Saturday, February 23, 2013

Homily 48: A Work of Art (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Look unto me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else." Is. 45:22

One of the most common complaints leveled against God is the apparent absurdity of His actions. His ways may be mysterious, but they certainly seem ludicrous. Isaiah 45 gives us a good example of this. God is far removed from heathen peoples, so much so that they can only exclaim, "Truly, Thou are a God who hides Thyself" (vs. 15). To unbelieving Israel, however, He has given direct revelation, so that in His eyes they are without excuse: "I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth. I said not unto the seed of Jacob, 'Seek me in vain'" (vs. 19).

The reason He revealed Himself to Israel, to this one people group and not to others, is so they would be a "light" to those others (Is. 42:5-9; 49:1-6), an office later fulfilled by Christ (who was of Israel). In short, God hides from some, reveals Himself to others, so that those others may reveal Him to the some. A similar theme can be found in the New Testament (Rom. 11:25-32), and just like in the Old Testament the whole thing feels convoluted and counter-intuitive. Why all of this hopping about? Why all the looping and double-looping? Why can't God just work in a straight line?

The short (and sufficient) answer is that God is not a straight line. He is not a machine, nor a mere principle or equation. He is a person, a person who loves, and thus is necessarily full of surprises. The longer (and even more sufficient) answer is that this thing was done in this manner so that you and I and all would know (beyond any shadow or inkling or hint of doubt) that this thing was of God alone. To put it the other way around, it was done this way so that we would know it was not of us. We are far too simple-minded, and our well-made plans far too comprehensible and predictable. But if an incomprehensible God is at work, then why wouldn't His plans and actions be over our finite heads?

It is hubris that makes us question the Divine activity, and that is the point. That is the point of the whole of Isaiah. God uses what we would call foolishness (and uses it well) so that He might subvert and deconstruct our so-called wisdom (I Cor. 1:18-31), all so that we will find no room or cause to glory in our perceived cleverness but rather glory in His hidden brilliance alone. For not only does our cleverness fail, it is also dull and boring, as dull and boring as a straight line. It is false and ugly, as we are false and ugly without God, for He is Beautiful and True, and His brilliance never fails (though we can't see why), and it is as wild and wonderful as a work of art.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013


  1. These don't seem like works of art you would normally appreciate. Also, you're the second blogger to post about Isaiah lately. (Out of the blogs I usually read.)

  2. And exactly what kind of "art" would I "appreciate"? Are you calling me an elitist? ARE YOU!?!

    Oh, and Isaiah is freakin' awesome. Probably my favorite Old Testament book so far.

  3. I just thought of something:

    As an artist, God is an absurdist, but only from our point of view. In truth, we are the absurd ones, and God is the sensible one. That's why His ways seem crazy to us, because they're not crazy: we're crazy, and when you're mad, all sanity looks insane.