Reading Ramblings – March 26, 2017

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 26, 2017

Texts: Isaiah 42:14-21; Psalm 142; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Context: We are blinded by sin. It’s easy for us to forget this, to treat sin as a matter of what we do or don’t do separate from our ability to rationalize or understand things. But blindness affects not only what we do but how we perceive and relate to the world around us. There is no aspect of us that is unaffected by sin. The readings for this Sunday center around the issue of blindness, and the vision and light God desires to restore to us. The result is God’s glory but also our very real and eternal benefit.

Isaiah 42:14-21 – Previous chapters have spoken words of comfort and encouragement to God’s people while deriding the foolishness of those who place their hope in idols and false gods. In Chapters 41-42 God the Father elaborates on his Chosen Servant, the one through whom He will deliver his people and bring judgment on those who resist his sovereign and divine will. Today’s reading picks up God’s voice in a song of praise to God for his action. God who has restrained himself as He watches his own people wander away and others seek to dislodge him from his people’s hearts, but that restraint has come to an end and God will act powerfully and irresitibly (vs. 14-15). So pervasive and all-encompassing will his actions be that the ways will be unknown. The blind will be guided, and the darkness that surrounds them will turn to light as the ground levels, making their passage possible. But those who persist in blind worship to idols will be shamed and shown as fools. Israel was supposed to be God’s messenger to the world, bringing the light of God’s Law to the nations. He has failed this utterly. Israel is blind and deaf to the revelation of God, and so his blindness and deafness exceeds that of all others. Yet in all of this the goal is not to remove or eliminate the Law of God, but rather to magnify it to show it for the true glory that it is – the very purpose and intent of God the Father. All creation will one day fully understand that God’s Word has been right in every respect all along.

Psalm 142 – The psalm is introduced by way of explanation – composed by David in a cave. Perhaps this is a reference to the events of 1 Samuel 22:1, or perhaps 1 Samuel 24. Regardless, it is a beautiful cry to God for help and guidance. The speaker recognizes their limitations. They are overwhelmed with fear because their enemies wait for them, but they have no ally to stand with them, nobody to watch over them and protect them. Human help fails, but God can save and so it is right to cry out to him for deliverance. The speaker exhorts God to save them so that they might praise God and join those who love him and rely upon his mercy and grace. Throughout the psalm the idea of vision and perception is woven. Traps are hidden, God is told to look to the speaker’s right side, and none takes notice of the speaker’s plight.

Ephesians 5:8-14 – We are new creations in Christ, through faith and baptism we die with Christ and are raised to new life in him – our old behaviors and ways of thinking about the world are no longer appropriate or relevant. Having summarized in vs.3-5 some of those previous ways of acting and thinking, Paul exhorts the Ephesians rather to walk in light, since what happens in the light is good (as opposed to the list of bad things previously, which happen under cover of darkness and shadow). Exposure to the light is the means by which the dark things lose their power. Personal transparency in our temptations and struggles is a means of freeing ourselves from their destructive power. Our first instinct is to hide our sinfulness and temptation but Paul assures us that the opposite is far better for us!

John 9 – This healing episode in Jerusalem is an extended consideration of the nature of blindness and the power of God to heal our blindness and give us sight. The physical restoration sight to the man is only the beginning of this process. Through the episode, the man who can now see is moving towards spiritual sight and understanding. He moves from not knowing who Jesus is (v.11 – the man called Jesus) to recognizing him as a prophet of God (v.17) to finally worshiping him as the Son of God (v.38).

In contrast, the religious officials remain blinded the entire time, refusing to see in Jesus’ actions the hand and affirmation of God the Father. Instead they lash out in frustration at the formerly blind man, angered that they are powerless while Jesus, who they seek to expose as a fraud or an apostate is able to do amazing things. The man with restored sight is last described humbly worshiping Jesus. The religious leaders are last described in proud indignation, throwing the healed man out of their sight.

The man had no predetermined attitude or knowledge of Jesus. As such he was able to be led to proper faith in a very short time. The religious leaders were convinced that they fully knew and understood Jesus (John 7:27), yet they do not (John 1:10). They remain blind as they insist that they alone can see clearly.

Our sin blinds us, and even those saved in Christ do not have full sight restored – yet. This should lead us to a degree of humility in regards to those things of the faith that are not explicitly defined by Scripture. We see our savior, but if we are convinced that we completely apprehend him, completely understand him, we are on dangerous ground, possibly demonstrating blindness to what He is doing among us or where He wishes us to follow him.

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