Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 8:11-22) transports me to all sorts of tv shows and movies that share a common theme – X-Files, Alias, Lost, The Manchurian Candidate, The Insider, Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man, The Truman Show, The Bourne Identity, The Pelican Brief, etc etc etc. The commonality, in case you haven’t seen any of these, is conspiracy. Now I’m not one to fall for the real life conspiracy theories; I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the Illuminati or George Soros or the Koch brothers or who killed the Kennedys. But give me Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in The Game and I am completely enthralled. This kind of entertainment leads viewers into a world where there are all sorts of evil plots and schemes and people in cahoots behind the scenes to consolidate power and create mischief and mayhem for the world. There’s always a sense that nothing is as it seems, that we are all pieces of some large puzzle, that there are grand puppeteers pulling strings somewhere, and we are all being manipulated. Why this tried and true trope is so appealing and can attract such an audience is a mystery, but it’s a formula that guarantees box office success.
Isaiah must have been dealing with people who were intrigued with the plot lines of conspiracy theories. He was not dealing with the fictions of the silver screen, though; the plots his people were drawn into were real life conspiracies, as the pre-exilic leadership of Israel wanted to be in cahoots with the leadership of Assyria. The prophet gave a stern warning not to be enthralled with these political power plays: Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy. The terrors Isaiah dealt with were not of the scary movie variety: the leadership of Israel was trying to manipulate the people through fear; it was the original war on terror. But the prophet was equally clear in his warning against this: Do not fear what it fears, or be in dread. The machinations of the powerful elite were nothing more than distractions for the prophet, who wanted the covenant people to maintain diligence in their daily walk of faith. Bind up my testimony, he says, and seal my teaching. What is this testimony he is referring to? What had he been teaching in those first few chapters? Things like this: Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow, beat your swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, and woe to those who join house to house, and add field to field. All the war on terror talk and the conspiracy theories were nothing but distractions from these day to day actions of grace and compassion and peace and justice. These were the plot lines the prophet scripted, in hopes they would draw the people back into covenant faith.
Here’s what I’ve come to believe – that there really is a conspiracy at work, and the screenplay is right there in holy writ. It’s a conspiracy of grace, of God’s using everything at God’s disposal to continue wooing and leading us into acts of love and mercy. These holy books of scripture are in cahoots with everything around us – the music, the movies, the literature, the poetry, the art, the stories of our lives large and small, the natural world. Everything conspires along the same plot line – God loves us, and desires for us to love ourselves and one another. God forgives us, and desires for us to forgive ourselves and one another. God is a wounded healer, and desires for us to find healing for ourselves and for one another. When the world seems bent out of shape – hateful, greedy, arrogant – remember, nothing is as it seems. God is in cahoots with the world, drawing us into this great story of grace. It’s better than a movie.
How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Google+. FB, Twitter, etc.