Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

41DqbK37PdL._SS300_I held this little puppy in my hand after about five pencil sharpenings, and I says to myself, ‘Self, this is simple, effective, strong, and European-modern. I bet it speaks German.’

Turn it over and read: ‘Staedtler/Noris, Germany’

It’s not a Bimmer. But it’s German-made pencil sharpener at two for $3.69.

Look no further.

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This may not be your one-size-fits-all dog bed. It’s a bit lightweight for that.31PPnBYaIIL._SS300_

But it is as excellent product for the dog on the move. By way of example, we drove our mid-size Whipador ‘Rhea’ from Pennsylvania to Miami on a two-week road trip, then shipped her in a dog crate to our new home in Colombia. Here, she’s got a plush bed on the floor of our bedroom, but still uses this AmazonBasics Padded Pet Bolster Bed as her day-time crash. Plus, we can move it outside to our patio if we’re going to spend an extended time out-of-doors. She follows it wherever it goes and finds it a great mobile couch/bed.

I don’t know when Amazon introduced its AmazonBasics moniker, but it has proven very reliable to us. This product is one example. The price is certainly right, the materials are excellent, and it rolls up and carries in couple of seconds.

Rhea’s black fur eventually means some strong-armed learning, so we wish it came in a darker color. But you won’t go wrong snagging the Bolster Bed for your dog’s part-time lolly-gagging.

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31kEtZTvobL._SS300_Don’t overthink this. Good pencils, cheap.

You have other things to worry about.

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The poet who stands behind our 104th psalm contributes to a compendium that adds to YHWH’s activity in history a celebration of his work in creation. It is a beautiful oddity.

Curiously, two features of divine participation in creation interweave the psalmist’s celebration. (more…)

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hell bent: Micah 7

Truth be told, the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Micah throws in front of its reader some very grim reading.

Yet it ends with an inspiring flourish:

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:18–20 ESV)

A strong instinct in the biblical literature interprets Israel’s misfortune as the result of intergenerational rebellion. This is particularly true of that most intense crystallization of woe that we call the ‘Babylonian exile’, when all that Israel had been and felt herself entitled to become in future was lost, by all lights lost forever. (more…)

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Our parental angst rises from an inexhaustible well.

We can worry about anything that touches upon our children’s future, and we probably will. We are capable of outlasting any promising fact and every reassuring word.

Yet such fear for our children’s shalom is in pious circles too easily dismissed. Our longing for an ongoing legacy—to put things in the most self-interested way—has itself a long pedigree. And our maternal and paternal desire that children and grandchildren might live long and well is a creational impulse that encourages us against considerable odds to take the long view when après moi le déluge might have seemed the handier parental slogan.

It is telling that the Isaianic redemption song includes a stanza or two for the little ones.

O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your wall of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you. (Isaiah 54:11–14 ESV)

Because the prevailing context depicts the construction or re-construction of an enduring city, we should probably read the dual sentence about children as referring both to children as young ones and as offspring now ‘all growed up’.

The doubts of the ‘Afflicted One, Storm-Tossed and Not Comforted’ do not stand alone.

The forlorn cry of the eunuch, that man who is definitionally incapable of both family and legacy, is heard and requited just two chapters away:

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.’ (Isaiah 56:3–5 ESV)

To say nothing of the brute fact that the very prophetic oracle that lies before us is initiated by the worst fears of a woman who regards herself as childless:

‘Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.’ (Isaiah 54:1–3 ESV)

Indeed, it is impossible for the biblical story of redemption to speak singularly for longer than a paragraph or two. Family, clan, tribe, and nation eventually interrupt such relative singularity and resume their central place in the narrative. Only the most stubbornly individualistic reader can rattle on for too long about the solitary man or woman in his or her crisis of faith before finding himself crowded by jostling next of kin.

Some of these are children: those who already cling to at a mother’s breast, those jostling the healthy old folks in restored Jerusalem’s streets, those imagined by a future that suddenly looks like more than smoke and ashes and family trees cut short.

The Isaiah text before us reassures that the wellbeing of the children will grow from the inside out.

All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. (Isaiah 54:13 ESV)

All your children will be taught by YHWH, itself an exceedingly broad and unmediated picture of formation and instruction, assures us that truth and reality will have become internalized and therefore organic in the lives of those who may still bear even our name. Perhaps in consequence, their shalom shall root itself deeply and extend to the margins of a remade city, and beyond.

We daddies and mommies find such promise ludicrously unreal. Redemption always looks that way from a distance. Only close up, when YHWH of Wonders has once more shown the meaning of his name, does clarity come clear. Then praise displaces worry, and nearly everything else.





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81BoDnpucYL._SY679_After three or four road trips with this very long garment bag, I’m a fan.

My routine with it has not included turning it over to airline baggage handlers. Under these less than rigorous back-seat-of-the-car conditions, I find that the bag exceeds expectations. I can carry significant numbers of shirts and suits, the first choke-point being how many of the protruding hanger-tops I can comfortably handle as I make my way from car to hotel room.

In terms of quality of build and fit-and-finish, the bag represents well-constructed value at a low price point. I estimate it will last me several years for the kind of use I’m describing.

The bag is significantly longer than the average suit, which means it may accommodate dresses or a user who prefers to hang trousers ‘the long way’ rather than bent over a hanger.

Two nice-sized handles at either either hand mean I can bend the bag double, hold both end-handles plus the protruding hanger-heads in one hand, and walk the last ten yards (or one hundred …) to check-in while pulling a suitcase with the other.

Nicely done.

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David’s Community Bible Church

2 July 2017


Today we’ll look at one of the Gospel of John’s most beautiful stories. This story is about Jesus’ encounter with someone who truly needed his touch. I’m drawn to this chapter for the combination of tenderness and strength that is so much like Jesus. But I also love it because I, too, am lost without Jesus’ touch. And so, frankly are you. We all share something with this ‘woman taken in adultery’, as she’s often called.

Here’s how the passage reads:

Early in the morning (Jesus) came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’

This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’ (John 8:2–11 ESV)

I want us to talk about three experiences. We’re all familiar with two of them. Most of us have experienced all three.

  • Shame
  • Sin
  • Freedom

Now it’s possible that you’ve never thought about ‘shame’ and ‘sin’ as two different things. But they are different.

In fact, people who study the way cultures work speak of two different kinds of cultures.

Shame cultures (or ‘honor/shame cultures’) are those in which people suffer most from the disapproval and contempt that their actions bring on them. People in shame cultures don’t entirely dismiss the idea of objective righteousness and sin as a falling short of that standard. But what wrenches at their hearts and beats them down is the sense of shame that comes from having failed or having been thought to fail. And what raises them up is being respected …  honored.

Law cultures (‘forensic cultures’) are those in which people speak more easily about sin than about shame. They speak the language of guilt and righteousness and are less comfortable thinking about, talking about, or even feeling shame as the deepest reality in their lives. What raises them up is forgiveness … knowing that their law-breaking is no longer held against them.

In the US, we have traditionally been a law culture. We speak of the rule of law and are given to classifying people as law-abiding or law-breaking. People are either innocent or guilty. We don’t worry as much about what they feel.

Now I wonder if you’ve observed a shift between those of us are, say, 40 years old or older …. and those who are younger than 40. Maybe you think the younger ones among us seem to belong to an honor-shame culture more than to a law culture. If you have that idea in your head, you’re not alone. Many culture-watchers would say that we are in fact undergoing that kind of shift. We’re becoming less like Germans and more like Italians. We’re less concerned about law or righteousness as an objective standard that ought to be upheld no matter what we feel about it … and more concerned about how people feel, whether someone has been humiliated or excluded … or shamed.

One of the things I love about Jesus’ encounter with this woman in John 8 is that he seems to deal with both shame and guilt. As he does so, I think he says that both kinds of culture … both kinds of people … both ends of the spectrum of our experience as human beings are important. Both are redeemable. Most importantly: we can be freed from both shame and sin.

Now I need to take a little detour here for a minute, so bear with me:

If you’re an especially sharp-eyed reader or if you have a Bible that calls your attention to this sort of thing, you may have noticed that this short passage floated around for quite a few years before it found its eventual home in the Gospel of John.  These verses don’t appear in our very earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John. They do show up in a few manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke. And then, finally, they come to rest in their current location at the beginning of the Gospel of John, where I think they fit so beautifully as a real-life example of Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness.

I want to say just a few words about this in order not to leave anybody hanging:

First of all, this kind of thing is very, very unusual. Our manuscript evidence for the books of the Bible is so solid and indisputable that this kind of uncertainty almost never occurs.

Second, there’s nothing to worry about in this. Most scholars who study this kind of thing say that this passage has all the earmarks of a genuine encounter of Jesus with this woman. It’s hard to say why it had to struggle to find its home here in the Gospel of John.

I like to think of the passage itself as suffering some of the same un-belonging that this woman must have felt as she was dragged into this very public humiliation and then eventually abandoned to the care of Jesus’, her merciful rescuer.

Now let’s talk about an unfortunate woman’s shame.

Jesus challenged the religion and the religious leaders of his time in many ways. But no challenge rose higher than his insistence on showing mercy to those who had been most shoved aside by the mainstream. The Old Testament tells us that ‘the LORD draws near to the broken-hearted’.

Jesus certainly did so. He saw right through appearances. He was no respecter of persons. He recognized the point at which piety and spirituality actually push people away from God rather than drawing them towards Him. He knew the hypocrisies and the half-truths that sometimes seem as though they flourish much better in religious soil than they do in other places.

And no one pushed back against Jesus and his teaching more than the men whom the gospels call ‘the scribes and the Pharisees’. These guys were the custodians of the faith and of the people, as nobody else was.

Now let’s not be too quick to write off these ‘scribes and Pharisees’ as the miserable, rotten people they often sound like. The Pharisees grew out of a movement that had paid a very high price for standing form against all kinds of political and religious compromise back in the day. And the teachers of the Law had studied long and hard to master the deep truths of God. They weren’t lazy bums. They were diligent. They cared. They wanted their children to grow up in a culture that honored God and that walked in the ancient paths.

But, you know, our zeal is never enough. Sometimes we who are closest to the truths of God find ourselves wanting to master God rather than to be mastered by him. We come to place where it’s no longer possible for God to surprise us because we’ve possessed him. We’ve domesticated him. We know all sorts of things about him. But we don’t know Him and are no longer undone by how good and gracious and demanding he is. And then we become an obstacle that stands between God and people who would really like to know Him.

This is what happened to too many of the scribes and Pharisees. So Jesus was not welcome among them. He was a threat.

When the scribes and Pharisees bring this woman to Jesus, verse 6 tells us that they did this ‘to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him’.

So here they come … and here she comes.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.” John 8:3–4 ESV)

She’s been caught in the very act of adultery. Imagine her shame. Who knows if they even allowed her to throw something over her body, to cover herself up.

There’s a crowd of people with Jesus, listening to his teaching, learning from him, becoming his disciples.

This crowd of religious officials bullies in and they place this woman in the midst of everybody. They text doesn’t even tell us her name. I think it withholds that information intentionally, as a way of signaling that this woman … this human being … had been reduced to a legal case study … She’s an object lesson to them, not a human being who needs redeeming. She has no name.

A few minutes before, she had been in the embrace of her lover. Misguided as her love might have been, maybe she felt loved there, cared for. Maybe she was finally finding some tenderness.

We sometimes collapse this story with others that suggest she was a serial adulterer or even a prostitute. But the text says nothing to suggest that. Likely she was a normal woman, maybe a lonely one, and—dishonest and damaging as her act might have been—she was experiencing some affection.

And then suddenly here she is, in the midst of a crowd … embarrassed … shamed … condemned.

Can you imagine the shame … ?

What are her thoughts: ‘Even if I get out of this alive … and I may not … where do I go from here? I have no more secrets. I’ve lost my dignity. Everybody is staring at me … and scowling.’

Now, before we go any farther, one question hangs over this scene. At least in my mind it does, and maybe in yours too.

Maybe the guy was faster on his feet than the woman was, and got away. Or maybe the hypocrisy of this woman’s accusers is evident in the man’s absence. Maybe they let him go. Maybe he was one of the boys. Maybe they could sweep his cheating on his wife under the rug.

‘But this woman …’, you can almost hear them saying, ‘… we’ll make an example of her, and we’ll trap this Jesus along with her.’

Have you ever felt utterly alone? Abandoned?

This woman, in this terrible, public, shameful moment … certainly feels that way. And, as far as anybody knows, she should. She’s got no one to stand up for her. There’s no fairness in this, no dignity in this, no mercy in this.

Many of us live with shame, so this woman may not seem so different than what we know.

There are two kinds of shame you know:

  • There is shame for something you have done or someone you have been. This kind of shame flows from our own sin. It’s a step beyond regret, and you see it in the eyes of people who know the thing they’ve done or the things they haven’t done and they wonder how it ever got this way. But there’s no going back. You can see it in their eyes.
  • Then there is shame that is bred into us. Some of us feel shame even though it doesn’t flow from some real sin in our lives. If you’ve come from a home with a domineering parent or a family where other dysfunctions ran really deep or suffered abuse at an early age, you may feel that this second kind of shame is far too familiar to you. Everything’s not your fault, but it sure does feel like it is.

Whatever its cause, shame is debilitating. It traps us. It becomes a dark story and we live in that story, never quite able to escape its darkness. We long to be free, but the shame is stronger than we are. It keeps us from responding with joy to God’s calling on our lives. It keeps us from reaching out in joy and concern to others, keeps us from focusing on others rather than on our own darkness.

Shame is a cage.  A really frustrating, trapping, debilitating cage.

I bet you know something about shame. I do. Most of us do, sooner or later

But this woman was not only suffering shame. She was also caught in the act of one of the most awful of sins: awful because it involves the shattering of marriage promises by one or by both of the people involved. The Bible understands adultery as sexual relations outside of marriage when at least one of the participants is married. The Germans call it Ehebruch or marriage-breaking, because that’s exactly what it is. This woman was not merely a victim. She was a sinner.

It all adds up for Jesus’ adversaries to being the perfect trap.

They know Jesus is stern with them … and off-the-charts merciful with the weak and the needy. But it’s hard to book a guy for mercy.

But they also know that Jesus honors their Scripture. And they think they can trap him between his own mercy and the Scripture’s severity.

That would be their opening to get rid of this very popular Jesus once and for all:

Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? (John 8:5 ESV)

It’s worthwhile, when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, to look back to the verses that are being quoted. Here are the passages from the Law of Moses that are most likely in their minds:

If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NRSV)

If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:22 NRSV)

So Jesus’ adversaries have a strong point.

What will Jesus’ do?

This is where this passage slows waaaay down … and becomes very mysterious.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. (John 8:6–9)

What do you think Jesus wrote in the dust? Wouldn’t you love to know?

I have no idea why the gospel writer withheld from us the details about what Jesus wrote.

All kinds of theories have been offered about what those words in the dust might have said.

The truth is, we simply … don’t … know.

And the fact that we don’t know puts our focus back on what we do know: the words of Jesus that were not written in the sand but rather were spoken to this woman’s accusers and recorded in the Gospel of John:

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

Now I have a question for every follower of Jesus in this room:

Having known the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, how could we ever entertain a judgmental spirit in our hearts. How could we ever allow un-grace to creep in and poison our relationships? How could forgiveness and restoration ever fail to be our deepest desire when there is sin and shame in those who walk along beside us?

Now Jesus and this anonymous woman are left alone.

Probably for the first time in this whole sad calamity, someone looks her in the eyes and speaks to her. It’s Jesus, of course, who does so.

Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

She said, ‘No one, Lord.’

And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’ (John 8:10–11 ESV)

Is there a more poignant, more moving question anywhere in Scripture than this?: Does no one condemn you?

 Notice that Jesus removes from this woman two terrible burdens:

First, he takes away the terrible burden of her public shame. He restores her to dignity in the sight of other people, for none are left who condemn her.

But then he also speaks as the Incarnate Lord who wields an authority that belongs only to God: to forgive sin.

He assures her that he himself does not condemn her. Yet this does not mean that sin does not matter, that adultery is a trivial thing, that our actions don’t have consequences. Jesus stays very far from that conclusion. Having forgiven her, his last recorded words to her are ‘From now on sin no more.’

Honestly, it’s hard for me to decide which message this amazing passage brings to Christian people most powerfully.

Are we meant to hear in this how utterly unthinkable it is for us, having been forgiven just like this woman by the sheer mercy of Jesus, that we should be judgmental, condemning people? People who classify other human beings as better or worse depending on the kind of sin in which they’ve indulged and forgetting our own?

Is it a message about how we should live towards those who are trapped in shame and even in sin? With mercy, as Jesus addressed this woman?

Are we the scribes and Pharisees, who need to watch Jesus writing in the sand and then hear his biting, liberating words, ‘Is there anyone here without sin? If so, you go first … Go ahead, throw your stones.’

Maybe. And maybe that’s what your heart and mine need to hear this morning.

Or is the main message to us as those who become trapped in shame and sin?

Maybe we’re not the scribes and the Pharisees. Maybe we’re more like this woman, caught in a family-bashing sin, a light shone upon her own personal evil … discovering that in Jesus there is forgiveness and freedom from our shame … and from our sin.

Maybe that’s the main message for us this morning.

We have fine pastors and trusted elders in this congregation, and I know that if you’ve been trapped in that cage and would like to begin your break from it this morning, any of us would be delighted to talk with you about that.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.








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Cuando los profetas del Antiguo Testamento satirizan, no es causa de risa. Es decir, cualquier regocijo provocado por sus irónicos o ataques verbales—y algo de esto es bastante gracioso para los ojos modernos también—está destinado a despertar en sus oyentes que la realidad creada ha sido transgredida. Y pronto, o eventualmente, será rectificada.

En el siguiente pasaje, los dioses de los opresores babilónicos absorben la fuerza de este sátira acre.

Bel se inclina, Nebo se somete; sus ídolos son llevados por bestias de carga. Pesadas son las imágenes que por todas partes llevan; son una carga para el agotado. Todos a la vez se someten y se inclinan; no pudieron rescatar la carga,  y ellos mismos van al cautiverio.

Escúchame, familia de Jacob, todo el resto de la familia de Israel, a quienes he cargado desde el vientre, y he llevado desde la cuna. Aun en la vejez, cuando ya peinen canas, yo seré el mismo, yo los sostendré. Yo los hice, y cuidaré de ustedes; los cargaré y los libraré (Isaías 46:1-4 N.V.I., ligeramente editada).

El sofisticado juego verbal presente es muy rico para ser explicado en la traducción. Pero déjenme intentarlo.

Estos dos breves párrafos proféticos (por lo que la versión hebraica del ‘Texto Masorético’ los considera) juega sobre los temas que Isaías sostiene, vemos algunos giros hacia adentro y algunas exploraciones, así como J.S. Bach explora la capacidad del sonido dado en una fughetta barroca.

Éstos son algunos de esos temas que aparecen en las líneas que he citado.

En primer lugar, el momento histórico parece comprobar los poderes de los dioses de babilonia, incluso para descartar cualquier discusión en el rostro de su evidente magnificencia. La nación babilónica, después de todo, reina en supremacía. Como podríamos decir hoy, es como  una imagen de  una superpotencia unipolar. Los príncipes babilónicos son reyes, se jactan ellos. Son la definición misma de la voluntad invencible de ejerecer el poder. El lenguaje isaiánico de la altura entra en juego aquí, donde ‘la alta’ significa la gloria y la autoridad y ‘la baja’ significa derrota e incapacidad.

En esta luz, la afirmación de Isaías de que ‘Bel se inclina’ y que ‘Nebo se postra’ convierte las circunstancias en su cabeza. El pensamiento del profeta, ofrecido en contra de las evidencias, es o bien enterado y provocativo, pues quizás el profeta discierne más que nosotros. O es simplemente el delirio.

En segundo lugar, las ideas gemelas isiánicas de peso y fatiga se despliegan ingeniosamente y, en mi opinión, poderosamente. Permítanme tratar de descomponer de una forma ordenada que lo pueda compartir sin drenar la imagen de su fluyente potencia.

Satíricamente, Isaías sugiere que la representación física de los dioses babilónicos es  sencillamente demasiado pesada como para ser cargada sin que la gente se agote en el proceso. Es decir, estos dioses no ayudan a su gente. Más bien, sus adoradores son reducidos al simple hecho de transportar a sus ídolos, con la energía que ellos mismos carecen. Este tipo de religión, según las reclamaciones del profeta, es agotadora.

Los componentes verbales que hacen de esta sátira posible, son palabras comunes para describir el soporte (נשא), la relacionada con carga (משא), una palabra exquisitamente empleada aquí que implica carga y transporte (עמס), y—por último—una palabra que es potente en manos de Isaías que significa estar fatigado (עיף).

Ahora veamos de nuevo el pasaje, esta vez con comentarios intercalados en cursiva:

Bel se inclina, Nebo se somete; sus ídolos son llevados por bestias de carga. (Aquí los grandes dioses de Babilonia se reducen a pesados objetos materiales y que la gente utiliza patéticamente a sus valiosos animales, forzándolos a llevar la  carga.)

Todos a la vez se someten y se inclinan  (¿Quién hace esto?, ¿los dioses, las bestias de carga? Es muy probable que este último–la bestias—luchen, se esfuercen y se quejen bajo la carga). No pueden librar la carga, sino que ellos mismos son llevados al cautiverio.

Escúchame, familia de Jacob, todo el resto de la familia de Israel, a quienes he cargado desde el vientre, y he llevado desde la cuna.  Aun en la vejez, cuando ya peinen canas, yo seré el mismo, yo los sostendré. Yo los hice, y cuidaré de ustedes;  los sostendré y los libraré.

Ah, y ahora vemos que en los oídos de Isaías es YHWH quien lleva y carga a su propio pueblo. No los somete a la fatiga de arrastrar a los dioses inertes, sino que los carga sobre alas de águilas, de modo que hasta los fatigados logran encontrar nuevas fuerzas.

Así que la sátira Isiánica es  luz en lo que realmente está sucediendo en un momento en que Babilonia y sus dioses aparentan triunfar y Judá se esconde como una de las muchas víctimas que fenecen ante esta poderosa nación.

Echemos un vistazo a un juego de palabras más, en este impresionante pasaje.

Esas bestias cargadas—cargadas de ídolos, si esta lectura es la lectura correcta—no pueden ‘salvar la carga’. La palabra traducida aquí como ‘salvar’ es profundamente familiar en el contexto isaiánico del exilio y el retorno, de la subyugación y de la redención. El  verbo en  hebreo מלט, aquí  al parecer, significa que las bestias desgastadas de tropiezo no pueden salvar a la carga de los ídolos bajo cuyo peso muerto son  impulsadas siempre hacia adelante. Pero sólo unos cuantos versículos más adelante, leemos acerca de la afirmación de YHWH: ‘voy a llevar y a salvar’.

Este extracto de cuatro versos del libro de Isaías es gema de sátira profética, que se puede admirar por motivos literarios por sus matices penetrantemente inteligentes. Sin embargo, ha sido preservado, leído y atesorado porque habla de cosas aún más profundas: La religión muerta  engañada lleva una nación al agotamiento. Muy por el contrario es el ofrecimiento de  YHWH; él carga y sostiene a los que son suyos.

El lector cristiano puede encontrar que las palabras de un profeta posterior vienen a la mente:

Vengan a mí todos ustedes que están cansados y agobiados, y yo les daré descanso. Carguen con mi yugo y aprendan de mí, pues yo soy apacible y humilde de corazón, y encontrarán descanso para su alma. Porque mi yugo es suave y mi carga es liviana (Mateo 11:28-30 N.V.I.).

No tomaría nada de estas últimas palabras, ni de su orador, si uno especulara que la sátira isaiánica—atesorada, reflexionada e incluso memorizada—estaba en el centro de la llamada de Jesús a una cierta ligereza misericordiosa.

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Usualmente los oráculos proféticos de la Biblia no se leen buscando inspiración alguna. Lo espeso de sus paisajes, los cuadros dantescos, salvajes y desoladores, más bien causan perturbación en vez de brindar consuelo o inspiración. De hecho, esto es su objetivo, aunque para ello emerja de sus entrañas una lectura dura de roer.

Profecía sobre el desierto del mar. Como torbellino del Neguev, así viene del desierto, de la tierra horrenda.  Visión dura me ha sido mostrada. El prevaricador prevarica, y el destructor destruye. Sube, oh Elam; sitia, oh Media. Todo su gemido hice cesar. (Isaías  21:1–2 N.V.I.).

Isaías 21 es pues parte de ese grupo de llamados ‘oráculos contra las Naciones’, dirigido contra Babilonia la opresora de Judá. La pequeña y frágil Judá encontraría algo de consuelo en ello, por su manera de invertir las estructuras de poder en su entorno. Semejantes denuncias muestran que los perros grandes no mandan, a pesar de su presunción. El profeta se  atreve a sugerir, en contra de las evidencias, que ningún poder humano es invencible.

Los versículos citados despliegan una característica particular de los oráculos proféticos, los cuales de manera sutil hacen un terrible reclamo: existe una línea de inevitabilidad que los rebeldes de cualquier clase pueden violar. A pesar de la paciencia larga del YHWH, a ese punto todo ha sido dicho y el juicio pronto se ejecutará.

Los traductores luchan por capturar la repetición representada en las dos frases en cursiva. En lo personal, he pasado tiempo tratando de encontrar una versión de la Biblia que intente reflejar esta misma idea como un juego de palabras reiterativa. Al menos en ingles la NRSV lo hace bien:  the betrayer betrays and the destroyer destroys (el traidor traiciona y el destructor destruye Hebreo: הבוגד בוגד והשודד שודד).

Por su lado, el libro neotestamentario,  Apocalipsis toma prestada esa misma  técnica, quizás mostrando su deuda con el libro de Isaías. Esto no debería extrañarnos en un libro tan saturado del espíritu isaiánico, tan convencido de que el nombre ‘Babilonia’ sirve perfectamente bien para identificar cualquier poder que aplasta bajo sus pies a los pequeños de YHWH.

Otra secuencia de lamentos de condenación idénticos encontramos aquí: (“cayó, cayó, Babilonia”, Isa. 21.9 // ” Ha caído, ha caído la gran Babilonia”, Apocalipsis 18.2) complementa este ritmo de reiteración.

 Si alguno lleva en cautividad, va en cautividad; si alguno mata a espada, a espada debe ser muerto. Aquí está la paciencia y la fe de los santos (Apocalipsis 13:10 N.V.I.)

Lo ineludible es algo que no se muestra con frecuencia en el relato bíblico en cuanto al trato que tenía YHWH con su pueblo y su gente. Por el contrario, se muestra una relación abierta, cargada de  promesas y deseos impregnados de buenas aspiraciones para los protagonistas humanos.

Pero hay un punto, los oráculos proféticos nos instruyen, después del cual no hay vuelta atrás. Es el punto en que oponerse a la voluntad divina se torna voluntarioso y completo. En ese momento, la suerte ha sido echada y la destrucción es inevitable.

Dios no lo quiera.

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