16th August 2020
'I will gather still others'
The Sovereign LORD declares--
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
"I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered."
- Isaiah 56:8
I love this Old Testament lectionary reading
for today from Isaiah;
particularly v 8.
It is an amazing description of who God is.
He is the One who "gathers the outcasts of Israel
.....and still others to them."
God is love and that love shines through.
The core of God's love is an active passion
to draw every person into a life-giving
relationship with him.
This relationship means loving
and obeying God and allowing
the character of God to transform
our own character --
until we become what we were designed to be.
One of the surest signs that we have understood
and embraced the love of the Lord
is an ability to see others
with the eyes of Christ
and a diminishing of prejudice,
bigotry and intolerance.
One of the surest signs that we have not understood,
nor embraced the love of the Lord
is an inability to see others
as objects of God's love --
no matter what or who they are.
For God's love reaches out to anyone
who will reach back.
The most familiar verse in all of the bible
for Christians is
"For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes
in him may not perish
but may have eternal life."
- John 3:16
He is Isaiah's God who
'gathers the outcasts of Israel.....
and still others to him.'
But while God's love is so wonderful
it also brings problems,
because God wants us to include everybody:
Jews will have to accept Canaanites,
Greeks and Romans will have to accept Jews,
Koreans will have to accept Japanese,
Arabs will have to accept Jews --
on and on it goes --
marching through history like a double edged sword
whenever it is understood.
God's people are under divine orders
to reach out to everybody!
Think what a wonderful world we would have
if this could come to pass.
I am glad everybody is included,
because that means I am included too
and I really feel I need to be.
However, when I look at my own prejudices
and consider the people with whom I am not so tolerant,
God's desire to include all people
begins to nudge me where
I would rather not be nudged.
An old Irish blessing points
to the all-too-human tendency to draw lines of exclusion:
May the Lord bless them that loves us,
And for them that don't love us,
may He turn their hearts,
And if He can't turn their hearts,
may he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limpin'!
God's love for us all is unconditional.
If God does not love us all --
then God does not love at all
and I believe he loves all equally,
because of the coming of Jesus into the world
there are no 'chosen people'.
We are the ones who chose -
to accept that gift of love or not.
When we accept the love of God,
we will understand that this is
the central place in our spiritual lives
where we can experience the work of God's Spirit;
where we may be most challenged to grow and change.
This is the heart of Isaiah's vision
of a world of peace when;
'The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent's food.
They will neither harm
nor destroy on all my holy mountain,"
says the LORD.'
- Isaiah 65:25