Well, that’s quite an opener.
So what is one of the things that people think isn’t addressed in the Bible but actually is directly addressed?
What’s the passage?
The passage opens with Isaiah 65:1-7, which makes this argument:
61:1-2 – God held out his hands to Israel, but they were a wicked people.
65:3-5 – A list of Israels specific rebellions: idolatry (65:3), divination and law breaking (65:4), proclaiming their own holiness above everyone else (65:5).
65:6-7 – God promises to repay Israel for their wickedness.
Then, in 65:8-10, God promises to not utterly destroy Israel, saying that God will not destroy all Israel for the sake of his servants (65:8), the offspring of Jacob and Judah will possess God’s mountains (65:9), and the valleys will be a place for the herds of “my people who have sought me” (65:10).
Following those promises, there is a contrast in 65:11-12 between two groups of people (“my people who have sought me” and a second group) and there is a contrast in 65: 13-16 between the blessings of the first group and the curses of the second group.
Who is that second group? 65:11 tells us:
11 But you who forsake the Lord,
who forget my holy mountain,
who set a table for Fortune
and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny
The second group is given 3 labels:
1. “You who forsake the Lord” – That’s the most general label for the group. They’re the ones who forsake (read “abandon” or “walk away from”) the Lord.
2. “Who forget my holy mountain” – That’s a little more specific label for the group. They’re the ones who forget (Hbr – “shakeach“, an adjective that only appears 1 other place in the scripture; Psalm 9:17..and it’s not a flattering term there either) God’s holy mountain. God’s “holy mountain” wasn’t Mount Sinai; it was a figure of speech originally used for the special place in which God dwelt that, by Isaiah’s day, became a shorthand for the plateau upon which Jerusalem sat. These Israelites who forsook the Lord were forgetting about Jerusalem; the capital city of Israel. They were Jews who weren’t remembering the most basic, foundational ideas as to what made them who they were; they were Jews who didn’t know about Jerusalem (or the God who ruled the nation from there, or all the history and revelation associated with Jerusalem). This second group was a group of people doing things that were so absurd that they were laughable. What kind of Jew doesn’t know about Jerusalem?
3. “Who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny“. This is the specific label for the group. These Israelites, the ones who had walked away from Yahweh and were so disconnected from Judaism that they didn’t remember their own capital city (or deity), were ones who “set a table for Fortune”.
Now this gets actually interesting, because in the Hebrew there’s some interesting terminology. The word “fortune” is actually the Hebrew word “gad”. Gad (capitol “g”) is a proper name (the seventh tribe of Israel), but “gad” actually means “fortune” or “good fortune”. In fact, Gad (the person) was named after “fortune”. Genesis 30:11 is the only other place where the adjective appears and when Leah’s servant bore her a son the bible records Leah saying:
“Good fortune has come!” so she called his name Gad.
The name “gad” is from the word “fortune”, and the idea behind “fortune” is one of distribution; i.e. you have had the blessings meant to be distributed to others actually distributed to you (more than the average person’s lot of blessings). The Israelites in Isaiah 65 “set a table for Fortune”, meaning that they were setting out food for their idol, and that idol’s name was “Fortune”.
Not only that, but they were ones who “fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny”. “Destiny” is translated from the Hebrew word “meni”, and that word only appears once in the whole scripture…but the root of “meni” is “manah”, and that has to do with numbers/counting (usually vast numbers). The Jews would “fill cups of mixed wine” for “Destiny”, meaning that they’d set aside spiced wine as a drink offering to their idol (you don’t actually drink spiced/perfumed wine), and that idol’s name was “Destiny” (or numbers).
So these Israelites who were the antithesis of “my people who have sought me” were those who worshiped the idols of fortune and numbers. Sound familiar? They worshiped covetousness and chance; they longed for having lots of stuff and thought that numbers were the means to get that stuff.
Sound a bit like gambling?
I thought so too.
So then, what does the rest of the passage say about these folks?
– Instead of eating, they’ll go hungry (65:13),
– Instead of drinking, they’ll be thirsty (65:13).
– Instead of rejoicing they’ll be ashamed (65:13).
– Instead of singing out of joy, they’ll cry out and wail because of pain and broken spirits (65:14).
– Instead of their names being remembered as a blessing, their names will be remembered as a curse (65:15).
– They will be totally forgotten (65:16).
That sounds a lot like gambling.
Know anyone who struggles with basic necessities (i.e. paying rent) because they’re always playing the lottery?
Know anyone who daydreams about winning the lottery and does nothing about the decrepit state of their lives now because they’re always chasing that daydream?
Know anyone who regrets a gambling habit that they previously thought would be the solution to their problems?
Know anyone whose life serves as an example of how not to live because of the waste that a gambling habit has made of their lives?
God doesn’t exactly talk about those who worship fortune and numbers very highly. They have a whole lot of plans, but it’s God’s explicit intent to see that every one of those plans is foiled. That leads us to a rather startling reason to not play the lottery; God actively curses those that do.
Just a quick and sobering Bible Bite for all my readers. This one isn’t exactly related to the charismatic movement at all, but it’s definitely of significance to the issues surrounding the prosperity gospel.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Totally learned something new about gambling today!” Unger