Forest Home had a unique visitor this past Thursday for 5:30 p.m. prayer. She is Kate Marchiniak, a dual citizen of New Zealand and Canada who has lived in Williamson County for over 10 years. Several years ago a newspaper reporter noticed that Kate was showing up at the Franklin Square every Friday at 12:30 or so, and asked what she was doing. The resulting story reported how Kate was keeping a commitment to pray for Franklin every Friday from the center of town, the Square. Franklin is no stranger to such “persons of prayer,” for Franklin has long lived out of grace from the street walking prayers of famous Civil War Chaplain and Methodist minister, E.M. Bounds. It appears that Bound’s legacy continues with folks like Kate, devoted to prayer, not just for, but in the public square. Fortunately more and more folks are deciding to join Kate at the square, sharing a call to intercede.
Kate was drawn to join in with Forest Home because of its similar prayer commitment. She likes FH’s explicit competition with the national “news” by starting at 5:30 and holding up how “God is the News!” While talking with Kate and her family, I learned a prominent Scripture that inspired her work, from Isaiah which reads: “Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter” (59:14). Truth fallen in the street is a powerful image, and what is more, it directly applies as a word for our time. Truth is not what it used to be. For many younger among us, the temptation is to think of truth as like an interesting artifact in a museum, a relic from a primitive past, a quaint reminiscence for older folks, but not for those “up-to-date enlightened ones” who can manufacture it ourselves and call it our own–truth easy, and cheap. Yet, more and more, the plastic toy truths of our time satisfy less and less.
“Truth fallen in the street,” assumes there is a place for truth to stand tall. Higher truth that is; Truth that stands over the crowd and the lonely individual. Even SomeOne standing over all. But that is quite offensive to many moderns, who only admit a truth for the street, foot-level and fit only to be trampled by modern expediencies. This is every modern person’s temptation, to trample truth in the street, to run over it on our way to a thousand other things. The trampled turns to dust and blows away, with the next verse of Isaiah 59 coming true: “Truth is nowhere to be found” (59:15).
Isaiah 59 reaches a high point of confession with “truth fallen (other versions say “stumbled”, 14) in the street.” But much of the chapter unpacks just what “fallen, trampled truth” looks life. Here are TEN of the timely but unfortunate cultural trends:
1. Lying becomes socially acceptable, even expected (59:3) such that “No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies” (59:4).
2. Deception and Treachery become common on a personal and a governmental level. It is like offering pure, white-shelled eggs which are in reality the eggs of vipers, ready to hatch and bite (59:5).
3. Policies promoted and sold to the public as healthy are in reality poison (59:5,8).
4. Innocent people get hurt, even suffering violence by a sin-permeated society (59:3, 6, 7)
5. Hope is a major social theme but the promised deliverance never comes (59:9, 11)
6. There is social outpouring of anger (“growling like bears”; Occupy Protests?; 59:11)
7. There is social outpouring of concern and mourning (“we moan like doves” 59:11)
8. There is “rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God” (59:13)
9. There is social-political “inciting revolt and oppression” by manipulating the people through “uttering lies our hearts have conceived” (59:13). The currently popular belief in the essential “goodness” of revolution is nothing new.
10. Those who disagree with the “culture of lying” are persecuted: “He who departs from evil makes himself a prey” (59:15)
It is hard to deny the parallels between Isaiah 59 and our present time. I have certainly tried to do so, as it is good and necessary to test with care whatever prophetic parallels we think we see. But the prophetic parallels are strong indeed. Just this morning, for instance, I learned of a serious breech of justice in Massachusetts as they charged a state crime lab chemist with lying about her non-existent chemistry degree and also of “faking drug results, forging signatures and mixing samples…” She “tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the fallout.” (AP report). The state attorney general said the “alleged actions corrupted the integrity of the entire criminal justice system . . . There are many victims as a result of this.” Telling for me, is that 25 years ago I would have been shocked by this, but I am not overly surprised today.
Truth has indeed fallen in the street for our general culture of lies. But this culture is not the church. We hold high the Infinite Personal God of the Bible. Jesus lifted high on the cross and lifted high unto the throne of the Father — these are high truths for us and our time. We know who and whose we are.
So what do we do? In the most important sense, only the Lord can redeem and heal a people (as expressed in 59:17 with the Lord Himself having put on battle armor to set things right). But there is something highly significant for us as the Lord responds. Isaiah 59:15-16 reports: “The Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede.” The Bible does not often speak of what makes God wonder (or “appalled” or “astonished” as in other translations). But verse 16 relates to us how the Lord Himself was “shocked that no one intervenes” (NET translation). Hence the Lord’s astonished wondering is a question to us: Where is someone to intercede? Will it be said of our time as of Isaiah’s: “There was no one to intercede?” Since we have the advantage of the book of Isaiah, the example of the Lord Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit, how can we not be intercessors at a time like this? The bare minimum we must do is also the most important thing we can do, and that is intercede. Interceding means being before the Lord like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, holding up a lost people, yes even ourselves, in fervent prayer. Who will intercede? LH
For the picture illustrations that go with the above please see the bulletin below.
FH Newsletter Aug 30th (click to view)