Reading Ramblings – January 3, 2021

Date: Second Sunday after Christmas – January 3, 2021

Texts: 1 Kings 3:4-15; Psalm 119:97-104; Ephesians 1:3-14; Luke 2:40-52

Context: It’s the last Sunday in the season of Christmas, and the readings today center on the Word of God, the Word John testified in the Christmas lesson who came into the world and the world did not know him. That Word – since the Fall – undergirds the world but is a stranger to much of the world that lives in denial or rejection of it. Jesus as the Word made flesh is fully consonant and consistent with the written Word of God. Jesus is the embodiment of the wisdom of God, wisdom sought by and granted to Solomon. Wisdom by which life is ordained and sustained, and which we are wise to live in accordance with. Jesus cannot be inconstent with the Word of God as He is the Word of God. Therefore He is drawn to that Word even at a young age, and is obedient to that Word in terms of his relationship to his parents. To live at odds with the revealed Word of God would be sinful, and Jesus has come to be just the opposite – perfect.

1 Kings 3:4-15 – Solomon ascends his father David’s throne, the living embodiment of God’s promise to David of a royal dynasty. He is not a child when he begins his rule – probably being about 40 years old and used to court life and undoubtedly familiar with his father’s style of rule and the nuances of power and influence and control. Yet despite his comfortable upbringing he humbles himself before God, and rather than asking for the things we might be inclined to in our selfishness, asks for wisdom. God responds by not simply giving Solomon his request but blessing him in numerous ways. Solomon will not prove to be a perfect king, but he will be a good one, guided as he is by the gift of God’s wisdom. By abiding in the wisdom of God Solomon can be assured he will know how to govern God’s people. In doing so he foreshadows Jesus, who in combining the Old Testament roles of prophet, priest and king will perfectly rely on obedience to God the Father throughout his Incarnate ministry just as He has relied on it through all eternity. What Solomon does impressively but imperfectly Jesus will – as the Suffering Servant Isaiah prophesied – accomplish perfectly but not impressively, by worldly standards, going so far as to allow himself to be thoroughly humiliated in public execution. But just as Solomon’s wisdom remains famous even to this day, Jesus’ perfect obedience remains more so, and of infinitely more value and import to us today than the wisdom of Solomon.

Psalm 119:97-104 – A psalm fitting for King David to have spoken, following his dream and God’s gift of wisdom! Psalm 119 is an acrostic extolling the perfection of the Word of God as a rule for life. God’s law is the source of wisdom, a wisdom that is deeper and more sure than the wisdom of the world (v.98). Likewise, to be intelligent in the ways of the world is necessarily of secondary importance to being wise in the ways of God (v.99). It’s possible to be quite intelligent by worldly standards yet repeatedly struggle because of a rejection or denial of God’s wisdom (v.100). The world offers options the Word of God often calls us to reject or avoid, and in time we find that this is better, even if it requires a sacrificial obedience in the short term. Over time, this teaches us to hate false options and disobedient choices, knowing that adherence to God’s wisdom and Word is inevitably the better choice.

Ephesians 1:3-14 – The key in hearing Paul clearly here is to listen to what he says, and avoid the urge to fill in things he doesn’t say. God the Father is to be praised for Jesus the Christ, through whom we are blessed completely in terms of our sanctification and justification before God. These are things we don’t sense here and now, can’t discern objectively, but they are spiritual realities that will, in time, be made physically plain and clear as well. And indeed, God who knew all things at the start of creation truly did and does choose us for his own, as we are his creations and are rightly intended for relationship with him. Is there anyone the Father did not choose? There is nothing in Scripture that would lead us to that conclusion and so we don’t add that in here. This isn’t a matter of God wanting or choosing or predestining some and not others. His good gifts are poured out to all of his creation, even though not all of his creation will accept them. The source of our redemption is not in some hidden decision of God’s at the dawn of creation, but rather in the blood of the crucified Son of God (v.7), as part of his plan to unite all things once again (v.10). If some reject and resist this plan it does not mean God has predestined them as such, only that He allows them that option, just as He allowed Adam and Eve the choice between obedience and disobedience – with all the attendant consequences. Chris is the center and cause and means of all the things we are blessed with – spiritual blessings (v.3), adoption (v.5), the praise and glory of God the Father (v.6), redemption and forgiveness(v.7), an inheritance (v.11), and the sealing of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our future inheritance (vs. 13-14). All things come through Jesus, the crucified Christ-child.

Luke 2:40-52 – Jesus is the Word of God incarnate. As such, it’s only natural He would gravitate to where that Word is central – the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of God’s dispersed people. Luke is assembling various reports concerning Jesus – essentially interviewing different people to get their stories. I presume he spoke with Jesus’ mother and she shared this story with him. Did she share others? Did Luke only choose this one to include among several others? Or did this one stand out in Mary’s mind? We won’t know this side of eternity. But the passage gives us insights into the character and devotion of Mary and Joseph as they raised their family. They were obedient to the expected duties as God’s people, a theme seen last week in their redeeming Jesus at the Temple according to Exodus 13 and also offering the appropriate purification sacrifice for Mary after her pregnancy. These are people who take the Word of God and their identity as his people seriously. It is to be expected they emphasize this with their children as well, and Jesus takes this to heart perhaps a bit more strongly than was expected! For four days Jesus found not only conversation and people to teach him humanly regarding the Word of God, He was also sustained somehow in these efforts! People must have given him food and shelter so He could continue his inquiries and learning. His surprise at his parents’ surprise is touching but also a little bittersweet. Already the bonds of son and parent are beginning to unravel, a process fully completed as Mary watches her son crucified. Jesus is not willfully disobedient but rather caught up in the excitement of the Word. Jesus will have other, later experiences in the Temple, most of them confrontational. But here, as the young boy on the verge of manhood He exhibits dedication to the Word of God and the Temple as the appropriate place for that Word to be explored. In due time He become in his own right the replacement of the Temple, the fullness of the Word made flesh rather than the Word surrounded by impressive stones.

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