Sunday, July 17, 2011

Prophet without Honor

      Saul has slain his thousands, David his ten thousands, and I have vanquished one perniciously hissing toilet.  It wasn't pretty!  With a sneer I threw down the innards I had ripped from its gaping abdomen and sheathed my pipe wrench.  With a little imagination you can make something out of nothing.  My wife humors me because she has been gently suggesting for months that I put a stop to that incessant leak.  We've probably wasted enough water to flood California's Imperial Valley. 

      I've been busy preparing a final decisive refutation of Wellhausen's source-strata theory of the Pentateuch.  Rigorous scholarship, for me, takes concentration, especially since my Hebrew proficiency went limping southward from Tell el-Amarna some years ago.  And my eyes are bad.  But as I was saying, Wellhausen is just hashed-over Hegel.  Friederich Hegel hash!  You don't have to worry about it, really.  I was just explaining all this to the guy who was watching me at the hardware store to make sure I didn't rip open the celluloid package and steal the parts I needed, instead of buying the whole toilet repair kit.  German scholars swallowed the presuppositions of Hegelian philosophy, and it's been nothing but gastric pain for the rest of us. 

      While we're on the Pentateuch, it was Adam's supremely bad judgment upon hearing his wife's advice that is responsible for my cursed toilet.  Picking that sour mango--or whatever it was--meant I would have to spend half the day, after all these millennia, on my knees.  You know the contortions involved in turning a wrench in a corner under a gurgling porcelain tank to remove rust encrusted fittings.  Talk about groveling.  My imprecations at this humiliation invoke some Canaanite deity. 

      I have better things to do.  A writer writes.  I'm not Alexander Solzhenitsyn, but as I was saying about the curse, "By the sweat of your brow you eat bread in this world." 

      Couldn't I have been exiled?  There is some nobility in that.  I have the patience of David waiting it out at the Cave of Adullam.  But that's another story, a rather long one I'm afraid.  I could have written it but, the toilet valve... .  Exile?  Persecution?  No, just sweat and grime.  On Friday evening you repair the toilet.  Sunday morning's lesson relates King David's conquests, and then you go to work on Monday with neither pride nor passion.  I suppose having more than a glimmer of what is wrong can be the beginning of hope. 

      When the mountain of the Lord's house is established above the hills, there will be no leaky plumbing.  All nations will flow to it.  And all the drains will flow unclogged away from it.  Roto-Rooter will go out of business.  The swords of David's renegades and Saul's army will be beaten into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks.  This sublime prophecy comes from a period when cultic impurity and social injustice had polluted the city of Jerusalem to the degree that God's judgment was about to fall.  In 586 BC the Babylonians leveled Jerusalem.  Still, Isaiah's soaring lines mount up over the ruins of the city. 

      I'll survive my chores.  Probably next week I'll manage to dig up the crab grass along the curb, while Isaiah's immortal verse rings in my ears: "As the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and the dry grass sinks down in flames, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust."  Clip, clip.  The Wisteria is getting so out of hand I have to drive over it to get to the carport.  Isaiah had advantages, lips touched by a seraph with a burning coal.  I'll have to hang on.  Taking the long view, I can hope the Lord will find better things for me to do than grinding my knuckles while wielding the wrong sized wrench on rusty metal.

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