Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pay attention

Station Arts Centre at Night - photo by Rod Andrews

I’m teaching a Bible class this morning based on Isaiah 48. The chapter is addressed to the Children of Israel during the period of Cyrus the Great’s defeat of the Babylonian Empire and his subsequent release of the Jewish captives to return to Judah.

Speaking for God, Isaiah says something like: If only you’d paid attention to my instructions earlier when you were still in Judah. You would now be rich as if a river of good fortune had rolled over the land. Your success would have been as unstoppable as the waves on a stormy sea. The population of Judah would rival that of any kingdom on earth; you would be rejoicing in the multitudes of children and grandchildren surrounding you. The well-being of your nation would have been secured for all time. If only you’d listened to me!

Bob MacDonald, science consultant to the CBC’s The National, explained how La Ninya caused the massive rainfall that’s been flooding Brisbane. When asked if there were other factors in the tragedy, he replied that the human factor was significant. Brisbane, like New Orleans, is built on a delta, the low-lying deposits of a river as it exits into the sea. A swamp in other words. Humans like to be near the water. As a result, Brisbane inhabits a flood plain of sorts that is very obviously vulnerable to such disasters.

We might think of some of the river valleys in Canada where people have chosen to live too near the water or in low-lying areas vulnerable to similar flooding.

If only the builders of Brisbane, New Orleans had paid attention to the lay of the land.

Paying attention, though, is seemingly not enough. Acting communally on what we know and have heard is quite another problem. Climate change is going to alter substantially the quality of life on much of the globe. We know this, and yet our leadership (the current government) encourages us to clap our hands over our ears and pretend that it’s all business as usual.

Someday we’ll look back and say, “If only we’d paid attention earlier when we were still in Judah.”


  1. Hello George,
    Islam speaks of the sin of "heedlessness"- engaging in threatening activities while being deliberately and happily unaware of the negative consequences of your actions. I think the sin of heedlessness would be a good candidate to be included in a modern version of the 10 Commandments.

  2. Hello, George,
    Having done a presentation on Psalm 103 last Sunday in which we focused on many of the attributes of God and his love and care for us, I submit, after reading your blog, that the world is to a large degree, disregarding the 1st commandment,'You shall have no other gods before Me.'and Jesus response to the question,"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40). In someone, somewhere,disregarding these injunctions lies the root of a great many problems. Marianne