Sunday, August 8, 2021

TRUMAN'S BEARD AND THE CLOCK STRIKES TWELVE - Isaiah 61 Devotional #7

 
"...The LORD has anointed Me ... to proclaim ... the day of our God's vengeance ..."
– Isaiah 61:1-2b
 
In Mike Beard's own words, "How many times can you interview the same subject, even if he's Harry Truman...?"

Beard was the lone reporter assigned to cover scientific happenings around Mount St. Helens during the cold spring of 1980.  "It wasn't the most glamorous assignment," he says in retrospect.  "It was an hourlong round-trip drive from Portland; not much was happening other than the earthquake swarms, and I wasn't the only reporter quickly running out of fresh story ideas."  But then there was Truman....

Harry R. Truman -- No, he was NOT named after our 33rd president! -- was a crusty octogenarian World War I veteran, Prohibition bootlegger, prospector, pink-Cadillac owner, and 50-years proprietor of a magnificent mountain lodge at Spirit Lake.  

As March wore on and geologists' warnings intensified, everyone abandoned the mountain -- property owners, residents, campers, thrill-seekers.  Everyone, that is, except Truman.  When one of the tremors knocked him out of bed at night, he simply moved his mattress to the cellar.  "The mountain's a mile away, and it ain't gonna hurt me!" he said.  

State officials and other emissaries showed up at Harry's lodge.  "That mountain is a giant clock," they said. "No one knows when it will strike twelve; but when it does, your number's up!"  They tried ordering him to leave, reasoning with him, imploring him.  But none was as persistent as Mike Beard.  Plying his skill a newsman, Beard pressed the old curmudgeon with his most pursuasive arguments in the form of interview questions, but still nothing could sway him.  On the contrary, Truman seemed to enjoy his new stardom -- as the news articles resulted in stacks of fan mail, even marriage proposals.

Until May 18, 1980 ... when Mount St. Helens struck twelve.  Harry R. Truman, folk hero and mountain man, became part of his beloved mountain ... instantaneously buried, lodge and all, under 150 feet of volcanic material.

* * *

So far, we have been following the epic Messianic prophecy that is Isaiah 61.  To launch His public ministry, Jesus took the synagogue podium in His hometown of Nazareth, unfurled the Isaiah scroll, and read from chapter 61: just the first two verses, nothing more.  As a matter of fact, He stopped mid-sentence in verse two: "...The LORD has anointed Me ... to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor..."  Then He sat down, never finishing the thought: "... and [to proclaim] the day of our God's vengeance."

WHY?

According to the Gospels, Jesus' earthly message could be summed up in a single sentence: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!"  He was here to proclaim -- to announce -- what was about to take place when the King of the Universe, God Almighty, would start the great clock of the Messianic Age of Grace through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.

But what about the "day of our God's vengeance"?  Did Jesus just invalidate, or at least gloss over, the portentous and much-alluded-to "Day of the Lord" -- when He Himself should sit in judgment at the end of the age?  What's up with that?

Actually, no mystery here.  As the wise author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens."  See, it wasn't Jesus' moment to announce the end of an age that had not yet begun, the striking of a clock that had not yet begun to tick.  Rather, His message that day, and throughout His three-plus-years of earthly ministry, was the Amazing Grace soon to be available through His own shed blood.  Hallelujah!

Jesus Himself clarified what His ministry was, and wasn't, focused on.  A couple of examples:

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3:17 (NIV)

"If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day." - John 12:47-48 (NIV)

WHO, THEN, WILL SOUND THE WARNING ABOUT THE DAY OF JUDGMENT?

Yet again, we are reminded of Jesus' commission:  "Just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." (John 20:21b, NASB)

But in this case, we've been ordained not only to continue His ministry that began with the first verse-and-a-half of Isaiah 61, but the whole rest of the chapter as well -- including warning our world about the coming Day of the Lord.  

Beginning with the very first apostolic sermon -- Peter's, in Acts 2 -- we hear the message loud and clear of the "... coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord," and the call to "Repent..." as "...with many other words he warned them...."

Paul echoed the warning, for example, when he admonished Governor Felix about the "judgment to come" (Acts 24:25), and in his Mars Hill sermon: "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead." - Acts 17:30-31 (NIV)

The Age of Messianic Grace is ticking away and, when it strikes twelve, it will be a "doomsday clock" indeed for those who have spurned their Savior's love.  Tragically, Harry R. Truman is alive and well -- living next door, walking the halls of government, teaching in our schools and universities: "The mountain's a mile away, and it ain't gonna hurt us, nohow!"  But, as God's grace would have it, for every Truman there is a Mike Beard.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father, thank you that You so loved the world as to send Your precious Son to save us from ourselves.  Cause me to feel Your urgency for a world that's closer to its Day of Vengeance with every tick of the clock.  In whatever capacity You have set me, by Your Holy Spirit anointing, and -- like Mike Beard -- by means of whatever skills and giftings You have endowed me with, please help me communicate Your gospel of love to those who need to hear.
In Jesus' name. Amen"

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Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 8/8/2021.