Reading Ramblings – September 25, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 25, 2016

Text: Jonah 3; Psalm 7; 3 John; Matthew 7:7-11

Context: ** We continue our alternate text selections for the remainder of the liturgical year in order to preach through Luther’s Small Catechism ** The final petition of the Lord’s prayer is a general plea for deliverance from the works of evil that surround us in this world, and particularly against the plots and schemes of our enemy, Satan. He seeks our undoing constantly. Unable to hurt God, he seeks the suffering both temporary and eternal of God’s beloved creations. So we pray for deliverance. We pray that whatever befalls us in this life, we would remain steadfast in faith in Jesus Christ until the very end, receiving the victor’s crown even in the moment when Satan seeks to tear us away from God eternally.

Jonah 3 – Jonah arrives at long last in Nineveh and preaches as he is told. Nineveh is the capital of the Assyrian empire, and as such an enemy of Jonah and God’s people. Nineveh is in the grip of evil, and destruction awaits unless it wakes up and changes it’s ways. It seems like a long shot, yet miraculously, the city responds. The king himself demands change and repentance. The destruction poised over them is averted. They are delivered from evil – their own rebellious evil against God, as well as the evil of destruction. God does not desire to destroy. His intent is always that we turn from evil, that we allow ourselves to be delivered from it to our own benefit and blessing.

Jonah is angry with God for calling him to warn Nineveh, and then sparing Nineveh when it repents. We are not to make the same mistake with our enemies. There is no one whom God does not desire salvation for. While we may need to protect ourselves from our enemies, we are never free to quit praying that they be delivered from evil and into faith in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 7 – The heading of this psalm makes it historical and personal in nature, relevant to some incident of David, of which we have no Biblical record. Perhaps, based on v.4, it involves someone with whom David has had dealings as a friend or ally, but some sort of misunderstanding has occurred, leading his former friend or ally to now become his enemy. The psalm begins as a request for protection and deliverance from a powerful foe. David asserts boldly that he is not to blame in this situation. He is apparently being blamed or held guilty for something of which he is innocent. So strongly is his assertion that he calls down death on his head if he is found dishonest in this matter (vs. 3-5). He asks to be vindicated according to his righteousness, which might sound rather bold or foolish (v.8). However David is not claiming to be without sin, but rather that in this particular matter, with this particularly adversary, he is guiltless. He calls on God to bring the situation to an end and to vindicate him. He does not specifically pray for the destruction of his adversary, only that his adversary cease pursuing him. The psalm closes with a warning – those who work evil will fall prey to it themselves (vs.14-16). Seeking unjustly the harm of another person can only end badly. David can make this request of God because of God’s own righteousness (v.17). David knows that God will sustain the righteous cause, and so he is able to give God praise even while still dealing with this difficult situation.

3 John – We are unsure who Gaius is, but he appears to be a lay person of means who has provided hospitality and assistance to Christian missionaries. The Apostle John first commends Gaius for his faithfulness (vs.2-4), and then for his Christian charity (vs.5-8). John then references some disagreement with a local church official, Diotrephes. This may have been the bishop or pastor of Gaius’ congregation, and the source of a rift that results in John and his associates being unwelcome there. John expresses his intent to come anyways and expose what Diotrephes has been doing. As a more positive example, Demetrius is lauded for the good reports that are given of him. We are not to emulate evil, the practices and means of those who secure power for themselves or act contrary to the will and work of God. Ends do not justify means, and we are to avoid evil methods even if they appear to lead to good ends. Faithfulness to good and the fleeing of evil are signs of fellowship with God.

Matthew 7:7-11 – Chapter 7 concludes the first extended teaching of Jesus that Matthew records, which began back in Chapter 5. Here, the Christian is exhorted to prayer. We are assured that in doing so, our heavenly Father hears and responds. It sounds like a blank check, but we must consider what it is that we would pray to our heavenly Father for. Is there anything we have not already received in Christ? The temporary things we ask for – health, safety, enough to eat and wear – these are things which we are promised perfectly at Christ’s return, and things which our Lord provides to us here and now, though sinfulness in ourselves and those around us may preclude us from receiving what He sends.

God the Father is then compared to a human parent. Despite the human parent being broken and sinful, we are still able to hear the needs of our children and respond appropriately to them. How much greater then, should we expect that our heavenly Father should respond to our requests? As we request deliverance from evil, is there any doubt but that God will hear and honor this request, and that despite what might happen to us, He will be with us every step of the way, empowering our faithfulness in the midst of any trial or evil?

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