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June 2011

Sour grapes

They looked so nice on the vine but the acid bursts into your mouth and you realise they are unripe. You spit them out proclaiming, “I didn’t want them anyhow!” “Sour grapes” has come to mean disparaging something you had previously desired – probably because you can’t attain it.  That particular meaning originates with Aesop […]

Great is thy faithfulness

Much of the bible’s description of exile sounds at a distance. It happens to those people who deserved it for having committed those sins.  Lamentations feels very different.  Here the anonymous author (traditionally thought of as Jeremiah) lays bare the horror of Jerusalem’s destruction.  He describes the whole thing as a first person lament.  He […]

Can a leopard change his spots?

Can people change?  Really change? Aristotle thought so.  And here’s how he thought change can happen: “it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man.” If you want to change, well then, perform righteous acts and you will become righteous.  It’s ancient wisdom.  But […]

Be horribly afraid

What could be so bad that it warrants this warning?  A scientist morphing into an insect?  An alien monster rampaging through a spaceship?  What could have possibly produced: “Be horribly afraid”?  What dread terror might have birthed this saying? Answer:  The refusal of God’s abundant grace.  According to God, that is the horror of horrors! […]

A new heavens and a new earth

Isaiah could be called a tale of two cities.  Yet both cities are Jerusalem. There’s an old Jerusalem – the Jerusalem in which Isaiah’s listeners live.  They face a terrifying judgement that is first threatened by Assyria and then effected by Babylon.  The city is sacked, the house of God (the temple) is destroyed, the […]

Holier than thou

Isaiah addresses the blindness of human unbelief.  He proclaims the LORD’s word to a “people walking in darkness.”  But while he insists that human wickedness is a disease, he never prescribes human religion as the cure.  No, healing is found only in the Righteous King- He is the LORD of the temple vision, He is […]

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard

It’s probably Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 64 that has become the best known version of this phrase: “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man…”  (1 Corinthians 2:9) Such words can be the equivalent of the magician’s puff of smoke.  When a bible teacher […]

No rest for the wicked

It’s the sort of phrase your cheery postman might say on his rounds.  “Must push on I’m afraid, no rest for the wicked eh?”  We all titter politely and on with our day.  Yet such levity is incongruous. This saying is the biblical equivalent of verses such as “these shall go away into everlasting punishment” […]

Seeing eye to eye

When we use this phrase it’s usually in the negative: “I’m afraid, we don’t see eye to eye on this issue.” Not seeing eye to eye is about disagreement and the very nature of the phrase communicates an inequality of stature, perhaps also of power. What would it take for two antagonists to start seeing […]

Bind up the brokenhearted

In the Bible, hearts can be failed, faint, glad, hard, willing, stirred, sorrowful, obstinate, lifted up, circumcised, wicked, grieved, hot, astonished, trembling, melted, inclined, merry, rejoicing, naughty, offended, dead, desirous, despising, lion-like, bowed, upright, understanding, large, turned away, turned back, sore troubled, tender, double, perfect, tried, prepared, free, united, proud, soft, walking, deceived, enticed, hypocritical, […]