Connections 10.11.2020: The Song of the Ruthless

Isaiah 25:1-9

“The song of the ruthless” is a phrase found in this week’s Scripture passage. The full sentence reads,

When the blast of the ruthless was
            like a winter rainstorm,
    the noise of aliens like heat in a dry
            place,
you subdued the heat with the shade
            of clouds;
    the song of the ruthless was stilled
(vv. 4b-5).

The prophet has in mind a mighty city that God has brought down because of its oppressive practices. The ruthless oppressors had been making a lot of noise and doing a lot of damage, but God silenced and stopped them. In so doing, God has given shelter to the poor and needy (v. 4).

The prophet doesn’t say what city he is talking about. The best guess is Babylon, which eventually becomes a symbol for oppressive empires (the name Babylon is used in place of Rome in the book of Revelation).

But there are oppressive forces in every age. Not all of them are empires, but some of them are. And even those that may at first glance seem to operate independently usually do so with the approval and support of entrenched systems. The economic, political, and legal scales are tilted in favor of the rich and powerful. Many of them will do anything to maintain their riches and power and to acquire more. If they must oppress others to do so, they will. They do.

Here’s the thing, though: the consistent witness of the Bible is that God isn’t on the side of the powerful oppressors. Babylon, Nineveh, Rome, and many more empires throughout history have eventually crumbled. Perhaps they collapsed of their own weight. But the biblical prophets don’t hesitate to say that the powerful oppressors collapse under God’s judgment. They also don’t hesitate to say that God will bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly. In fact, that’s what Mary said when she praised God for the child she was going to bear (Lk 1:51-53). Jesus came to fulfill God’s purpose of reversing the fortunes of the powerful and the weak, of the arrogant and the humble, and of the rich and the poor.

The prophet speaking in our lesson text also looks forward to the great banquet that God will throw when God makes all things as God wants them to be. When that time comes, the song of the ruthless will be stilled forever. Their taunts will cease. Their revelry will end.

That time is yet to come. But it is coming.

What we do in the meantime, until the song of the ruthless is stilled? We sing a more beautiful song. It is the song of the redeemed. It is the song of those who join God on the side of the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized.

What do we do in the meantime, until God throws the great banquet in which all God’s people will be included? We hold the best and biggest banquets we can. We welcome all to our table who will come. We host the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized.

Discussion

  • What “wonderful things” does the prophet praise the Lord for (v. 1)? What wonderful things should we praise the Lord for?
  • Do Christians and churches ever seem to take the side of the oppressors over the oppressed? Of the powerful over the weak? If so, why?
  • One of these days, the Lord will finish the Lord’s work of bringing down the proud and lifting up the lowly. One of these days, God will throw a great banquet for the redeemed. One of these days, God will destroy death forever. One of these days, the Lord will complete the process of salvation. Until the Lord does those things, how can we participate in what the Lord is doing? How can we prepare for what the Lord is going to do.
  • How can Christians be certain that God “will swallow up death forever” (v. 8a)? What do we know that even the prophet didn’t know?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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