Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 2:5-17) transports me to the Gashes Creek home of my grandparents, when they moved into town from the subsistence farm in Fairview. The hard times on the farm which necessitated the move to town, and the accompanying move from farm work to the requisite “public job” in the mill, was an enduring grief for my Granddaddy, who was fiercely independent. I don’t think my Granny shared that grief, as she appreciated the Gashes Creek home, with its step up in creature comforts and standard of living, including electricity and (eventually) indoor plumbing, not to mention 3 bedrooms (with as many as 7 or 8 of the 12 kids actually living there at one time). I’m not sure which generation originated the expression, but I heard it many times growing up, that you should be careful not to get above your raising. I expect it was a core value for Granddaddy, who passed it on to his children, who passed it on to me and my generation. When my Aunt Mary started courting in her teenage years, her brother, my Uncle Tony, didn’t want her to forget that word of caution. Whenever Mary’s beau and eventual hubbie, Wirron, came to visit her at the Gashes Creek home, Tony had a surefire way of reminding her that there was no need to put on airs, which was another way of saying don’t get above your raising. The way she tells it, Tony always threatened that he would join the lovebirds in the living room, sit down and take off his shoes. From what I hear, that would have provided a potent and pungent welcome that Wirron would not soon forget. I guess you could say Tony was able to put on airs, some different kind of airs, in his attempt to protect his sister from any temptation to get above her raising.
The prophet Isaiah seems to have shared Granddaddy’s caution about not getting above your raising. The passage tells us that the covenant community was courting the neighboring powers, and had brought some beaus home to the family. These new relationships elevated the status of the covenant family, and they rose in power, accumulating gold and silver, military might, and technologies that quickly became objects of devotion, aka idols. God was not pleased with the new money culture that emerged from this new found and heady sense of power and class. So the prophet clued the people into God’s plans. It was far worse than taking off shoes and stinking up the place. The proud, the arrogant, the haughty, the ones who had gotten above their raising, were going to be laid low. God was going to lower the boom on the lofty. The wealth, the military might, the technologies, none of it would provide protection. God promised to bulldoze the mountains of might and to clear cut the tall oaks of oppressive power. The terrified people would be running to caves and diving into mole holes in attempts to avoid what the prophet called the glory of God’s majesty. I don’t think we have this passage in mind when we sing Oh Glory, Glory or Majesty.
Kim was fondly reminding me recently of one of the many failed mission schemes we conjured up at Providence Baptist in Stoneville. It was a time when Jeremiah 29:11 ministries were springing up, and all the young people in all the thriving youth groups were memorizing this verse, about how God had big plans for them, not for destruction, but for a bright future, full of hope. That was all well and good, but it seemed like there was room for another movement among the youth, based on another prophet. We thought Isaiah 2:12 would be a good balance to Jeremiah 29:11. We dreamed of having the youth memorize this verse, and then, along with taking mission trips into impoverished areas to build homes and feed the hungry, we thought they could also travel into the most privileged and opulent gated communities, prophesying to people prone to put on airs, warning them to flee from the destruction soon to come. We thought the youth could evangelize by encouraging people who had gotten above their raising to break out of those gated communities and give their homes to the poor, then go find a mobile home village to live in, throw away all their technologies, and trade in their luxury cars for clunkers. The project never got off the ground, and landed in the trash heap with lots of other off-beat ideas we tossed out. But given where our culture is now, driven as we are by intensifying worries about money, by an over-reliance on military solutions to conflict, and by amazing technologies that quickly become objects of devotion, maybe it’s time to dust off Isaiah 2:12 and send some missionary youth off to the mansions. Lesson one in the training: Go in, sit down and take off your shoes.
How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment.