bible blog 877

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news

Obama is re-elected

Revelation 16:1-11

The Bowls of God’s Wrath

16Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.’

2 So the first angel went and poured his bowl on the earth, and a foul and painful sore came on those who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped its image.

3 The second angel poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died.

4 The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood.5And I heard the angel of the waters say,
‘You are just, O Holy One, who are and were,    for you have judged these things;
6 because they shed the blood of saints and prophets,    you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!’
7And I heard the altar respond,
‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty,    your judgements are true and just!’

8 The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire;9they were scorched by the fierce heat, but they cursed the name of God, who had authority over these plagues, and they did not repent and give him glory.

10 The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony,11and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent of their deeds.

Angels with bowls above the harpists (mediaval)

The terrible nature of God’s judgement is summed up by those who praise it, “They have shed the blood of saints and prophets; you have given them blood to drink.” The ruthless killers, whether criminals or tyrants or national governments or multi-national corporations, find that murder becomes their food; that the happiness or profit they hoped to attain by their ruthlessness has been utterly contaminated with violence. No-one should imagine that they are entirely free of this taint: the lifeless sea of this vision should remind developed nations of how our oceans are dying because of our persistent violence to ecosystems. The vision shows that evildoers cannot escape the consequences of their evil; and if they ignore these in this life they will surely have to face them as they approach what this author calls “the second death.” Nations that wish to live in a peaceful world, that is, nations that actually wish to, rather than those that only talk about it must themselves be careful  that they are not carrying out violent acts which entail violent consequences.

 Let me be clear. The UK government states that it wants a peaceful world, and opposes violent jihadists anywhere. But when in pursuit of peace it sends troops to Afghanistan to kill people it does not know on behalf of other people it does not know, it not only contributes to the prevailing conviction that violence can only be opposed by greater violence but  also initiates a process of violence which may (God forbid) come to afflict its own citizens in the future.

The USA has again elected a president whom I believe is a good man-he is also the only politician whose words move me. I’ve just been moved by his acceptance speech on video. Amongst other policies, I applauded his decision to insist on personally vetting every decision of US forces to kill a terrorist leader. It seemed to me right that if such things were to be done occasionally, the commander-in-chief should not pretend ignorance. He has therefore scrutinised and approved an increasing number of drone attacks on individuals in northern Pakistan, many of which have involved collateral damage, that is, the violent deaths of innocent people. Now imagine (God forbid) that the son of a mother killed in such an incident, comes to the USA with the sole purpose of assassinating President Obama, and imagine (God forbid) that he obtains entry and carries out his purpose, will his action be any more wicked than the President’s decision to send the drone? And will it not be part of a violent process initiated by the President? The horror readers will rightly feel at this scenario, which has not (thank God) happened, may very well be greater than their horror at the drone strike, which has happened more than once.

The book of The Revelation suggests a terrible reciprocity between evil deeds and their consequences. This should be of equal  concern to the good Islamic guerrilla and the good man in the White House.

Isaiah 11

The Peaceful Kingdom

11A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,    or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,    and decide with equity for the humblest people of the land;
he shall strike the land with the rod of his mouth,    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,    and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,    their young shall lie down together;    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9″ They will not hurt or destroy    on all my holy mountain”;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord    as the waters cover the sea.

On the day when a president is re-elected, or any day we think of the government of our own nation, these words of Isaiah from the 8th century BCE, are relevant for reflection and prayer. It happens to be a passage dear to the American people in the form of a famous Quaker painting. It is a vision of political and ecological peace, achieved by wisdom, justice righteousness and specific concern for the neediest people in the land. If we are to use it as prayer for our leaders in a democratic state we must pray for these qualities to be ours as citizens: our leaders will not be more virtuous than we are. Among all the qualities for which we pray as citizens, I’d pick our one as supremely important: delight in the fear of the Lord. If we do not find joy in our frailty before the great God, we will easily slide into arrogant follies.

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