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Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Today’s Reading | Isaiah 40:12–26
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the spirit of the Lord, or as his counselor has instructed him? Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice? Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? Even the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as dust on the scales; see, he takes up the isles like fine dust. Lebanon would not provide fuel enough, nor are its animals enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? An idol? –A workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains. As a gift one chooses mulberry wood—wood that will not rot—then seeks out a skilled artisan to set up an image that will not topple. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing. (NRSV)
In a series of statements entitled the “Minnesota Declaration,” filmmaker Werner Herzog outlined a harsh critique of a particular school of documentary film, cinéma vérité. He was criticizing its underlying philosophy that if an artist uses a camera to simply record the facts, with a minimum of narration or artistic interpretation, somehow truth would be revealed. Yet Herzog railed against this perspective and made the distinction that “fact creates norms, and truth illumination.” He further explains that “there are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.”
This causes me to reflect on the truth that is revealed in Isaiah’s declaration about creation and its maker. We continually encounter amazing discoveries about the created universe, about the things that make up the fabric of our reality. This also put us face-to-face with the frightening consequences of the ways in which we’ve managed the gifts of creation. Yet none of the facts of these matters—neither descriptions of Higgs-Boson particles nor records of rising temperature and sea levels—gets us to the truth of the meaning and purpose of the universe.
Thousands of years old, and lacking any verifiable facts to understand the universe and its order, this text from Isaiah challenges us with the illuminating truth that the world is beyond us and our own control. Isaiah’s artistry and vision call us to humility in the presence of the one who is the ultimate truth revealed in the facts of the world.
God of ancient mystery, help me not to be overly proud of my own knowledge or understanding; prevent me from putting my ultimate trust in the facts I think I know. Give me your Holy Spirit, and reveal to me the deeper truth—that you are above, and beyond, and all about me. And help me to put my trust in you. Amen.
Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism
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