Sunday, 27 March 2011

my people do not know

A shallow stream runs through the broad unpaved street and makes it typical of many smaller Romanian villages. So ‘across the street’ is across the stream too. It is not very wide and most folks can leap it easily. Each morning a young cow-herd gathers up the cows and goats from different places in the village and takes them out to pasture. In the late afternoon they return and as the cow-herd walks the length of the unpaved street cows peel off, one by one, from the little herd and stand with their heads by the gates to the little courtyards awaiting admission to their home stalls. No one has taught them to do this. They know their home and return to it gladly.

As an inveterate ‘town-y’ I am fascinated by this sight. Cows are not famous for their intelligence or navigation skills but apparently they can all recognise home. Although the nearest tree to my old home was almost a mile away in a local park I am not unfamiliar with this phenomena either; I read of it in the opening chapter of Isaiah…

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me; [i]The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know[/i], My people do not consider.” Is 1:1–3 NKJV

You can sense that Isaiah and God himself are somewhat incredulous. Even a cow knows where it belongs… but not Israel. Slow moving and full witted people are sometimes described as ‘bovine’, but Isaiah says the cows have more sense than God’s own people. It is a scathing denunciation.It isn’t as though they are strangers to the place. They were ‘nourished and brought’ up here; they have a long history of knowing that their home stall means safety and provision.

It is describing the nation of Israel but it is not recorded here for Israel’s sake alone; we all find our portrait in Isaiah. How faithfully God has ‘nourished and brought us up’ and yet, almost unbelievably, we ‘don’t know what side our bread is buttered on’; to use an old English expression.
The Bible frequently uses the word ‘know’ to mean ‘recognise’; ‘a tree is known by its fruit’. Israel’s behaviour is not the result of ignorance; they are refusing to ‘recognise’ where they belong. Another prophet, Jeremiah, put his finger right on the spot…

Why has this people slidden back, Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return. Jer 8:5 NKJV

Ah, that’s the point, not that they are unaware but that they have consciously chosen to stay out in the cold. That’s why I say that this was not just written for the benefit of Israel;

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Cor 10:11 NKJV

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