The story of Noah and the ark is a long-time favorite in Sunday schools, and with good reason. Kids love animals, and the story is rife with animals. Kids love counting, and the story is rife with numbers. Kids love learning that the rainbow is a symbol of God’s promise never to eradicate all life from the face of the earth again, and the story is rife with a rainbow, which God explains is a symbol of his–okay, anyway. But then, after the dust has settled and Noah’s family gets back to the business of living life, there is some very non-G-rated content that goes down. And that’s why I’m starting my research for today’s chapter by googling “Genesis 9 what’s up with Noah getting drunk and naked.”
Now we’re into the narrative. There are two events in the second chapter of John, a wedding with a problem and a Passover that starts with a bang.
The word “harlot” appears nine times in this chapter. The passage details Israel’s sins against God, and it’s pretty clear in what light he views their disobedience. He brings numerous charges against Israel, but at their core, they’re all forms of unfaithfulness: ways of giving yourself to things that don’t deserve you because they’re not your all-powerful, all-good Creator.
The qualifications for overseers and deacons comprise Paul’s primary topic in this chapter. Some versions translate the word for “overseer” as “bishop;” the original Greek word is pretty much a direct analogue for the English “overseer,” so as long as you’ve got an understanding that bishops are supposed to exercise oversight for the churches they serve, I’d consider “bishop” a perfectly acceptable translation. But enough translation notes: have at those qualifications.
You know the grapes of wrath, right? No, not the novel by John Steinbeck; he based the title of his novel on the phrase “grapes of wrath” from the first verse of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, also known as “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.” You know the line, right? “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord: / He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” Well, that refers back to Revelation 14:17–21, in which an angel executes God’s judgment on the earth by harvesting “grapes” for the winepress of the wrath of God. Before the basket press and horizontal screw press became widely used in the late Roman Empire and early Middle Ages, workers would juice grapes by stomping on them–and in the winepress from John’s vision in Revelation, the workers in the winepress squeeze out blood that runs for two hundred miles. And I used to think the chain of references ended there, but no.
Okay, time to write. Salvation is a theme in this chapter. Let’s look at it.
Religion has historically had no single consensus on what to do about alcohol. The Jewish Havdalah tradition that marks the end of each Sabbath involves drinking glasses of overflowing wine together. In a more extreme example, the Greek Cult of Dionysus saw drunkenness as possession by the spirit of the god of wine Dionysus, a means of communion with the divine, and according to some records the Roman Bacchanalia frequently degenerated into drunken orgies. On the flip side, Islamic Sharia law prohibits the consumption of alcohol entirely, based on particular verses of the Quran. In practice, historical Christianity has landed on various positions between these two extremes. But what does Isaiah have to contribute to the Judeo-Christian perspective on The Hard Stuff?
At first read, it seems to me like Isaiah 27 is all over the place. We’ve got Leviathan, we’ve got a vineyard, then we’ve got judgment and forgiveness in the same breath and…women making a fire from the broken-off limbs of a calf? I’m not sure how to bring it all together, so I’m just gonna hit it point-by-point and see what we get.
If you haven’t read the oracles of judgment in Isaiah 13-23, you’re in luck: the twenty-fourth chapter functions as a summary of judgment against the whole earth. I do recommend reading Isaiah 13-23; it may contain unfamiliar history and uncomfortable punishment, but not every Bible passage has its significance and value right on the surface. That said, the very first verse of today’s chapter will catch us up to speed if necessary: “Behold, the Lord lays the earth waste, devastates it, distorts its surface and scatters its inhabitants” (24:1). God will visit his wrath on everybody and his brother.
There are some things that it’s bad to be good at. For example, it’s bad to be good at getting drunk.