Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Gospel of Water (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Harken unto Me, ye stouthearted that are far from righteousness: I bring near My righteousness; it shall not be far off, and My salvation shall not tarry...." Is. 46:12-13

This chapter of Isaiah devotes itself to two common themes of the whole book. The first is God's absolute uncategoricalness (vs, 5, 9) and the second is the idiocy and irony of idol worship (vs. 6-7). The former necessarily leads to the latter. God alone is the holy one, the one who is fundamentally other than and different from us. That is significant because of the contrast with our inherent weakness: we are naturally transgressors (vs. 8) and children of iniquity (Is. 53:6). That contrast leads straight to an unavoidable truth: we are incapable of saving ourselves, either individually or as a race.

That we cannot save ourselves is what creates the farce of idol worship. We worship things that we bought with our own money (from the vendor who made it), and we have to take care of it (moving it, cleaning it, maintaining it). The whole imbecilic display is still true today: we still worship at the altar of our own weakness, our own creations of money and sex and power and our best-life-now. Yet we are not our own salvation; even worse, we are our own damnation. If we are to be saved, then it must come from outside of ourselves, from One who is not like us, not weak like us. One who is strong and mighty to save.

God's omnipotence and our impotence are what make damnation so sad. We think we have found our salvation, our liberation from drudgery, despair, and guilt. We think we found it in that man, this woman, that cause, this movement, that career, this calling, that vice, this virtue. It is all folly, horribly sad folly. We think that we are drawing near to salvation, but we are far from it. We think we have found what will fix our souls, make us right, and give us peace. But behind all our idols and substitutions for God, there is only the same old gnawing self, never filled, always hungry, drinking up worlds of water and never quenching its thirst. How can it? In God alone is living water, the well that never runs dry. Our impotence means that we could never acquire so great a salvation on our own, but by His omnipotence He has come near, bringing His salvation with Him, and any one who listens can hear His call coming over the hills and cutting deep into your heart:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy, and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourself in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live....

(Isaiah 55:1-3a)

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013


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