Yesterday I had the pleasure of hosting a member of the Army medical team, serving through Operation Healthy Delta, at our Rotary meeting. He was impressed with our facilities, the breadth and quality of our lunch options, the skills and talents of our members, our club assembly, and that we had a former District Governor as a member. Also, in our conversation to and from lunch (and other short chats) he expressed his delight (and surprise) with the hospitality, generosity, and appreciation of the people he has meet. He is also rather jealous of our more genteel pace of life. His impression stands in contrast to the way we tend to hear folks here talk about our selves (which is not necessarily as surprise). It reminds me of the value there is in listening to how others see us, so that we may better see ourselves.
Isaiah 1:10ff and Psalm 50 are intriguingly similar. Both blatantly expose the truth of Israel’s notorious behavior that exceedingly displeases God. Both acknowledge Israel follows ritual custom with respect to Temple sacrifices, and the truth that any effect they have on behavior stops at the walls of the Temple, that there is abundant evidence Israel is morally and ethically bankrupt. Isaiah declares all Israel’s worship is a burdensome abomination. Psalm 50 is the setting of a cosmic court in which all the cosmos will testify against Israel. We glibly leave these reading in sole relationship to Israel; and try to ignore the truth they reveal about ourselves, we do not like this other’s view, but deep in our souls we know its truth.
At the same time, both readings present another view of ourselves. Isaiah offers hope; our scarlet sins shall be like snow, our crimson unrighteousness shall become like wool. Psalm 50: 24 reads …those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God. The hope offered here reveals the other way Israel, we, are seen by God. We are worth offering hope to. We have the potential to change. We are beloved by God.
Both the others’ visions of systemic unrighteousness and the divine love inspired offer of hope are inexorably linked. We can not bear to acknowledge the truth of our behavior with the possibility of hope, and we can not see the need for hope with out acknowledging our unrighteousness. We need both visions.
Thanks to the soldiers serving the needs of people in the delta, and sharing a fuller vision of our selves. Thanks for prophetic voices bluntly speaking truth, thanks be to God for love inspired hope, revealing the divine sight of what is, and what is to be.