Reading Ramblings – July 23, 2017

Reading Ramblings

Date: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 23, 2017

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

Context: If last week the theme was the reliability of God’s Word as something that we can thoroughly and completely trust, this week that reliability is contrasted with the foolishness with which we often neglect God for other sources of comfort and hope. We so easily find ourselves devoting great amounts of time to planning and arranging the aspects of our lives to our satisfaction, often times leaving God on the margins. Yet as we soak in his Word He is able to guide and lead us, his Word forming the path we walk both consciously and subconsciously. And in his Word we are able to better contextualize and make sense of the difficulties of life. Difficulties that are not evidence of God’s absence or lack of care, but which are opportunities to see God’s strength and love sustaining and nurturing us in the midst of our pain.

Isaiah 44:6-8 – Back in Chapter 41, the Lord calls his people to task over the issue of idolatry. He then goes on in the ensuing chapters to describe his people’s unfaithfulness and his own faithfulness, interspersed with promises of what He will yet do on their behalf. But now He comes back to the topic of idols, beginning with these verses questioning his people as to what other gods they think there are. God invites any other gods that might exist to step forward and make themselves known. He invites them to prophesy and tell of things yet to be as God has. The question is rhetorical. There are no other gods. Silence answers his invitation, leading God to give a detailed description of the ridiculousness of worshiping an image made by human hands in vs. 9-20.

Psalm 119:57-64 – The great acrostic psalm, each section begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet and each line in that section begins with a word that starts with that letter. The overarching theme of all of the sections of the psalm is the blessedness and beauty of God’s Word. Here the psalmist acknowledges that God’s Word is sufficient for our needs. In v.59 the psalmist acknowledges that his steps are not naturally aligned as they should be – he needs God’s Word to guide his steps. Of course not everyone is so inclined, and at times the plots and schemes of the wicked try to waylay and throw him off course. Even in the midst of such struggles God’s Word is foremost in his thoughts, and there is no time of the day when it is not appropriate to dwell on God’s Word, allowing it to fill him and guide him. This perseverance creates a community – a community of those faithful and trusting in God’s Word. We who spend so much time listening to the news or reading papers and magazines should consider the beauty and promise of allowing God’s Word to fill us each day, providing us with a steady and secure peace in the midst of whatever joys or struggles we encounter!

Romans 8:18-27 – Moving the major theme and subject of his letter to a close, Paul stops to deal with the issue of suffering. If we are the heirs of such eternal and divine blessings in Christ, are our lives perfect and beautiful? No. Firstly, we continue to struggle against the sin inside of us as Paul explained in Chapter 7. Secondly, we struggle in the midst of a broken and sinful world. We face real struggles like sickness and disease, old age and death, not to mention the possibility of persecution and ridicule on account of our hope in Christ.

However Paul gives three reasons why such trials and struggles can be endured. First, the struggles we face in life are small in comparison to the eternal joy and glory we look forward to. We carry within us new life in Christ, but that life is not fully revealed yet. We await it’s full revelation – indeed all of creation waits for that day along with us! And oh, how wonderful that day will be! In that day the struggles of this life will melt away like a bad dream that dissipates by the time we reach the breakfast table!

Secondly, we have the Holy Spirit of God himself within us interceding on our behalf. When we don’t know what to say to God, what to pray, what to ask. When we are exhausted emotionally or physically we are not cut off from God, but rather the Holy Spirit of God speaks on our behalf.

Thirdly, you have to wait until next week’s reading for the third reason and the conclusion of this section of Romans!

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 – Jesus tells another parable and then explains it to his disciples. For those who question the existence of evil, this isn’t a bad parable to take them to. Does God have the power and wisdom to take out evil? Yes, He does. But in the process, apparently his faithful might be endangered. Some on their way to faith might never reach that safe harbor. The problem of evil is not one to be laid at God’s doorstep but rather at Satan’s. It is he that tempted Adam and Eve to sin, knowing that if he succeeded untold suffering would ensue. It’s like an enemy that hides behind civilians to avoid being targeted. Ultimately, it isn’t that Satan won’t be brought to account. It isn’t that evil won’t be reckoned with and judged appropriately. God is not delaying out of some perverse joy in our suffering. Rather, in his perfect knowledge and wisdom, He waits so that as many people as possible can respond to the good news of Jesus Christ and be reconciled to him. He is intent on depriving Satan of as many people as possible, to the glory of God and our benefit and salvation.

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