Reading Ramblings – July 20, 2014

Date:  Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, July 20, 2014

Texts: Isaiah 44:6-8; Psalm 119:57-64; Romans 8:18-27; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

 

Context: Because I’m out of town this week, the readings are the traditional lectionary assignments for this Sunday, rather than the Old Testament narrative texts I’ve been using the past few weeks. 

 

Isaiah 44:6-8 — Isaiah 44 continues a theme from the previous two chapters, that of God as the one and only God.  Chapter 42 ends with admonitions to Israel for not acknowledging this

Chapter 43 begins to reassure Israel that in spite of her fickle faithfulness, the Lord is faithful and will deliver her.  Chapter 43 ends similarly, and Chapter 44 once again reasserts the Lord’s faithfulness.  These three verses bring this theme to a climax, before a long section mocking the practice of idol-worship begins.  Here God invites other challengers to the title of ‘God’ to make themselves known.  Of course the challenge is pointless—there are no other gods.

 

Psalm 119:57-64 — Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms, an acrostic utilizing each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  Each section then extolls the Word of God.  Heth is a Hebrew letter.  Verse 57 begins by asserting that the Lord is the speaker’s provider.  How could the speaker but keep the words of his God?  Verse 58 asks for the Lord’s favor, that the Lord would be gracious as He has promised to be, rather than judging the speaker on the merits of his or her own actions, thoughts, and words.  Verse 59 indicates that the speakers actions should be guided by the Lord’s words and their testimonies to this God, further spurring the speaker to obedience.  Verse 61 admits that these efforts are flawed, however.  Sin entices and entangles.  Even in the midst of such ensnarement the knowledge of the Lord’s Law remains, a beacon to correct the speaker’s sinful ways and call us back to the Lord’s ways.  Verse 62 encourages praise at all times.  We praise God not because of others who see us, but because the Lord alone is worthy of our private, personal praise.  But verse 63 asserts that we should choose our companions carefully, entrusting ourselves to the company of others who love the Lord.  All creation sings the praises of the Lord and the worthiness of his Word, so the section ends with a request that the Lord would further instruct us in his will and way. 

 

Romans 8:18-27— All of creation struggles and strains with the pervasiveness of sin.  Suffering is the result of sin, and that suffering encompasses all of creation.   But such suffering should not merit our full attention, as compellingly as it might demand it!  We suffer, but we do so in the anticipation of a far greater glory that will eclipse this veil of tears and make it seem a small thing.  So creation, which was brought into suffering and sin through humanity, now waits and longs with humanity for liberation, for redemption and the full experience of that redemption, purchased with the death of our Lord and Savior.  This is the hope given in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We hope for this, not that we can see it (though the resurrection of Jesus was an assurance of this hope).  Rather we hope and wait patiently for what is promised but has not yet been fully received.  This leaves us weak and vulnerable, but we are not alone in this weakness.  The very Spirit of God dwells with us and within us.  Our sinful limitations sometimes obscure the words we seek to glorify and beseech our God.  But the Holy Spirit within us is not so limited, and is free to pray on our behalf, to intercede when words and strength fail us.  This Holy Spirit prays in perfect unity of will and purpose with God our Father, so that all our needs are perfectly expressed even when our words seem weak and insubstantial. 

 

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43— We might imagine that things would be so much better if God would rid the world of evil and sin.  He can do this, of course.  Instantly, at his Word, He could restore all things.  However to do so would apparently endanger people.  Those who criticize God for not stopping evil—such as the recent massacre in Isla Vista—arbitrarily.  Yet Jesus asserts that it is better that God allow the faithful and the unfaithful to coexist a while longer.  It is not a matter of whether or not evil will be separated and judged, but a matter of when and how

We are led to trust and hope, then.  Not that God would exempt us from the effects of evil and sin, but rather that in his perfect timing, we would be gathered into his kingdom safely.  Judgment is certain, but by delaying that judgment, God’s people are preserved, and we might go so far as to say that God’s timing is perfect, whereby as many as possible will come to faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s delayed judgment.

Earlier (vs. 10-11) Jesus explains that this story and the ones around it are told to reveal secrets about the kingdom of heaven.  They convey truth to us.  Not mere facts or data but truth.  While it may look as though evil carries the day, the fate of evil is predetermined and unavoidable.  The only question is how best to preserve the faithful until that day and time. 

As the Lord assured his people through Isaiah, salvation will come.  It has come in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and it will be concluded in his glorious return.  Until that day, we suffer the effects of our own sinfulness and the sinfulness of others, while never giving up hope for the redemption we have been promised in Christ.  We are able to suffer until that time in the hope and assurance that the waiting has a reason and purpose.  Our suffering may make it possible for many others to be sustained in their faith or even brought to faith. 

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