Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13

OT: Isaiah 12:1-14:32

Today's prophecies are full of doom and gloom. There are some regarding Judah, some regarding Babylon, and some regarding the Philistines, but the common denominator is bad news for all. I think perhaps the most horrid of all the descriptions of destruction was found in 13:16-18:

"Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
their houses will be looted and their wives ravished.
See, I will stir up against them the Medes,
who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold.
Their bows will strike down the young men;
they will have no mercy on infants
nor will they look with compassion on children." Let's unpack that a little bit. The first thing that strikes me is the brutality of infants being murdered and women raped. The second thing that strikes me is the presence of God's hand in the situation. All of this, of course, is happening as punishment to Israel from God. And lest we forget that these events are from Him, verse 17 directly reminds us: "See, I will stir up against them the Medes," who will do these horrible things. These acts, it seems to me, are from God.

So, what do I do with that? You might have noticed that I go around and around on the value of the "why" question. More and more, I see that asking "why" to God is kind of futile. We will never fully understand God; we will never get all the answers; and faith is about believing in what we do not see. I don't see answers all the time, and yet I still believe. That is faith. I fully trust in God's goodness, even if I do not understand His actions at all times.

And yet.

I still ask why. I ask why, honestly, because I think God wants me to ask why. The Bible says that we should seek God, and that we will find Him when we seek Him with all our heart. And my heart asks why. My heart questions. It questions not out of doubt, but out of faith. It questions not to test God, but to understand Him. I am a student of God, and a student asks questions. If I stopped asking God questions, then I wouldn't be seeking Him with all my heart.

And so I ask God, "Why would you cause infants to be dashed into pieces and women to be raped?" And even though I don't hear a booming voice answer me, thoughts do come:

--God causes consequences to happen as a result of people's sin. The real catalyst for these atrocities is the people's rebellion against Him. God told them how to live, and they chose not to listen. This is the downside of not having a mediator between humans and God. People are not protected from the full force of His wrath. Thank God that He sent Jesus to make peace with us!

--Consequences affect the innocent. This is true even if you don't believe in God. Unfortunately, children are often the ones who suffer most from the sins of the father. That is how this fallen world works.

--All that we experience in this life is just the outer crust of existence. As much as we feel and experience in our time on this planet, it is just a vapor, a shadow, before the fullness of life with God. As horrible as circumstances can be here, they are but "light and momentary troubles" when compared to the fullness of eternity. And in my mind, those infants will be taken straight to God.

Now, those thoughts might be completely worthless, but that is where I went tonight. I do know that I am not God's apologist, and that He does not need me to attempt to explain His actions. I only try to do so to the extent that it helps me understand Him more. Or at least try to.

NT: 2 Cor. 13:1-14

We wrap up Paul's letter to the Corinthians today. I can't say that I'm incredibly sad to see it go, mainly because I'm so excited to get to Galatians and the smaller epistles. 2 Corinthians had a lot of good stuff in it, but the most fascinating thing to me was the personal insight it gave us into Paul and his ministry. As I read it, I often felt like I was reading private correspondence, which was not meant for me at all (and of course, you could argue that Paul did not mean it for me, since he was talking directly to the Corinthians. And yet, there was still so much good stuff to get out of it).

The verse that jumped out at me today was verse 5: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test." Here, Paul recommends some hard core, genuine, honest, painful self-reflection. I believe, of course, that we can have faith in our salvation and can set our hearts at rest in God's presence. At the same time, I don't think that we can just assume that we are okay at all times. This verse seems to indicate that we should examine our lives from time to time and see if our actions match up with the teachings of Jesus. If they don't, it would seem from this verse that there is genuine reason to question whether we belong to Him.

Psalm 57:1-11

David continues to pray to God for mercy and deliverance.

Prov. 23:9-11

One on the uselessness of trying to convince fools; another on the importance of not exploiting the helpless.

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