Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 24

OT: Jeremiah 44:24-47:7

Today, Jeremiah finishes his threats to the Egypt-settling, Queen-of-Heaven-worshiping Israelites. Even in the midst of their continued rebellion, however, Jeremiah does maintain that a remnant will one day return to Jerusalem. It will just be very, very small (44:28).

The rest of the reading consists of prophecies against the Egyptians and the Philistines. So far, God has not been a fan of the Egyptians. Jeremiah's prophecies against them start with "contemporary" Egypt (44:29-30), and then jumps back to Egypt under Pharoah Neco (46:1-26). Then at the end of the reading, Jeremiah breaks bad news to the Philistines (47:1-6). In between the gloomy prophecies, Jeremiah pauses to reassure "Jacob" that God loves them and that a remnant of them will be saved.

NT: 2 Timothy 2:22-3:17

Let's talk about some themes in Timothy so far. We have already discussed the theme of social hierarchy. There is also a strong theme regarding arguments and quarrels running through both letters. Here is a quick recap of Paul's thoughts on the matter:

--False teachers "promote controversies rather than God's work," and they distract people with their "meaningless talk" (1 Tim. 1:4, 6).

--"I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger or disputing" (1 Tim. 2:8).

--Deacons must not be quarrelsome (1 Tim. 3:3).

--Timothy should "not rebuke an older man harshly" (1 Tim. 5:1).

--The man who teaches false doctrine "has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind" (1 Tim. 6: 4-5a).

--Timothy should "warn [his church] before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen" (2 Tim. 2: 14).

--Timothy should not "have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful" (2 Tim. 2:23-24).

That's a lot for two short books--and we are not even done with the second! Apparently, Paul is a pretty low drama guy, which is interesting to me b/c he can be quite, um, passionate and forceful in his writings. I definitely can appreciate a low-drama approach. Of course, what is hard about applying this no-quarrel theme in the church today is when we try to determine what is a meaningless argument. What might seem absurd and pointless to me might be a "salvation issue" to someone else. It's kind of like trying to apply Romans 14. What qualifies as a "disputable matter," and what constitutes doctrine-to-be-defended-at-all-costs? Where does instrumental music fit on that spectrum? What about women's roles? What about when and how and how often we take the Lord's Supper? What about our responsibilities to the poor? Depending on one's views, some of those things are "disputable matters" to be left to people's own consciences, and some are bedrocks of the faith.

Hmmmm. It really is hard to be a unified body of believers. That's why we need God's Spirit so badly to guide us and to empower us.

Um, yeah, so...the rest of the reading. I loved 2:22, which said to, "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." And I also loved verse 24, which I quoted above.

I found 2:1-5 to be fascinating. It starts off as a typical "last days" laundry list of sins. And yet, verse 5 seems to indicate that these people will be members of the church! Paul says that they "hav[e] a form of godliness, but deny its power" (5). Verse 5 also tells Timothy to "have nothing to do with them." To Paul, you couldn't have godliness without being part of God's church, right? And the only people Paul tells Christians to shun are other Christians who are not living right, correct? So...wouldn't verse 5 indicate that these selfish, greedy, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, indulgent, brutal, treacherous, rash, conceited people are church members? That is crazy! (And man, when you start typing the list out, you realize how long it is!)

I remember once asking my dad that if God was so powerful, if His love was so transformative, then why didn't Christians act any better? I was in college, and it was an honest question. I wasn't just complaining. It' was just that the picture of Christian behavior I saw in the Bible simply was not being mirrored in so many of the people whom I loved and worshiped with. And it was beginning to affect my faith. My dad answered that I underestimated the power of sin in this world, which I think was true. In verse 5, Paul gives another suggestion. Such people have a form of godliness, but deny its power. Untransformed Christians deny the power of God to change their lives. They do not let Him change them, and He respects their sovereignty as individuals. Now, I am honestly not thinking of anyone or any group of people specifically right now, but I do know that there are untransformed Christians in churches today. And of course, as a Christian, I have to look at that list honestly and see if any of it describes me. And to the degree that it does describe me, I have to ask whether or not I am denying the power of God to refine me and to transform me.

Yikes, this is going long. I will close by simply quoting the last verse, which is generally used to support the divine inspiration of the Bible: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, sot hat the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good word" (16-17).

Psalm 94: 1-23

A psalm calling on God to be an avenger and to punish the wicked. After reading so much of Jeremiah, this psalm is somewhat ironic to me. It assumes that God will punish Israel's enemies, but in punishing the wicked, God also brings disaster on Israel itself.

Proverbs 26:6-8

Three colorful proverbs decrying fools.

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