Thursday, April 29, 2021

Trees & Grass - Reflection on Revelation 8:7


After our Bible study group discussion last night on Revelation 8, the seventh verse continued to whirl in my mind, awakening me through the night, spinning off a variety of thoughts until finally I was moved to get up and write.

My focus is on the phrase, "the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up." (KJV) Perpetuating my line of thinking is John Wesley's Notes on this verse, "Some understand by the trees, men of eminence among the Jews; by the grass, the common people. The Romans spared many of the former: the latter were almost all destroyed."

Considering current events, those of eminence among us (excepting those represented by "the third part of trees") tend to be spared the difficult impositions of poverty, disease, and oppression while so many (represented by "all green grass") tend to suffer unbearably. Political and economic deference is given to the trees, while all the grass is sacrificed. 

For the past year or so, the global pandemic has been raging around the earth like "hail and fire mingled with blood" (the other part of verse 7). The horrific racial injustices perpetuated for centuries has been more recently coming into full public view as witnesses are becoming able to share videos of many tragic incidents. Massive populations around the world are displaced by starvation, war, homelessness, discrimination, human trafficking, and every imaginable kind of severe brutalities. Cruel politicians advocate for enacting legislation to further bolster the privileged at the devastating expense of the disadvantaged.  

It is as though the proverbial first angel has sounded the trumpet and all these calamities "were cast upon the earth."

But were they? 

Perhaps this Revelation imagery reveals more about our own personal responses to the conflicts of humanity than of an arbitrary design of the Deity.  

How does it make us feel when we consider the gruesome plight of innocent masses of children and adults, not only in the ancient past or distant future, but in our present time?  How can we pray? How can we advocate? How can we act? Moreover, what can we change in our own personal lives to diminish our participation in anything that contributes to the suffering of others and to expand our cooperation for the betterment of all Creation?

Jesus taught us to understand all the Scripture through the lens of love. 

Applying that method of interpretation to this verse challenges us to hear and respond to the inherit invitation to not only observe the Tribulation, but to actively mitigate its effect. 

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