with Sprite, hoping to dilute the sin to the point of ease. Then, after the eyelids shut and their bodies collapse on a single bed at odd angles, everyone awakens for church, takes quick cold showers, and pretends. The church doors open, and they pretend. We saw a movie last night. The pastor chokes down a tough personal story about his early life sexual abuse, and they react. This applies to me. They wipe the tears, which have mixed with the sweat, the opened pores of whiskey and gin leaking out, and they blame the smell on the intensity of the sermon and leave. And the game is done. Relax. Nurse the headache with some face-first sleeping while Netflix auto-plays the first seasons of The Office as white noise.

You must be heterosexual. So what do all the closeted, freckled teens do? They stuff Tanqueray bottles in hampers and wait for the parents to go to sleep. It is just sleepover after all. The alcohol helps. It dilutes the sin to the point of pleasure. Then, when embraces break and eyelids droop, then comes the regret. But do not admit it, oh no, you must pretend otherwise. The pastor delivers an unbelievable sermon on sexual immorality, and you feel it, but you do not react. You smile and think think you think but you say, “I’ve never really felt that, but I appreciated the emotion behind it.” And then you scurry off back to home, where the stench of gin and fluid still hangs in the air, where sweat hangs palpable in the air, and you decide that since moving isn’t an option, it’s best just to delouse the room from undercarriage to comforter. And no one will ever know.

Hypocrisy feels so good, because it allows for both. You can have the piety without giving up those things that seem so impossible to you. And hypocrisy reveals something.

It reveals the things that you aren’t willing to negotiate on, and so, in order to remain in the culture, you must lie about. Hypocrisy is stipulation with no lawyers in sight. And it is the perfect solution to the confused Christian.

Panoramic, Pt 2: Isaiah 34 – 44

Death and Redemption. A Rehash: Hezekiah and Sennacherib. Praise All Around.

Those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)

(This is the sort of second part of a sort of two part entry. Read the sort of first part here)

Take a deep breath and then exhale. The destruction has passed.

After one final description of God’s apocalyptic intentions, Isaiah transitions into the redmption that will come to God’s chosen people. Fear will subside. The blind will have the guck removed from their eyes. The deaf will have their ears uncorked. A highway called the Way of Holiness will descend from the heavens, a conveyor belt to the aura of God. The joy will be everlasting.

Everlasting… That word makes my guts turn over; in all, it conjures the opposite feeling of peace. A slight pain begins behind my pupils and slides into my shoulders where it gets lost between the muscles. It swirls and weaves throughout, creating a hot tension that expands into an abscess in my throat. It is the hugeness of it all. I imagine a voice transforming into an echo, dipping in pitch as it stretches to its final syllables – a barely understood growl – an elongation into the infinite. For if there is nothing new under the sun, then won’t the most interesting facets of ourselves be stretched as such in face of the infinite? Won’t the curious become rote under the everlasting lens of examination? Who wants to live forever – pushing off the finality of death? What is it about our human nature that begs for continuance.

A panoramic.

It’s as if the everlasting consists of city with unending buildings, stacked in rows along gridded streets. The architecture ranges from the rococo to post-modern, massive patterns meeting simplistic edges with an unexpected synergy. Knock on a door and you will find a contented person. where is the desire? A cold beverage will reach your hand before you even ask, and your life story will be requested and then lavished – for you are the gift, you are the only thing going on that day, you are the item on the calendar. Can it be genuine? Without the bane of criticism and disposal, will you feel truly wanted and engaged with in that moment, without the possibility that disagreement could surface? You move on.

And suddenly the expansion begins. A slow widening like the unfurling of particles at the big bang. You can run at six mile-per-hour with the proper shoes, but everything moves away from you at twice that speed. No, you cannot see it all, no. No, not even the most diligent explorer will end with a fragile map of no value. But isn’t that the point of eternity that at the end, there is only more? Doesn’t that satisfy your human urge for continuity? Doesn’t that give you everything you have ever wanted?

Where is the desire?

I desire love. What kind? I desire the moment of eyes bowed in mutual empathy. Who is it with? I desire the touch that shocks and reverberates through the spine, and suddenly, no, you don’t need friends, you don’t need to go to work, you don’t need God, because please just touch me again so that – I’ll die if you don’t. I desire it.

The everlasting or the immediate.

I don’t know.

Panoramic: Isaiah 23 – 33

Armageddon. Hope for Believers. Woeful Cities All Around.

The Lord Almighty planned it,
to bring down her pride in all her splendor
and to humble all who are renowned on the earth.
Isaiah 23:9 (NIV)

Isaiah takes a turn for the downright bleak during these middle chapters. He speaks of the defiled Earth that God will lay to waste. Streets will cry out for wine but will be left in ruin. Those who run will fall into hapless pits, and when they climb out, thorns will ensnare them. And all the kings will be brought to the level of peasants and shut into cages and punished. It all will fall apart.

The lands mentioned in the Bible are only accessible through imagination – the same can be said of all locales attached to specific time periods before the advent of films, before photography, before artistic realism. So we glean over the words and listen to those with more knowledge than us, and then our minds kick in to fill in the gaps. Written accounts are blurry and often without complete detail, particularly in historical recollections. Authors rely on our imaginations to fill out their worlds, and the lands mentioned in the Bible stir up terrifying, dark images.

A panoramic.

It’s as if the biblical arena consists of a rusted carnival midway with a galore of options, each alluring in both game and prize. A sign overhead reads Every Player Wins, and everyone believes it as truth, not trick. Each booth represents a different sin, play Greed and get Riches, knock over the Lust pins and get Pleasure, and the patrons run between each with a frenzied glee while all of the attendants nod knowingly. An overhead view would make the humans look like ants without a queen, scurrying between scattered pieces of bread, with each gorging itself beyond its fill out of a fear that no more food will drop. Everyone is motivated by immediacy, as the lights above cover only the fair grounds, and everything beyond that perimeter is nothingness. No, not darkness that could possibly contain anything – danger or sustenance in equal odds. No. With the end of the light comes the end of things, or does it? or does it just transition into something new and misunderstood? or does it kill us, stripping our bodies of tendon and bones, leaving the soul unfettered, or does it? does it?

And how do we relate to this today?

Does the panoramic of modern culture compare to this image? Are we as violent and vengeful and horny as ever, plunging our hands into gutters for soggy dollars of diminishing value? Do we claw at mirages of pleasure, forever feeding the insatiable? Do our hands rest as fists, ready to clobber? Do our eyes leer even in our sleep?

Do not trust the unfurling fetus, because with resilience comes mobility, and the urge? to wander away. Turn deaf to voices for all pitch is secretly flat. Ignore commands out of habit; you cannot lean on your ability to discern the correct from the misguided. The world brims with hidden traps scattered beneath plain objects. Nothing that is seen is to be trusted, and what is felt is dangerous. Follow only the unseen truths that will keep you safe and happy and healthy.

For He is a vengeful God…

His lips are full of wrath,
and his tongue is a consuming fire. (30:27b)

And He’s coming to rip this world to shreds.

According to the prophet Isaiah.

Savages: Isaiah 12 – 22

Babylon Will Suffer. The Philistines Will Suffer. Moab Will Suffer. Damascus Will Suffer. Cush Will Suffer. Egypt Will Suffer. Edom Will Suffer. Arabia Will Suffer.

Did Isaiah just drop a Jesus bomb?

After scolding all the people in the Middle East for their individual sins, Isaiah gets real with his prophesizing. He talks of a boy born to a virgin who will become a savior for the people.

A savior. And what do these people need saving from?

Isaiah lays it on heavily after this gentle premonition. Babylon will be torn apart by war until its buildings are inhabited by owls. A famine will destroy the Philistines. Moab will get it both: war and famine. Damascus will wither into a tumbleweed and blow away. Foreigners will pluck the fields of Cush empty, until no food remains. A civil war will sever Egypt. The splendors of Arabia will drop from sight – like anchors into the sea. No nation or people – not Israel, not Jerusalem, not Judah – will escape the suffering.

But there are rumors, yes, of a man who will be born of a virgin, who seeing man as savage will save them from their savagery. A man who will descend from the palaces of the sky to dwell among us, who will be one of us, who will infiltrate us through an avenue of familiarity, a human man, we understand humans but do not understand God, a human man who will rip the burning ropes from around our necks and toss them to wolves to play with, who will feed those who have turned to savagery to combat their hunger, who will kill the man but uphold his spirit, who will wade through knee-high seas of displaced human desire, an ocean of greed and lust and violence that flows from the human fluid – the blood, spit, semen, and shit that they produce because of their savagery – and he will find that we are not as we were intended to be, and he will see that it is not good, not any longer. And he will begin a revolution to reclaim the spirit of God, the image by which God created these “men,” and return them to their true nature.

Immanuel, and you will say his name, Immanuel, and you will no longer be savages, Immanuel, toes cracking, muscles tensed in wait, when will he come? Immanuel, save us.

Prophecy: Isaiah 1 – 11

The Evil of All. Willful Abandonment. The Prophecy of Immanuel. Darkness into Light.

When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

Isaiah 8:19 (NIV)

I hate clubs – gay or otherwise. Call it logic – I hate paying $12 for a beer. Call it claustrophobia – I don’t enjoy standing inch-to-inch with a bunch of strangers. Call it respect – Ridiculously drunk people who have the highest self-esteems aren’t that much fun.

One night, when so-and-so dragged me to whatever-club, a middle-aged drunk man with slick hair and a grizzled beard stumbled towards me. He engaged me in conversation, first about my looks (“cute”), then about my voice (“husky”), then about himself (“a real man”). I politely accepted the compliments but denied the offer, but he insisted (“I think we’re soul mates”). I laughed it off, and he replied (“You’re smiling, so you must agree”).

Then, he told me that he was a true believer in cosmic intervention and that spirits have a way of colliding with one another – and he felt that way with me. Kicking up my politeness in aggression, I told him that I wasn’t feeling that way, but thanks for the kind words. Then, he grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me into the back room of a club (no, not like – just wait). Behind a beaded entryway with dim candles, an old woman with plastic jewelry sat adorning a deck of tarot cards. She leaned over and grabbed my hands tight immediately. My drunken companion slapped down a twenty and demanded our future be read. She looked me up and down with intent, rubbing her sagged finger tips back and forth over my knuckles. He stare fell into my left eye, as if the right was unimportant. Then, she leaned back and made her declaration: “This will be the last night you will ever see one another.” She coyly lifted the twenty off the table and spun around to attend to a candle. I looked at my gentlemen caller and shrugged.

And then I went outside to the curb and hailed a cab.

When I think of prophets, one of two images pops into my head. The first is the old woman who touched my hands without permission. The second is the antichrist. I can condense those two images and extrapolate my general feeling towards supposed prophets – I think they are false. Part of that is my indoctrination; churches make a careful and often case for us all to stay away from anyone claiming to have divine communication with God. The other part of it though is my sense of ulterior motive. Prophets are often self-aggrandizing and elevated to positions of high power, where they wield unbelievably control over followers; that irks me the wrong way, especially when their “gift” cannot truly be verified. I prefer my leaders elected, not “chosen.”

So Isaiah immediately comes off weird to me. Without any sort of narrative backbone, each chapter takes us into either a rebuke or a prediction, often with little context. The Book covers much of the time elapsed during Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, making this an commentary on those events from the perspective of one of God’s holiest men. He begins with a series of reprimands concerning the behavior of those in Judah and Jerusalem, often comparing them to the men of Sodom and Gomorrah. They have been evil – drunk, oppressive, violent, and cruel – and then God commands Isaiah to leave them be. “Make the heart of this people calloused;/make their ears dull/and close their eyes,” the prophet hears (Isaiah 6:10). It is obvious that God is setting us up for something, the fall right before the –

And then, a great prophecy comes…

A virgin will give birth to a son and name him Immanuel (7:14). As he grows, he will take the government on his shoulders through his divine wisdom (9:6). He will bring a peace that will have no end (9:7). This man will be a king from the branch of Jesse and with him will come an age of understanding (11:1-2). And all the nations will jump behind him (11:10).

Sound familiar?

No?

I guess we can move on then.