Saturday, January 9, 2016

"Let there be laughter!"

The Word for today:
Isaiah 41
God's having fun in Isaiah 41.
He's taunting the opposition, kicking sand in their faces, stealing their lunches, and tying their sneakers together while they sleep.
In our deep reverence for the Bible, we sometimes don't respond when God downshifts.
And that's understandable. The last part of chapter 40 reaches dazzling poetic heights, so our hearts can get stuck in that gear.
But if we don't go with his flow, we won't know him like he wants to be known. Our God has range, from the sublime to the ridiculous. The downshift from chapter 40 to chapter 41--from the airborne eagle to the earthbound worm; from the stars, the handiwork of God, to idols, the handiwork of man--is so smooth we can get left out of an inside joke.
It's difficult to explain humor. Most of the time we explain it away. So I will understate a few funny lines in order to leave some room for laughter:
1. God introduces a scene of craftsmen coming together to make a metal idol with this mock-epic line:
The islands have seen it and fear;
the ends of the earth tremble... 
(Isaiah 41:5)
(Personal note: I once laughed so hard over that line that my stomach actually ached.)
2. The idol maker appraises his welding job with the line echoing God's creation of the universe:
He says of the welding, "It is good."
He nails down the idol so it will not topple.
 (Isaiah 41:7)
(Personal note: This line has brought tears--of laughter-- to my eyes!)
3. God taunts the idols to do something...anything!
Do something, whether good or bad,
so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.
 (Isaiah 41:23)
We love God's majesty, his high purposes, his faithfulness, humility, creativity, poeticism, and grace.
Let's love the sound of his laughter as well. His mock-serious treatment of idols might be the funniest thing in literature. When Elijah suggests (1 Kings 18:25-29) that the idol Baal may not have acted because he was, uh, taking a..., uh, because he was indisposed--there is nothing as side-splitting.
Except, perhaps, when the Philistines set the captured ark next to their idol, Dagon:
Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. (1 Samuel 5:2-4)
"Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him!"
(Personal note: That line kills me!)
We as his sheep know his voice (John 10:4, 27). But let's get to know it better. Voice can color words with subtexts and undertows and undertones and undertoads! Let's get to know the tones and textures, the colors and the lights in God's voice.
God named the covenant son, the son promised to Abraham and Sarah, "Isaac." If we could speak Hebrew, we'd know that "Isaac" means "he laughs." It seems that not long after God said, "Let there be light," and "Let there be life," he said, "Let there be Laughter."
So, let there be laughter!

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