“All things work together for good” is a bold statement in light of the laundry list of laments that follows. Hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, and being killed all day like sheep led to slaughter sounds more like all things working together against us. I don’t think “all things work together for good” means we should attach some deeper meaning to the suffering that is part and parcel with the human condition. Troublesome times come to the faithful and unfaithful alike but for those who love God all things work together for good because of the “no separation clause” of the covenant. The good for which all things work together is that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. That means God cannot be separated from our suffering and endures hardship, distress, persecution, famine, etc, right along with us. We don’t desire difficult days or rejoice in our sufferings but we do find great courage and strength and enduring hope that even death cannot destroy the relationship we have with the One who sighs deeply for and with us.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I think the psalmist weeps because the nature of God’s statues is not understood. They are not meant to be burdensome or arbitrary or restrictive of liberty. They are wonderful because they enrich relationships within the human community which is the way God is blessed. The law of the Lord is about living with each other in peace and harmony, celebrating the good gifts of life while together enduring difficulties with dignity and patience and enduring hope. A community living in the light of the Lord, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, is redeemed from human oppression which is self centered and judgmental, quick to anger and consumed by hatred. But even secret sins we keep politely hidden diminish relationship and rob us of the joy of living the freedom the law offers. So the psalmist praying for mercy and panting for the commands of the Lord weeps streams of tears for those who do recognize the gift that God offers in the law.
Monday, July 21, 2014
1 Kings 3:5-12
It is a smart prayer for a boy who doesn’t know how to come or go. One wonders how he thought to pray it. You would expect him to pray for the death of his enemies since the boy king had so many. A long life generally follows praying a shorter one for one’s enemies. Riches almost always makes it to the top of the wish list and despite his estimation of God’s people as great a little extra cash is always appreciated. God is surprised and certainly quite pleased that this second son of Bathsheba and David’s badly begun union turns out to be a king worthy of the title. God grants Solomon understanding and a discerning mind and all the rest as well and for a time there really is no king like him. Unfortunately for Israel, and I suppose for God as well, Solomon gives up on the gift of discernment in favor of the counsel of foreign wives and the golden age of Israel ends with a kingdom divided between warring sons. It is the stuff of Shakespeare and the great Greek tragedies and more times than we care to admit our own tales of fortune and folly. It will take a long time but there will be a king born in Bethlehem who eclipses Solomon and all his splendor. He will never know riches and his life will be cut short by his enemies but in the end his poverty is our wealth and his death and resurrection the only hope for friend and enemy alike.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
The first hearers of this word were no doubt encouraged by it. Justice will be done and love wins as good will triumph over evil. It is a good word for all who weary of a world infested by evil and the misery it causes even if one hopes God’s judgment is tempered by mercy for weeds in the same way it is for wheat. In the end the final job of judging between wheat and weeds is none of our business and naming some ultimately good and others ultimately evil or dividing along the us and them line might just mean we have some weeds in our wheat as well. Maybe that is the point of the parable on a more personal level. We are weed and wheat, saint and sinner, and only God can pull out one without uprooting the other.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The sufferings of the present may not be worth comparing with the glory of the future but when “subjected to futility we groan as in labor” waiting patiently is not as easy as Paul would make it seem. That is why we are in debt to hope, charging to the future what we cannot afford in the present so that these bodies decaying day by day might anticipate the forever future banquet long before the party has started. The nature of faith is to look past the present difficulties without denying that they cause us to groan by keeping our eyes on the prize, which is the day when sorrow and sighing will flee and groaning will cease. In the meantime we wait with eager expectation, albeit patiently, by going deeper in debt to hope.