Monday, October 25, 2010

October 25

OT: Jeremiah 48:1-49:22

Today, Jeremiah hands out doomsday prophecies to Moab (48:1-47), the Ammonites (49:1-6), and Edom (49:7-22). What is interesting is God's reaction to these predictions of destruction. In 48:31-32, God says,

"Therefore I wail over Moab,
for all Moab I cry out,
I moan for the men of Kir Hareseth.
I weep for you, as Jazer weeps,
O vines of Sibmah."

Later, He says,

"So my heart laments for Moab like a flute;
it laments like a flute for the men of Kir Hareseth.
The wealth they acquired is gone" (36).

Though this land will suffer from God's wrath which He quite willingly pours on them, the same God who causes the suffering weeps over it. That is kind of crazy, but I think it highlights the interplay between God's sovereignty and man's free will. He allows the free will, but He punishes the sin that comes from that free will. And His punishment causes sorrow even to Him.

In 49:12, God also makes clear that, unfortunately, even innocents are punished: "This is what the Lord says: 'If those who do not deserve to drink this cup must drink it, why should you go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, but must drink it." So clearly, there are those "who do not deserve to drink this cup." Among those, I would assume are Moab's "little ones," spoken of in 48:4. And even in the midst of this suffering of innocents, God maintains that He takes care of widows and orphans:

"Leave your orphans; I will protect their lives.
Your widows too can trust in me" (49: 11).

So fascinating.

NT: 2 Timothy 4:1-22

I liked our bold verse for the day, in which Paul charges Timothy to "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction" (2). I was particularly intrigued by the phrase, "in season and out of season," and I wondered what that meant. For some reason, the way it struck me today was in terms of the seasons of my own life. When I am "in season," I am fired up for God and am enjoying a super-close relationship with Him. When I am "out of season," I am still plugging along, but I am not feeling that fire, that closeness with God. It reminds me of the tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, in Psalm 1. I am not always "in season." And yet, the world does not wait for me to be "in season" to be a light to it. I always have to be a light, whether I am "in season" or out. And I always have to be prepared to reach out to others, whether I am feeling on fire or not.

Now, granted, I have very little basis for that interpretation, but that's how I read it today.

I also love verses 6-8, mainly because they are so poignant: "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." Maybe it is because I have heard those verses so much, but they have become iconic to me. They are so simply and elegantly worded. I love how Paul simply states, "the time has come for my departure." And the spare, yet effective parallel structure in the next verse has helped to firmly root it in Christian minds throughout the centuries: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." That's what I so desperately want to be able to say when the time comes for my departure.

In the rest of this section, we get a glimpse into some of Paul's more personal sufferings. Institutionally-mandated beatings are one thing; personal betrayals are quite another. In verses 9-18, Paul tells about several people who have left him and harmed him. Demas "deserted" him (10). Alexander "did [him] a great deal of harm" (14). And when Paul was in an especially vulnerable position on trial, everyone deserted him (16). How disheartening it must have been to have no one come to support you, even though you had done nothing wrong. For as fiery and driven and confident as Paul can be, I really felt such compassion for him reading these last few verses. There is something so vulnerable about him here, such as when he asks Timothy to bring his cloak and urges him to get there before winter (13,21). The thought of Paul shivering in a prison cell, hoping that one of his few friends would bring him one of his few earthly possessions is just sad to me. And it presents such a stark picture of a life thoroughly spent for God. Paul was right; he had been "poured out like a drink offering" (6).

Psalm 95:1-96:13

Two uplifting praise psalms.

Prov. 26:9-12

We are clearly in an "anti-fool" section of proverbs. All of them recently have been down on fools.

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