Reading Ramblings – July 16, 2017

Reading Ramblings

 

Date: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – July 16, 2017

Texts: Isaiah 55:10-13; Psalm 65:1-13; Romans 8:1-17; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

 

Context: I’ve opted to include the first 11 verses of Romans 8 with this week’s reading.  I think they provide good context to the moral exhortation of vs. 12-17, which are the officially assigned verses.  I think all of the verses this week emphasize the reliability of God in terms of his Word.  It isn’t difficult to say something, and all of us have had experiences where expectations that were set through others’ words were not met.  You and I fail to keep our word, regardless of how hard we try.  Being finite, there are limitations to what we can do and accomplish and sometimes those limitations are much closer and realer than we expected.  But for God who is eternal and all-powerful, his Word is trustworthy.  There is no set of external conditions that can foil God’s intentions.  And God does not contradict, lie, or change his mind.  Therefore, we can and should trust what He tells us!

 

Isaiah 55:10-13 – In the preceding verses God has painted a beautiful picture for his people.  Now He assures them that what He intends, He accomplishes.  We needn’t doubt.  These promises are for us.  Not simply here and now (and perhaps not here and now), but certainly in the larger, eternal sense.  We strut and fret for our limited spans upon this mortal stage, convinced all-too easily that what we do or don’t experience here and now is what is most important.  But God’s promises are not restricted to the here and now.  We will know peace and joy, and therefore we wait anxiously for God to bring this about.  First as hope in our heart that sustains us when present circumstances are unpleasant, and then finally and completely when our Lord returns.

 

Psalm 65:1-13 – This psalm praises God for what He does for his people.  We come to him and prayer and He responds!  He brings us forgiveness for our sins – our greatest and most primal need (vs.1-4).  He demonstrates his righteousness and power through creation itself which demonstrates these attributes daily (vs.5-8).  God provides for his creation so that we are blessed.  He gives us everything we need to survive (vs.9-13).  If there is want and need, it is not because God’s provision is inadequate but because our distribution and use of these gifts is sinful and broken, necessitating repentance and receiving the forgiveness that the psalm began with.  There is never lack of a reason to praise God so long as we have breath and hold fast to his promises.

 

Romans 8:1-17 – Having just dealt with the reality of ongoing sin in the Christian life, Paul returns to first of all assure us that despite our sin, we are indeed in Christ and therefore forgiven.  It isn’t our behavior that has necessarily changed (certainly not completely!).  Rather, it is our identity.  We are no longer selling ourselves into the slavery of sin.  At the very least/beginning, there is now a conflict, a disquiet and unease that we did not know before as sin prowls our hearts and minds and bodies.  We know what right is.  And we want to do it!  All this is possible only through God the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.  If our identity has not changed to people who are now in Christ, then no amount of good works will ever make any difference.  Paul answers a common assertion today – it is not what we do that makes us good.  It is who we are, and whose we are, that makes us good.  As such, we begin or continue the fight against sin.  It is not who we are any more, so how can we not find it abhorrent and seek to weaken its hold on our lives?  How can we, who have been bought from slavery to Satan by the Son of God’s blood, desire anything more than to live lives of gratitude and joy as defined by our obedience?  We are no longer enemies of God, no longer rebels, but beloved children who can come to our heavenly Father knowing that we are loved above all creation, and therefore can expect our Father’s love now and for all eternity, to our benefit and his glory.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – The Word of God is the active power of God.  He who spoke creation into existence declares us his children by his Word.  His Word creates our new identity in his Son, Jesus.  Without God’s Word, no life is possible, let alone growth.  His Word carries life within it, is itself life and power and vibrancy.

 

How is it then that if God desires  all should be saved (Ezekiel 33:11) that apparently all will not be saved?  It is not a matter of God’s Word, but rather of our receptivity to it.  We continue the careful balancing of divine power and authority with the ability to reject the Word of God.

 

Matthew positions this discourse following several disparate reactions to Jesus’ preaching and teaching in Chapter 12.  Jesus is followed by crowds (12:15) that include both admirers and detractors.  Some think that Jesus is diabolically motivated and empowered.  Others demand further proofs and evidences that they might be convinced about what He says.  And presuming that 12:46-49 is referring to the same event as Mark 3 (likely given the demonic accusations in both passages as well as reference to a familial delegation), then his own family thinks that He’s crazy.  Why such varied responses to the Word?

 

Different soil conditions.  But note that while the soil conditions vary, the sower does not adjust himself to take this into account.  Seed is scattered.  It is scattered widely and generously.  Promising soil might turn out to be problematic.  Soil that looks inadequate might result in growth.  The sower sows – he or she is not a soil analyst.  That is God’s job alone!

 

But with the right conditions, the Word of God does what the Word of God has always done – it creates life.  Not just temporarily and not just barely, but eternally and abundantly!

 

 

This week I dealt with several questions about both the origins of the Old and New Testament as well as the necessity of accepting the Old Testament entirely – including difficult things such as a world-wide flood or people living to amazingly old ages.  It struck me (in retrospect), that to the seeker or the skeptic, the claims of Scripture seem fantastical, and no more verifiable than any other allegedly sacred scripture.  Why should someone take seriously the Bible rather than the Qu’ran or the Vedas or the Book of Mormon?

 

It’s all wrapped up in Jesus.  It isn’t necessary (and perhaps it is impossible!) to convince someone of the historicity of Adam and Eve or the Flood or Methuselah.  But it is much easier to bring them to the Gospels and introduce them to Jesus.  It is much easier to walk them through the Gospels and ask them whether they read more like the mythologies of the Greeks or like eye-witness testimony and description.  It is much simpler to confront them with the Resurrection.  This is the first decision that needs to be reached – who is Jesus?  Is Jesus who He said He was, or was He a charlatan or a lunatic? That decision hinges on whether the Resurrection is a reality attested to by historically reliable witnesses and documentation.  If you come to the conclusion that – as unlikely as it sounds – Jesus did indeed rise from the grave after three days, then you need to take seriously everything He said.  And Jesus repeatedly and consistently quoted the Old Testament as truth and treated it as such.

 

You have no such test for the Qu’ran or the Book of Mormon or the Vedas or any other sacred text.  No such obviously historical and considerable event as the Resurrection.  Every other Scripture says trust me.  The Bible says trust Jesus, based on the fact that He predicted his death and resurrection and both things happened.

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