I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
2 All day long I have held out my hands
to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good,
pursuing their own imaginations—
3 a people who continually provoke me
to my very face,
offering sacrifices in gardens
and burning incense on altars of brick;
4 who sit among the graves
and spend their nights keeping secret vigil;
who eat the flesh of pigs,
and whose pots hold broth of impure meat;
5 who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me,
for I am too sacred for you!’
Such people are smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that keeps burning all day.
I will not keep silent but will pay back in full;
I will pay it back into their laps—
7 both your sins and the sins of your ancestors,”
says the LORD.
“Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains
and defied me on the hills,
I will measure into their laps
the full payment for their former deeds.”
and people say, ‘Don’t destroy it,
there is still a blessing in it,’
so will I do in behalf of my servants;
I will not destroy them all.
9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,
and from Judah those who will possess my mountains;
my chosen people will inherit them,
and there will my servants live.
10 Sharon will become a pasture for flocks,
and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds,
for my people who seek me.
and forget my holy mountain,
who spread a table for Fortune
and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny,
12 I will destine you for the sword,
and all of you will fall in the slaughter;
for I called but you did not answer,
I spoke but you did not listen.
You did evil in my sight
and chose what displeases me.”
but you will go hungry;
my servants will drink,
but you will go thirsty;
my servants will rejoice,
but you will be put to shame.
14 My servants will sing
out of the joy of their hearts,
but you will cry out
from anguish of heart
and wail in brokenness of spirit.
15 You will leave your name
for my chosen ones to use in their curses;
the Sovereign LORD will put you to death,
but to his servants he will give another name.
16 Whoever invokes a blessing in the land
will do so by the one true God;
whoever takes an oath in the land
will swear by the one true God.
For the past troubles will be forgotten
and hidden from my eyes.
I read these verses and I think about Puno, I think about the friends and contacts we have made, the people with whom we disciple on a regular basis. Take verses 1 and 2, God has come to Puno, He has brought us, a team of nine adults to spread His Word, love, compassion, mercy and joy in a city that has ignored Him, a city that has not cried out for His help but instead focuses on partying, drinking, women and worshiping idols. God out of His compassion, brought us here to this city. It was not because there was a great number of people searching for His face, God showed up here in Puno and said, "Here I am, Here I am".
And despite God's presence, the people of Puno continue to provoke God to His face. People here literally burn incense, worship idols, are involved in witchcraft, participate in sacrificial ceremonies and more. And I'm not just talking about Puno in general, I'm talking about people we know, people who allow us to come into their house and talk about the Bible. Let me give you a few examples.......
Isabel lives in Huascar, we have been meeting with her for a few months and she has been fairly consistently faithful in receiving us and The Word. She's very interested in the Bible, the history and the reasons we believe why we do. While my parents were here in June, Isabel gave my mother witch blessed cocaine seed and quinoa seeds to take back home (which she obviously did not do). Isabel told us that Mom should put a candle in the seeds and light the candle on Tuesday's and Thursday's and she would be blessed with riches. Despite trying to teach her directly from the Word over a period of weeks, she still truly, from the bottom of her heart, believes in this witchcraft and believes its okay.
Another example, Ines. Ines lives in Yanamayo where she runs a little tienda and knits for extra money. I love Ines, she is incredibly sweet and I love her hugs and warmth. She told me at one point that she does not have faith in any religion that will not allow her to worship her idols. She prays to virgins and saints, she has a saint in a glass case in her tienda to which she prays and lights candles. Her idol worship is a form of security to her and has expressed the difficulty of letting go of this known practice close to her heart and life.
Serafina, she also lives in Yanamayo. She is very generous and has opened up to Franci and I tremendously. At the very beginning she was shy and unwilling to share with us. But now, we can hardly get her to be quiet! The last time we visited her, we sat on her bed chatting, catching up, talking about life, struggles, and the family. During this visit, she talked about her father and his illness. Very openly, she told us that they were going to bring in a witch doctor to try and heal her sick father. Then the next week, we went to visit her and her father opened the door and told us Serafina was busy and would not be able to meet with us. We can only assume that at that very moment, they were with the witch doctor as her father does not live with her but came into town specifically for this occasion.
And, Lola. Lola is a tiny old woman who climbs the hill to Alto Huascar where she lives. That's how we originally met her, as she was slowly but steadily climbing up the steep hill to her house. We ran into her on the street the other day and she was carrying a rabbit in a bag. We chatted and she explained her grandson is sick, she was taking the rabbit up to her house where they would hover the rabbit above the boy's body. The theory is that the rabbit would die after hovering it above the sick body, then they will cut the animal open and decide which organ cause the death. Whatever organ failed the rabbit, is the problem with the child, then they will treat the child's illness according to the dead rabbit.
These are just a few examples of idol worship, witchcraft and other practices that rightfully so, provoke our Lord. It's the next few verses that worry me. God is faithful to those who love Him, He is compassionate and merciful, but He punishes those who defy Him. Verses 6 and 7 are very clear. God will pay pay for utter defiance, God does not have mercy on those with whom He's tried to reach and yet they continue to pursue their own imaginations. Literally, people here continue to climb the mountains, burn incense, sacrifice animals and blatantly defy our Lord.
So first, God reveals Himself to a people who have yet to realize their need for Him, to a people who believe in other God's, to a people who pursue their own will and way of life and see nothing wrong with that. God holds His hand out to them, He stretches His arm to touch them and retrieve them from the muck. But, the people decide they don't want to follow Him but would rather continue in their own ways of defiance to Him, they tell Him to "Stay Away". God has no problem punishing those who reject Him, He will even punish their children and their children's children for their blatant defiance and rejection.
But in verses 8-10, God reminds us of His faithfulness and His redemption. When there is hope of a true servant, He will not destroy, He will not punish, but He will instead bless those who seek Him. I have hope, I have hope there is juice left in some of these grapes, in some of these women, Isabel, Ines, Serafina, Lola, and more. I have hope that they will not be punished and destroyed, but that God would take the little juice, the little they have, and use that to turn them into wine, use that to turn them into true servants of Him. But they must call on His name, they must seek Him and be willing to change their beliefs and ways. Pray for these women and countless others. Pray that these chains of idol worship and witchcraft would be broken in the city of Puno.
These beliefs and actions are literally part of the culture and way of life in Puno. In Yanamayo they had to move the police station from one building to another. So they painted the new building and have fixed it up to look professional. But not only have they painted and fixed up crumbling walls, they also put in a 'capilla', in English it translates to a 'chapel'. It's not a chapel like we would think of, but a small building encasing a virgin or saint 'doll' for prayer and worship. This is a governmental building, the police station, with a religious capilla. It got me thinking and now every police station I go by, I look to see if there is a capilla and sure enough, every single police station has a capilla. So do the markets, random street corners, the top of many hills and other places as well. These beliefs run deep, not only Catholic beliefs, but ancient Inca beliefs and witchcraft, these actions are taught and part of life here. But, that doesn't mean they grieve the Holy Spirit less, that doesn't mean God will decide its okay. Verses 11-12 reiterate the seriousness of the situation, reiterate the fact that God will not tolerate this defiance, God will not tolerate being ignored after He compassionately tries to reach out. The consequences will be death, hunger, thirst, shame, anguish and brokenness.
It's depressing and scary but true. The good part is, the blessings. For God's true servants, those who leave behind all kinds of evil and instead of pursing their own imaginations, pursue His Will and path. For those, He promises mercy, life, food, drink, joy, a new life, a new land and forgiveness.
Reading this part of Isaiah does make me realize the seriousness of this situation, the seriousness of being in Puno, a city of idol worship and witchcraft. My prayer is that there would be juice left in these people, in these grapes. I pray that through Franci and I, through Garren and Geremias, through Trevor, Sixto and Nelson, and through Chad and Amanda, God would turn these drops of juice into faithful servants, servants who will be blessed by our Lord instead of provoking people who are sentenced to judgement and death. Pray with me. Help me in prayer for these lives, these souls and their future, pray that they would be drops of juice turned into true and faithful servants, blessed and accepted by our Lord.