Aloha Friday Message – July 20, 2018 – Woe is us.

1829AFC072018 – Woe is us.

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  Jeremiah 23:1 1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Today we are looking at a small excerpt from the book of the prophet Jeremiah. The opening word in this key verse is Woe. We sometimes think of that as a kind of antiquated word, as in “Woe is me!” it’s not really used very often in today’s American English, but it sure was used often in the Bible. I believe it is used well over 100 times in the NABRE. Many of those usages are in the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah – two prophets who dealt with the period of Israel’s exile. Isaiah predicted its beginning and the intervention by Cyrus of Persia, and Jeremiah prophesies the destruction of Babylon and the restoration of Israel. These two fellows used the word “woe” a lot! Their prophecies – announcements of the LORD’s intent for humanity – are cited frequently in the New Testament as well. There was plenty of woe to go around, and these guys (and many others) pointed it out. I was surprised to see the man I most expected to use the word WOE – poor old Job – actually didn’t use it but once or twice (See Job 10:15 and Job 31:3 – the latter has destruction, punishment, and misfortune for the word woe). Let’s begin, then, with a close look at the word woe.

That would give us synonyms such as misery, sorrow, anguish, distress, sadness, unhappiness, despondency, despair, depression, regret, gloom, melancholy, and – in more modern terms – really bummed out. Another word that has a nearly equivalent connotation is alas. Alas for me, I am undone. Alas, all is lost! Alas, there is no more. Alas, our love has gone. In our Key Verse, we might have it read, “Alas for the shepherds destroying and scattering my sheep!” How unfortunate it will be for those who lead others astray. What sorrows await those who fail to see that goodness is done from all and in all!

As I read passages literally filled with woes, I realized there are woeful times for us, warnings of impending woe, in most of what I read. It isn’t just enough to say, “Woe is me!” It isn’t enough to say “Woe to us!” We must say, “Woe is us!”

I know a few of you use the links I give you to see the Scripture I recommend for your review. Please recall that this is the whole purpose of these essays – to get us to open up the Bible and actually hear it speaking to us in our hearts and minds. I’m going to give you a very short list of woes, and I encourage you to at least open the link and see how many different ways the calamities of disobedience and inattentiveness can fall upon us.

Isaiah 5:8-22
Matthew 23:13-26

Isaiah 45:9
Revelation 12:12

One passage in particular, and not in this list, is Jude 1:10-22. I’m going to share that with you in three parts because I think we can learn something there. In Jude 1:1-13, Jude states that he is writing to a certain Christians who were being infiltrated by teachers who claimed to have a different Gospel than the one preached by the Apostles. He compares them to predecessors who also taught errant doctrines, and then continues:

Jude 1:10-13 10 But these people slander whatever they do not understand, and they are destroyed by those things that, like irrational animals, they know by instinct. 11 Woe to them! For they go the way of Cain, and abandon themselves to Balaam’s error for the sake of gain, and perish in Korah’s rebellion.* 12 These are blemishes on your love-feasts, while they feast with you without fear, feeding themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved forever. *(See Numbers 16 Moses had urgently warned Korah and his supporters that these imposters should be shunned for they are about to die). The warning in Jude continues in the following:

Jude 1: 14-16 14 It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage.

Here the author cites an apocryphal book (Enoch). We see that he states the Lord and his Saints (the Holy Ones) will come “to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” I was struck by the phrase deeds of ungodliness. This certainly applies to our modern culture of death where everything is disposable, nothing is true, and the value of even life itself is “negotiable.” The World is increasingly sharply-divided on such issues as abortion, euthanasia, social and economic justice, and the whole concept of universal morality and ethics. Relativism rules in all things, though not in all persons.

He continues with, 16 These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage.” Sadly – woefully – wherever division takes hold, both (or should I say all?) sides claim the absolute right to make their position supreme as bombastically as possible. They are critical of everything and everyone whose “world view” differs from their own. Yet, in our hearts we know that all those pretentious assertions for all quarters cannot possibly all be right because they are so contradictory – often even internally contradictory! There is ONLY one Supreme Behavior that we should espouse: Godliness. But who among us can claim that for ourselves? At the very most, the answer would be “not many.”

The author of this Epistle goes on to say in Jude 1:17-22 17 But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 for they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” 19 It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to  eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some who are wavering>

What phrase in that passage caught your eye? For me it was 19 It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. (See other translations of Jude 1:19) In my view, things are being stirred up by those who love evil in the World – and especially in their lives – so that they can make the claim “No one has the right to judge me.” Belovéd, as you well know, that is not true. God will evaluate our actions. Christ will atone for those actions in which we failed to be obedient. What we need to do is to discern what is good and what is not good, between what is godly and what is ungodly. Hypocritical judgment is to be avoided. Sensible discernment is to be embraced. It is true that we are warned “Judge not lest ye be judged.” (See Matthew 7:1) those who quote that to us argumentatively often miss what follows in Matthew 7:2-5. We need to clean up our own act before we trounce someone else’s. The Apostle Paul tells us to “test all things.” (See 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 – especially verse 22). To “judge” means to separate, to distinguish, to make or come to a choice – to issue an opinion between what is right and what is wrong, and judgment is based on commonly held rules of law. If one throws out everyone else’s rules and insists on following one’s own, that is not judgment; that is folly. When we weigh events, people, and values in our own lives, do we judge what is right and wrong, or do we discern in our hearts what the Holy Spirit speaks? The difference is in being devoid of the Spirit for 19 It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. Perhaps the worst, and potentially unforgivable, position is the self-righteous proclamation “You are utterly and unequivocally wrong and therefore worthless.” We don’t have the right to think like that.

You may recall the adage often attributed to Albert Einstein about judging a fish as incompetent because it cannot climb a tree. In the same way, we cannot condemn someone as utterly and unequivocally wrong and therefore worthless because they strongly support abortion, or believe people with different ethnicity, religion, or sexuality are an intolerable blight on humanity. We can however condemn those views, those tenets of their principles which we discern are not godly. Another version of that we often hear is, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Not entirely biblical, but certainly worth thinking about. To help you think about it, I’ll give you one other link and seriously implore you to read the whole passage: Romans 12. If you feel that’s too much to ask, just at least remember this from Romans 12:9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. If we do that, it doesn’t have to be “Woe is us.” It can be “Blessed are they.” By doing so, we can avoid scattering the sheep of the LORD’s pasture. 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to  eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some who are wavering.

If any of us is convinced that it’s everyone else who is wrong, we may be among those wavering.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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