Your Hands Are Full of Blood


By Nate Hartman

November 14, 2012

Your Hands Are Full of Blood“You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water.  The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire.”

I was convicted today, as I finished reading Isaiah, chapter one.  Recently I’ve felt like this oak, one that is browning and not flourishing.  I’ve measured the work of my own hands and questioned its value; I’ve wondered what I’m missing, why I feel the passion and the purpose are waning.  Maybe I am this man whose work will fan the flames.

This morning I was grabbed by the shoulders and shaken, and the One who awakens hearts spoke these words, tracing the lines of the reality that I’ve not been seeing: “Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption…The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?  Stop bringing meaningless offerings!  I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.  They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening…Your hands are full of blood!”

Even now, reflecting and writing, I’m tempted to justify myself.  I know that others will read these words, and I don’t want them to think poorly of me.  I don’t want to be misunderstood.  But that is all vanity and blindness.  I am a citizen of the sinful nation.  I am the guilty one, the evildoer; my every pore is sweating corruption.  Though I desire that others care about the work in which I’ve invested myself, I face the truth that my efforts are often selfish, that they miss the mark…that we miss the mark.

“Wash and make yourselves clean.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.  Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

So long I’ve been trying to hold things together, to make things work.  I justify my efforts with the lingo of a worthy cause; I hope those illusions might convince others to walk with me along this road to nowhere.  And I’m not alone on this road, because others who share my longing and desperation are whispering the same poetry.  “See how the faithful city has become a prostitute!  She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her – but now murderers!  Your silver has become dross; your choice wine is diluted with water.  Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts…”

I don’t want these words to describe me.  I am embarrassed to wonder what you will think of me when you read this.  I am sad to think of my co-laborers in this work in this way.  And yet  I know that I have been driven by unsecure security, by gain that leads me to loss, by a grasping at things that I can’t seem to hold onto.  I have missed the mark.

“…They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.”

Sure, I’ve given a nod to this need – to service, to “sharing the love of Christ with communities” – but do I even know what this means?  What is the cause of the fatherless?  What is the case of the widow?  Who are the oppressed?  Do I know them?  Do I plead for justice for them?

I want this to mark a turn, and I hope that others will step out of line and turn with me.  I’m tired of trying to protect myself; I’m weary of the impossibility of making a business of ministry, of seeking profit in relationship.  I need people – I need you – to help me learn what I don’t know, to help me find the way to DO this:  to defend the cause of the fatherless, to plead the case of the widow, to defend the oppressed.  This needs to be the wellspring of my life, of the work of NCSAA.

“’Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’”

In those words of the Lord, the truth resounds – that I, that we, cannot establish our own firm foundations.  We cannot chase after the good things while neglecting the right things, those of justice.

Please, raise your hand in some way if you share my passion for this – if you are a friend who can encourage or pray with me in this, or if you are a leader or a school or a team or an athlete that desires to be willing and obedient in this, as well.

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