More on the Connecticut school shooting: the haughtiness of humanity will collapse, says Isaiah

I wondered tonight whether this week’s Greek Isaiah readings might have something to say to the recent school shooting in Connecticut. Indeed, here is Isaiah 2:17-19 (my translation from the Greek):

Then every person will be brought low,
and the haughtiness of humanity will collapse,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

And they will hide everything that is made by hand,

as they bring them into caves
and into the clefts of rocks
and into the holes of the earth,
from before the fear of the Lord
and from the glory of his strength,
when he rises up to strike the earth.

The word for that which is made by hand (τὰ χειροποίητα) refers to idols. But as I read this I couldn’t help but think of the promise from Psalm 46:

He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

…bows, spears, and shields, of course, all being made by hand. I suggested here that a 21st century way of reading that verse could be something like, “He crushes guns and diffuses bombs, he destroys human weapons of destruction.”

One day either we or God himself will bring all our weapons of destruction–indeed, all our evil inclinations–into “caves” and “into the clefts of rocks and into the holes of the earth,” as we recoil at the glory of God’s strength. He will make wars cease; he will end all senseless violence; he will crush evil and wipe it away from the face of the earth.

Lord, as we mourn in the meantime, please hasten that day.

He crushes guns and diffuses bombs; he destroys weapons of destruction (Psalm 46 speaks into the mass school shooting)

gun

Psalm 46, a Psalm for tragedies and disasters, reads:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The third part of this Psalm begins, “Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.” God is stronger than war—he can demolish even the strongest weapons of warfare. So in some kind of cosmic sense we don’t have to be afraid when there is violence.

“He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.” We might read this today as, “He crushes guns and diffuses bombs, he destroys human weapons of destruction.”

And then there is the main point of the Psalm, verse 10, followed by the refrain in verse 11 that appeared earlier in the Psalm: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Nature can appear to be in chaos, human actions can leave us scratching our heads, but neither the chaos of nature nor the chaos of human sinfulness can ultimately stand up to the power of God. He is exalted over the earth and over all people. He is a warrior God who declares war on war and causes all violence to end.

“The LORD Almighty,” a title for God from verse 11 and earlier in verse 7, is also sometimes translated “LORD of hosts,” or God of the angel armies. Based on these verses Martin Luther wrote, “LORD Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle.”

This Almighty warrior God is with us, present in chaos and suffering. He is the God of heavenly hosts of armies, yet he is the God of Jacob, too, a title that speaks of God’s personal relationship with his people.

He is a personal God that people can know. He invites us into an intimate relationship with him, especially when we are hurting, especially when things are going wrong.

The above is adapted from part of a sermon I preached a couple of summers ago on Psalm 46. I post in now in light of today’s awful news.

Jesus weeps, we weep

Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee, via Associated Press
Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee, via Associated Press

Jesus wept, and he weeps again today, with the horrible news of another school shooting in Newton, CT. From the New York Times:

A gunman killed 26 people, 20 of them children between the ages of 5 and 10, in a shooting on Friday morning at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., about 65 miles northeast of New York City, the authorities said.

The gunman, who was believed to be in his 20s, walked into a classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School where his mother was a teacher. He shot and killed her and then shot 20 students, most in the same classroom. He also shot five other adults, and then killed himself inside the school.

This evil deed is so heinous that even naming and describing it feels bad. May God have mercy on the souls of those poor children, and the grieving families they leave behind.

Christians have a rich Biblical tradition of lament that we can employ in times like this. This summer after the Colorado shooting, I posted this prayer, which was an aid to me in processing the grief, anger, and bewilderment I felt after hearing such awful news.

Prayer of Lament

O God, you are our help and strength,
our refuge in the time of trouble.
In you our ancestors trusted;
They trusted and you delivered them.
When we do not know how to pray as we ought,
your very Spirit intercedes for us
with sighs too deep for words.
We plead for the intercession now, Gracious One.

For desolation and destruction are in our streets,
and terror dances before us.
Our hearts faint; our knees tremble;
our bodies quake; all faces grow pale.
Our eyes are spent from weeping
and our stomachs churn.

How long, O Lord, how long
must we endure this devastation?
How long will destruction lay waste at noonday?
Why does violence flourish
while peace is taken prisoner?
Rouse yourself! Do not cast us off in times of trouble.
Come to our help;
redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

For you are a gracious God
abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

By the power of the cross,
through which you redeemed the world,
bring to an end hostility
and establish justice in the gate.
For you will gather together your people into that place
where mourning and crying and pain
will be no more,
and tears will be wiped from every eye.
Hasten the day, O God for our salvation.
Accomplish it quickly! Amen.

**From Let the Whole Church Say Amen! A Guide for Those Who Pray in Public, by Laurence Hull Stookey, pp 94-95 (Copyright 2001 by Abingdon Press). Reproduced by permission. Formatted print-friendly pdf of prayer here.

The Scriptures that the above prayer draws on are: Psalm 124:8, Psalm 37:39, Psalm 22:4, Romans 8:26, Isaiah 59:7, Job 41:22, Nahum 2:10, Lamentations 2:11, Isaiah 6:11, Psalm 91:6, Psalm 44:23, Psalm 44:26, Exodus 34:6, 1 Corinthians 1:17, Ephesians 2:14, Amos 5:15, Revelation 21:4, Isaiah 60:22.

Leslie C. Allen’s Liturgy of Grief for under $5 (ebook)

Leslie C. Allen’s Liturgy of Grief is under $5 this month in ebook form. It’s here on Amazon ($4.99) and here on CBD ($3.99). It’s a good deal for a great “pastoral commentary” on Lamentations.

I reviewed the book this summer, as well as interviewed the author.

One of my reviews to be published in Bible Study Magazine

I have written a book review that is slated to be published in an upcoming issue of Bible Study Magazine.

You can see what Bible Study Magazine looks like by flipping through this past issue.

The book I review is Lamentations and the Song of Songs, by Harvey Cox and Stephanie Paulsell. It’s the newest edition of Westminster John Knox Press’s Belief theological commentary series. (More about the book is here.)

Both authors suggest reading their respective biblical books in a “participatory mood.” Cox and Paulsell each highlight the timelessness of Lamentations and Song of Songs, surveying well their history of interpretation to help readers today apply them and enter in to the texts. A good commentary to have at hand, especially when preaching through either Lamentations or Song of Songs–something that probably doesn’t happen as often as it should.

“Bringing our Pain to God” (Michael Card)

We’re afraid of other people’s pain. Like Job’s friends, we’re afraid when we don’t have answers. Job doesn’t get any answers for his sufferings, but he gets God.

–Michael Card, from this great article on Biblical lament in worship.

He’s got an album called The Hidden Face of God, which you can hear at Grooveshark for free (or click on the album image to the left). It kicks off with a great Gospel-flavored track called, “Come Lift Up Your Sorrows.”