When the Wise Become Fools

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 29.13-14
13 The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
    is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
14 Therefore once more I will astound these people
    with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
    the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

Reflection: When the Wise Become Fools
By Erin Newton

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1.18). No one wants to be a fool. Yet the message of the gospel seemed so absurd, so counter-intuitive, that Paul described it as foolishness.

Paul was recalling the prophecy that Isaiah had said hundreds of years before him. The way God would redeem his people would be like a hidden message, out of reach for even the most astute. A minority of Israelites were literate. Though tasked with relaying God’s message, they would be unable to read it. The wise would be made fools.

Why were they prohibited from knowing God’s plan? In short, God held them accountable for their lack of faith. Israel was rebuked for false worship performed under the guise of piety. Human rules had been created to facilitate the appearance of worship, but it was merely lip service. Their worship centered upon the performances of religious tasks.

The rules are unspecified in Isaiah’s prophecy. It is not a verse that can be used against different modes of worship in various Christian traditions. At the core of this rebuke is legalism and the pride that accompanies it. When worship becomes performance, people place themselves on the pedestal.

When Jesus spoke parables, he often began with the phrase, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” With all their privileged learning, the Pharisees and Sadducees could not understand the message of Christ. Jesus rebuked them saying, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them” (Luke 11.46). The simple parables were foolish to these “experts” who spent more time adding rules than helping the people.

Christians have sometimes created narrow rules that distinguish adherents as “true believers” and labeled nonconformists as non-Christian. The ever-growing attempt to create a sense of us vs. them mentality has been pervasive in Christian history and more so on social media. 

Let us throw off the hindrances of manmade rules that seek to define our devotion and divide the body of Christ. Let our words be more than lip service. Let our hearts trust in the incomprehensible ways of God. Trusting God may look foolish, but it is the power of salvation.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy Name and glory in your praise. — Psalm 106.47

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 29 (Listen -3:55)
Luke 11 (Listen -7:33)

Read more about The Unknown Sage
Positional distrust…can cause us to read wisdom and call it foolishness. It can cause us to hear a blustering fool and call him wise.

Read more about Lady Wisdom
“Does not wisdom call out?” She does, indeed…Let us train our ears to hear the voice of wisdom.

The Two Ariels

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 29.18
In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
    and out of gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind will see.

Reflection: The Two Ariels
By John Tillman

The term for Jerusalem that Isaiah uses, “Ariel,” holds a dual meaning. In one sense it means, “Lion of God,” and implies a mighty hero or an undefeatable warrior. But it can also mean “Hearth of God,” which refers to the altar in the Temple where animals are slain and the blood flowed down as a symbolic propitiation for the nation’s sins. The two Ariels can represent different possibilities for God’s people.

The city’s loss is lamentable precisely because it was preventable. Their words and voices were quick to honor God. They attended festivals. They gathered at the appropriate times on the calendar. They brought the appropriate sacrifices to the Temple. However, prophets, priests, and people had gradually and steadily turned away from God’s simple requirements of the heart—do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

“Judicial hardening” refers to the way God acts in response to our rejection of him and his messages. When we stop listening, he allows us to choose deafness. When we stop seeking, he allows us to be blinded. When we keep muting God on the radio, eventually he destroys the transmitter. When we throw away his newspaper without reading it, God cancels our subscription.

However, even those blinded and deafened are not left without hope. Isaiah declares that a day is coming when even the deaf will hear, and the blind will see. May we pray, opening our hearts, opening our eyes, opening our ears. A broken and contrite heart, he will not despise.

A Prayer for Ariel (based on Isaiah 29)
Lord, we have come near to you only with words.
We have honored you in syllables and slandered you with our sins.

We are not the “Lion of God,” a mighty warrior for justice.
We are only a bloody hearth where our sins soak the earth and testify against us.

Our worship is only rules.
Our sacrifice is only tokens.
Our intelligence is of no account.
Our riches are filth.
We are a rebellious pile of broken pottery
That refused the shaping of your hand.
Forge us, Lord.
Remake us, Lord.
Turn us upside down.
Leave no stone-cold heart unturned and unwarmed by your love.
Let us, the blind, see. That the wayward will gain understanding.
Let us, the deafened, hear. That we who complain will accept instruction.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
In your great mercy, O God, answer me with your unfailing help. — Psalm 69.15

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 29 (Listen – 3:55)
3 John 1 (Listen – 1:51)

Read more about A Worn Out Welcome
When we go into the house of the Lord, is God glad we have come? How can we tell if we have worn out our welcome in God’s house? 

Read more about Forgiveness to Soften the Hardened
There is no level of spiritual achievement or growth at which one is not susceptible to hardening of the heart and the spirit.