Reading Ramblings – July 5, 2020

Date: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 5, 2020 – COVID-19

Texts: Zechariah 9:9-12; Psalm 145:1-13; Romans 7:14-25a; Matthew 11:25-30

Context: God gives his good gifts to his creation. Even now, in the midst of our sinfulness, God continues to pour out upon his creation more than enough to satisfy everyone. God is not stingy, but we are not very good at sharing his gifts. But we look forward to a time when God himself ensures perfectly that his gifts are enjoyed perfectly. A time when we are freed from the limitations of sinful powers of varying sorts in our world. A time when thanks and praise to God flows from all lips because all equally receive and perceive his goodness as the giver. We his people here and now are not only to be about the business of sharing his goodness throughout creation but also telling of his blessings in our lives. On this weekend when Americans celebrate our freedom, we as American Christians remember our true and lasting freedom is in Christ.

Zechariah 9:9-12 – God is coming to his creation! The true and rightful King is coming to demonstrate his rule and power over all creation. This is cause for rejoicing! Not much is known about the prophet Zechariah. He is mentioned in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 along with Haggai, evidently with an important role in the rebuilding of the Temple after the return from the Babylonian exile (circa 530 BC). Nehemiah 12:16 lists him as the son of the priest Iddo who returned from the Exile with Zerubbabel. Some see this as conflicting with Zechariah 1:1, 7 that indicate Zechariah is Iddo’s grandson rathher than son. We presume Nehemiah 12:16 simply omits the intervening generation, a practice not uncommon with Biblical genealogies. Zechariah is also evidence that the roles of priest and prophet were at some point combined

Psalm 145:1-13 – I lopped off verse 14 from the assigned reading, as it seems to be out of synch with the previous section, introducing a new line of thought. The dominant theme in the first 13 verses is giving testimony, witnessing to the power of God. The speaker begins in the first person in verses 1-3, but then expands the scope of this praise, indicating that one generation should witness to the Lord’s goodness to the next generation. How easy it is to forget this as part of our Christian life and witness, sharing with children and grandchildren how God has blessed our lives! Certainly in times like these COVID-19 days, we have much to give thanks for and much to share with others about how God continues to bless us and watch over us. This care is summarized best in vs.8-9, making it clear that God does not limit his goodness just to his faithful, but extends his blessings to all of his creation. The net result of this should be his blessed creation giving thanks to God and acknowledging him as the source of these blessings (vs.10-13).

Romans 7:14-25a – It’s helpful to reread verse 13 that was included in last week’s reading as the opening thought for these verses that follow. If the Law was the means by which sin was made known and defined in creation and in me personally (vs.7-12), it might be wondered whether we would have been better off the Law. Doesn’t the Law bring death where otherwise there would be no death because we would have no concept of sin? Hardly! Sin is to blame for death. Sin that worked initially in the flesh and blood of Adam and Eve and all their offspring, and that was only later codified and clarified to the people of God under Moses. The Law has always existed and therefore sin is always a violation of the Law woven into creation. The Law serves to rightfully condemn the sin I find within me. And I need both that clarification and condemnation of my sin because I would otherwise often be conflicted and confused regarding my sin. Sin isn’t simply what I want or don’t want. Now, in Christ, I’m very aware that while I may want what Christ wants, I act oppositely. So good and bad are not simply a matter of what I do or don’t do, or want to do or don’t want to do. I am in fact enslaved to my sin still at a certain level, acting it out in thought, word and deed even when I know better and want better. So the Law is necessary to clarify this for me so I know what sin really is and can condemn it within me, trusting in the deliverance that doesn’t come from knowing the Law or somehow learning to perfectly keep the Law but only in the person and work of the Son of God, Jesus the Christ, on my behalf.

Matthew 11:25-30 – Oftentimes I’ve heard it said, If only Jesus were here today, doing what He did 2000 years ago, it would be so easy to believe! Yes Jesus says otherwise. It is not as simple as seeing is believing, as Jesus has just finished condemning Capernaum for unbelief in spite of Jesus’ preaching and teaching and healing and driving out demons there. They had all the evidence they could want of who Jesus was, but still rejected him. We can’t trust our own senses or our own reasoning skills! As such, we cannot reason ourselves to faith nor deduce faith logically, but faith must be revealed to us, shown to us and presented to us either to receive in gratefulness or spurn in arrogance or idiocy. The greatest gift in all of creation history isn’t received by everyone because not everyone will allow themselves to receive it as a child, unable to contribute anything of their own, and discarding whatever they thought was good and valuable in their lives as of no consequence to their salvation.

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