Reading Rambling – November 10, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost – November 10, 2019

Texts: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 148; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8, 13-17; Luke 20:27-40

Context: The final three Sundays of the liturgical year form a kind of mini season of their own. Unofficially, but pointedly. The three Sundays end the Church year where it began – in anticipation of our Lord’s return. But while Advent leads us to such anticipation through the story of our Lord’s Incarnation, these last three Sundays talk more openly about his Second Coming, his return in glory to put sin, death, and Satan to flight eternally and inaugurate a new creation, a physical reconciliation of heaven and earth, as it were. This culminates in the final Sunday of the liturgical year, sometimes referred to as Christ the King Sunday.

Exodus 3:1-15 – We have here a theophany – the glory of God revealed somewhat directly to someone in creation, in this case as a bush on fire but not consumed by the fire. Elsewhere in in the Old Testament (Genesis & Exodus, particularly) the presence of God is also described as the angel of the Lord. Clearly based on the rest of this passage, this is not just a messenger but God himself (v.6). God chooses to engage Moses’ curiosity and then to reveal his identity to him, first in reference to Moses’ ancestors (v.6) and later by name (v.14). It is clear Moses knows of this God from his reaction of prostrating himself (v.6). Only after God tells Moses who He is does Moses become afraid. God’s purpose here is to let Moses know God’s plan for his people the Israelites, and the particular role Moses will play in this plan. It is a role Moses is reluctant to accept, but God is insistent upon. God will deliver his people from slavery and genocide, which is a foreshadowing of Jesus saving us from sin, death, and Satan. And just like the Israelites, we have seen God working out this plan through his Son, but we have not yet been brought fully out of captivity as the people of God were. We look forward to that day, when no mere Moses but rather the very Son of God returns in glory and splendor to usher us in to an even more perfect promised land.

Psalm 148 – Basically following the order of creation in Genesis 1, the psalmist exhorts to praise all the various creations of God. Everything and everyone God has made have been made for praise of him first and foremost. This is their proper and rightful function. The physical, material universe as well as the living creatures within it find their proper role in praising God. Verse 5 makes this explicit – it is by God’s command that they exist at all, they owe their entire being to him and so should give him praise. Verse 6 should probably be interpreted less as a dogmatic statement about the eternality of creation, but rather emphasizes God’s creative and sustaining power. That which He created, He sustains. Verses 11-12 designate the various segments of humanity from highest to lowest (at least according to cultural values of the time). Finally God’s chosen people are exhorted to praise him in the last two verses, acknowledging him not only as creator but also as savior, rescuing them over and over again from their enemies, and providing them with leaders from Moses and Aaron to the judges to King David who lead them and guide them as an embodiment of his saving works, the tools and means through which God protects and watches over his people. They above all people are exhorted to praise God because they have the deepest relationship with him.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-8, 13-17 – Now we hear the themes of the day more clearly. Paul writes to clarify confusion among the Thessalonians. In his first letter he wrote to comfort them and assure them their deceased friends and family in Christ would by no means miss out on the joyful moment of Christ’s triumphant return. But apparently confusion persists. Perhaps they have received a letter alleging to be from Paul telling them the Day of the Lord has already come (v.2). Certainly they’ve heard some contradictory information that Paul wants to clarify. As he does throughout 1 & 2 Thessalonians, his primary means of doing this is to remind them of what he’s taught them already. In v. 5 he reminds them of this – there are certain things that must precede our Lord’s return, and if we get panicked as to whether or not He has already come back, we need to think back on these things. The lawless one is not clearly defined by Paul – or any other Biblical book – but seems to point to a final, arch-enemy of the people of God and proclaims himself to be god. Interpretations to peg this man of lawlessness as some historical figure have the problem in that any historical figure, no matter how arrogant or evil, has disappeared into death without our Lord returning. While we know the source of this lawless one’s power (Satan, v.9), he has apparently not arisen yet, though undoubtedly there have been many prototypes. The net result, however, is not for God’s people to fear, but rather to cling to what they have been taught in Scripture, rather than allowing themselves to be led astray by falsehoods and delusions. So we wait, but we wait actively for our Lord’s return, concerning ourselves with his Word so we are not among those to be deceived through the shallowness or perfunctory nature of their faith in or knowledge of the Word of God. This is not to raise the false argument that faith is primarily cognitive, but to the best of our respective, God-given abilities, we should come to the Word of God joyfully and thankfully to hear of his love for us, and in so doing inoculate ourselves against false and erroneous beliefs and ideas.

Luke 20:27-40 – We look forward to our Lord’s return. We joke about looking forward to having better looking/younger/stronger bodies in the resurrection than we do now. Yet we have more questions than answers when we consider this topic. How will the resurrection and life in eternity as body and spirit together work? What we must be careful of doing is making assumptions based on how we know things to be now. In this case, we can’t assume marriage works (or perhaps even exists) in heaven as it does here. The key seems to be v.36 – we will not give or take or be given or taken in marriage in resurrection eternity because we will never die. Earthly marriage – or our conceptions of it as fallen creatures – is limited in nature because we die. When we no longer die, our earthly conceptions or practices of marriage will no longer work the same way. We will be sons (and daughters) of the resurrection, rather than sons and daughters of sin and brokenness. This will make us equal to angels in that we are eternally in the presence of God. It does not make us the same as angels, but brings an equality to bear, and equality perhaps best described as mutually enjoying the presence of God eternally. Perhaps this will be enough to fill and satisfy us completely.

I’ll admit I have a hard time with this teaching. The thought of not being married to my wife for eternity is a cause of sorrow to me (though perhaps less so to her!). Yet I ultimately have to trust the wisdom of God. I can’t know what eternity will be like, other than that it will be completely and totally good – something I have no ability to conceive of accurately. Thus I trust that if marriage does not exist in eternity, we will be fine with that when we reach there. In the meantime, I should not distrust the Word of God because it doesn’t make logical sense to me all the time. My logic is limited and flawed, affected just as much by sin as my mortal body. In faith I trust God to make these things known in their proper time and measure, and to appreciate his gifts to me here and now even in my fallen state.

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