And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
If the image of wine settling on its lees (dregs) in Zephaniah and Jeremiah is one that suggests stagnation and accordant ruination, the image in Isaiah 25: 6 seems to be opposite. That is, in Isaiah the wine that is “on the lees” is “well refined” and fit for God’s “feast of fat things.” The wine that is “on the lees” in Isaiah is the best wine and better, apparently, for having been kept on the lees!
What can we make of this? Maybe the best advice would be simply that these two apparently contrary images are not meant to be compared. They were written at different times and to address different situations and no responsible Bible scholar would waste any time in trying to compare or contrast them. It’s apples to oranges.
And yet. And yet. The idea in Zephaniah and Jeremiah is so familiar to those of us who occupy the pews in Middle America. This is the riff or saw or even cliché that the preachers use to warn us against staying in our “comfort zones.” We need to get out there and engage the culture, make our witness. All of that.
I wonder if it might be legitimately argued that the passage in Isaiah may be a kind of counterpoint to all of that. I wonder if there may be wisdom in allowing Christians to “settle on their lees” and be thereby deepened and strengthened, not embittered.
Not in the sense of becoming complacent or self-sufficient, but in steeping in the gospel and all that it implies. If you read Rod Dreher (and if you are concerned with the state of the church in modern life, you must read Rod Dreher) you will see constant reference in his prolific posting to the shallowness of the theology in the so-called “Evangelical” churches. The complaint he cites has to do with the church culture becoming focused on entertainment and hipness and losing sight of tradition and the deeper truths those traditions testify to. Just a few months ago I heard some people talking about someone who had left a local mega-church for greener pastures because the new church they had found had a better praise band. Dreher argues – and repeatedly cites research to support – that the generation now rising in the church is all about emotion and little else and that the churches they frequent do little to change this. In fact, they foster and even exploit it.
Thus, when confronted with any sort of sob story, these youngsters will be quick to abandon any of the church’s teachings on sexual morality. It’s all about what feels good. Come on in and turn it up to eleven.