Devotional Thought of the Day:
These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die. 5 God is the one who makes all of this possible. He has given us his Spirit to make us certain that he will do it. 6 So always be cheerful! 2 Cor. 5:4-6
Full of burning affection he toiled, like Jacob for Rachel, until the whole of her purchase-money had been paid, and now, having sought her by his Spirit, and brought her to know and love him, he awaits the glorious hour when their mutual bliss shall be consummated at the marriage-supper of the Lamb.
Of all the people in scripture, I pity, I don’t think anyone deserves it more than Leah. She who was the first wife of Jacob, the sister of Rachel. I thought of her as I read Spurgeon’s words this morning. She didn’t have someone “full of burning affection” for her, she had someone whose marriage to her was like a duty. He did it, gave her sons (lots of them), but there was no passion, no desire.
There are days I do not just pity here, I resonate with her. I wonder if God treats me the way Jacob treated Leah. He loves and desires the rest of you, but the cost of that is fulfilling his duty and saving me so that He can bring His true love, YOU, home.
I know the feeling isn’t valid, but it is still there. Using the wedding analogy, you all have your reception at some posh Bel-Air hotel, and I get drive-through at Burger King. I am still glad to be provided for, I am glad to be in the household, yet am I a second class citizen?
I think this is just weariness from the burden that Paul describes to the church in Corinth. We want to give up theses second class bodies, this life that isn’t really living. This being Leah. We want the first-class life, the real living, knowing that we aren’t just loved, but really loved.
And in this part of life, the weariness gets to us, the burden of brokenness challenges our hearts and minds. We begin to think we are second class, that we belong in the background, that even in heaven, we will be given the “nose-bleed” seats. (Maybe this is why the back rows of churches are so popular?)
It is hard to realize we are viewed more like Rachel than Leah. It is hard to believe God could love billions of people, including us, with that same level of passion. That there aren’t 999,999,999,999 people in front of us for God to care for, to cherish, to love and adore.
There isn’t. He desires your love, your companionship, as fully as He does anyone. You aren’t on His list of things to do today… You are whom He wants to spend the day with, whom He rejoices in the presence of, you are the beloved.
Understand this, He loves you! (me too) The presence of the Holy Spirit, the promise of our baptism, earned for us at the cross, proves it. Look at all the promises God makes, to you and me. Look at the love He shows us, directly. Spend time with Him now, hear Him reveal His love for you, through His word, See His desire for you, and the joy He looked forward to, even while embracing the cross to make it happen.
Think about that… and be at peace… for you are loved like Rachel… by the One who is love.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
“The Lord isn’t Doing what is Right?”
† Jesus, Son and Savior †
May we realize the joy that it brings God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ to see the grace, the mercy, and love they have for mankind received and cherished!
A change in journalism, reflecting our sin!
I have suspected it for a while, but I think this week pretty much proved it – the art of news reporting is gone. We are a long way from the days when a news cast signed off with “and that’s the way it was”, or a reporter pleaded like a Joe Friday, “just the facts ma’am.”
Every news article I read this week seemed more like an opinion-editorial piece, with the writer’s speculation about how the latest financial disaster could be averted, or why the pope really resigned, or what they should do to replace him, to bring the Catholic Church into the twenty-first century. Of course, some of the ideas for both are nations budget and the choice of the new pope were… hmmm…how is the best way I can describe this… creative?
As if every journalist, every reporter, every blogger was an expert on to balance a budget, or deal with disasters, or was an expert theologian.
Of course, the newsman simply are doing what they see us doing. We try to prove that despite our disagreement with the way things have been done in the past, there has to be some hope for the future…
If only those in charge do it.. the way we know is right!
We love to do the backseat driving, the second guessing, to question those who actually have the responsibility and the pressure of making the decisions. Not that we are more intelligent, or have the information at hand, that they do. It is almost a national past-time. It doesn’t even matter if it’s “our guy” that we are questioning.
Sometimes… it doesn’t even matter if it’s God….
That’s what we see in today’s Old Testament lesson, as God says,
17 “Your people are saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right,’ but it is they who are not doing what’s right. 18 For again I say, when righteous people turn away from their righteous behavior and turn to evil, they will die. 19 But if wicked people turn from their wickedness and do what is just and right, they will live.
Imagine that, telling God that He isn’t doing what is right…. Because He is willing to save the people that are considered wicked, and condemning those who consider themselves righteous…..
Where do people get the… nerve… to declare that God doesn’t know what He’s doing, or that He is doing wrong…in showing His mercy?
Why do we question the depth of God’s mercy
I don’t think that it is just the people of those days who make such judgments. In the Luther movie, there is a scene where Luther has to minister to a family where the son has committed suicide. He challenges the view that everyone who does such is inherently evil, or doesn’t believe in God. He buried the body of the young man in a graveyard, and assured the parents that one could be in heaven, who died oppressed by satan, or for a time doubted….He trusted in God’s mercy in those situations, but can we?
How many of us question whether this person’s claim, or that one’s, that they are believers? How willing are we to declare that this person in history or that one is in hell? Do we really believe that people are beyond the reach of God. That it is not right if God lets someone like Pol Pot’s chief prison warden, or someone like Jeffrey Dahmer, could get into heaven. What about someone like Christopher Darner? Surely not him?
What if we said that someone who everyone thought was good, would not go to heaven, because their faith wasn’t in Jesus, or because they didn’t abide in Christ?
Would we have the same attitude as those who went before us? Would we ask, “Jesus – what were you thinking when you made Peter the leader of the Apostles
Were you doing what is right? What is just Lord? Because to be honest, I do not see it!
What I need to realize, is that I don’t have to… we aren’t God, we aren’t the judge. We don’t need to question His actions, His mercy
We need to rejoice in it!
The reason why hearing this is good news
You see, though many of us might consider someone we know as a just or righteous, or maybe even as a holy people, that they are just a “good” person, there is no such thing out of Christ. We struggle – and that word for wicked sounds horrible, but it just means those who are guilty, not just found guilty in a court somewhere – but who actually did that which was wrong.
Simply put, it’s not just the mass murderers, or those who did the unbelievable evil, but those that simply broke one of the ten ways in which God ordained for us to live.
When we hear Ezekiel’s words, when we begin to comprehend his warning, or when someone like Ezekiel reaches out to us, we still need to listen! We don’t need to hide behind some façade of righteousness!
We don’t need to hide anymore, we can confess our sins grasping onto these words,
As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?
God isn’t out to “get” people that do wrong, that wander away on their own! He wants to rescue them, and that is why He gave us His word, and why we treasure it! It assures us of His desire to fix what we broken, to restore that which we’ve wrecked! That is why the sinner, the “wicked” can have hope!
That is why Ezekiel promises that as verse 16 promises, “none of their past sins will be brought up again!”
Imagine that – none of our sins, ever brought up again! They are gone! So gone that the issue isn’t whether we were wicked or good, but whether we are walking in the presence of God, for there is life!
That’s why St Peter joyfully tells us that God is patient with us, He is willing to suffer for a long time, so that we have the opportunity to see our sins separated from us, to rejoice in knowing His love! It is why Paul tells us it was for the joy set before Him that Jesus endured the suffering and shame of the crucifixion.
Jesus talks of this too, that the Father doesn’t take any pleasure in the death of the wicked – but instead phrases it this way,
7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:7 (NLT)
That is why we talk of celebrating the Eucharist, the Lord Supper. It is why this is a feast at His table, the same kind of feast thrown for prodigal sons, and those dragged off the street to come to the wedding Feast of the King’s son in another parable.
God doesn’t rejoice in the death of the wicked, but in their return, in their being saved.
And while some may think that isn’t a good or right thing to do, this prodigal, formerly spiritually homeless one rejoices greatly.
That desire of God is so strong, that is why the watchmen – those God has placed to warn the sinner and welcome the repentant – are told the serious nature of their work. It is not because God is mean – but because the message is so…. Important to know – that there is a way out.
And so God instructs us all,
I have appointed you to stand watch for the (my) people of Israel. So listen to what I say, then warn them for me. 8 When I tell wicked people they will die because of their sins, you must warn them to turn from their sinful ways. But if you refuse to warn them, you are responsible for their death. 9 If you do warn them, and they keep sinning, they will die because of their sins, and you will be innocent.
My instinct is to hear that as law – as a command – that if I don’t tell you – and you don’t tell those who aren’t here yet – then we are guilty again! Another law at work?
No, again – the context means everything! For it is the very cry of those feeling the weight of their sin, who realize that they cannot pay the price of their sin to whom God speaks! He promises them that it is not their death that pleases Him, but their return, the transformation that we call repentance, the kind seen when behaviors change, and when reconciliation and redemption and walking with God is what we know… and therefore what we do.
When we dwell in peace… the peace of God that passes all understanding, as we are guarded in Christ Jesus! AMEN?