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monarchy, arky-olatry, the prophets, and me.

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Start in Isaiah -- denouncement of the establishment, the princes, and all the social offspring of monarchy. The Prophet is not amused. The prophetic mission is to denounce greed, failure to do justice, faithlessness, lust, and apostasy; every element of the covenant betrayed is condemnation in YHWH's eyes. (See the book of Amos, passim.) And if Isaiah is blistering in the reign of Hezekiah, the prophets are incadescent with wrath for the apostate powerful. The monarchy has fulfilled, in spades, the prophecy of Samuel. The arky of power, the power of the nations, seduces, echoing the serpent's call down the halls of history.

So what of the promise of the anointed? Isaiah forges the way, announcing the shoot of Jesse, the servant who obeys and suffers at the hand of the unjust powerful, the one who establishes righteousness. A king, but not like the monarchy has been -- this king turns condemnation into vindication, and sets up YHWH's own rule. Thrown down are our ambitions to rule, to accumulate power and seeming security and luxury by grinding the face of the poor; cast down are the pretensions of nation, of race, of party, and egotism, shattered on the rejected stone, YHWH dealing death -- and giving life. Hannah's song is the essential theme arcing over the monarchy, the prophets, and the exile. And the words of Hannah are echoed again, amplified, and flow into the prophet Isaiah's in another mother's song: the Magnificat.

So while we eye the bigger and better, identify ourselves with movements, powers, interest groups, we hurtle toward the rock of offense, to be dashed by the unseemly servant we rejected. The presence of kingdom-building, even at the very heart of our 'Kingdom-building' enterprises, is sometimes taken for granted. (Certainly I don't pretend to overcome this insidious temptation, for I assure you, I am a man of unclean lips.) We act as though it were an external matter, a tower of badness we could topple with the right tools, with enough resources, with popular support (if only they'd understand my wisdom!), with sufficient leverage. How assured we are that truly, we know good and evil. How very much we wish to not perish. How little we trust. The tower we build with its top in the sky shall spread its name across the world, all of course, to prevent a regrettable dispersal, you understand.

The gate is very narrow. The things it does to a camel are simply not to be believed. That narrow path appears to descend into the whale's maw, into darkness. But it is those dwelling in darkness that have seen a great light. One has preached even to the damned in Hades, has arisen, 'trampling down death by death', has brought in himself grace and truth, for the barren, for a virgin mother, for we with unclean lips, for those who hunger and thirst, for asking 'remember me', for anointing the feet in tears, for those with scales on the eyes, for the triply denying, for me, for anybody at the bottom of his robe.

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