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"...who has caused all Holy Scriptures
to be written for our learning..."
F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Isaiah 55; Psalm 119:1-16; Romans 15:4-13 Luke 21:25-33
God has caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning (we read in the Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent) -- to educate our minds and to guide our passions. Paul talks about that in the Epistle. We ask God that we might "hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them...." Why so? So that "...by patience and comfort of His Holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life..."
All that implies that there is a real God, that there is a discernible truth about Him. and that we need not remain in confusion and doubt about the matter, implying that therefore we ought to be able to communicate this truth to others among us who do not know that truth, but who are... truth-seekers. Truth-seekers are the genuinely curious, who are interested in reality, who understand that they just might be wrong on some aspects of reality, and that they would want to know if they were wrong, and would want to know what the real truth was. These are people open to the Gospel.
The Bible points us to the only realistic worldview there is. The Biblical world is personal, not impersonal, created by an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Person, and populated with persons created in the very image of God, male and female. The whole purpose of this creation is to build relationships of love, caring for one another, watching out for one another, sometimes correcting or chastising one another -- but always with truth and grace.
Most people know, despite the deliberate brainwashing from our schools and media, that there is a real truth about life. Without truth, life would be instantly and totally chaotic. So, despite the nonsense abroad, we Christians must learn how, with love and grace, to use the two-edged Sword of the Spirit, truth spoken in love, to give our testimonies.
The two edges I take to be reason and revelation
welded back to back -- like parakletes
- Greek soldiers who stood back to back to defend each other when separated from
their lines. Just so, the Holy Spirit is our paraklete,
one who comes along side of us, especially in our troubled times. Reason and
Revelation are not enemies, Reason and Revelation are superb allies, creating an
invincible weapon -- which is, of course, why Satan engineered their separation
and opposition -- in of all places, the minds of many Christians. That was not
so in the Bible or among the Church fathers. If reason and revelation are not
allies, as the Bible implies throughout, then how can we read, mark, learn, and
inwardly digest the Bible without a severe case of indigestion?
God calls through Isaiah, "Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money, without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? ... I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David."
We live in a fallen world where we try to find nourishment for our souls in a world that cannot feed our souls. We live in a dry, barren land with no water, no wine, no milk for the soul. We are spiritually starving to death, and often do not even know it. We come to think that our degradation is "normal".
One of the favorite themes of God is His desire to confirm His covenant with us, to show us that He can indeed fulfill what He promised. He wants to fill us with His blessings. But that can happen only to the degree that we work with Him, that we build with Him and one another the kind of community and communion which can rightly be called Holy. Life is about that quality of relationship. Do we have holy relationships with one another?
We have two choices -- we either (1) build heaven with God and one another, or (2) we build hell all by ourselves. You have to build relationships, you cannot "earn" them. The only realistic relationship you can have with your Creator and Sovereign is to trust Him for your needs, and to obey His purposes for your life.
Then in Isaiah, God tells His people, "Behold,
you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that know you not shall
run to you..." And why? "...because of
the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for He has glorified you."
The people of the world themselves will see that God is giving His people the best of all possible worlds, and want to be a part of that glorified community. So God says, "Seek the Lord why He may be found, call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way...." Not that God wants to beat up on the wicked, but "that He may have mercy on him..., for He will abundantly pardon." God does not delight in the death of a sinner, but in repentance and return to life. "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose...." "...the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." This is Old Testament End Time prophecy.
We saw hints of the mountains and hills singing and the trees of the field clapping their hands in the recent videos on the transformation of whole cities and even nations. The land itself began to grow more fertile and productive in Almalonga, Guatamala, and among the Eskimos in the Baffin Island region of Canada. And in all cases, economic and social life was turned from growing disaster to flourishing.
The world, including our disintegrating West, will return to Eden-like conditions as we, mankind, will return to our rightful place as caretakers of the world, to make it like a tilled garden for God and for one another. As St. Paul says in Romans 8:19, "For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; ....because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God." The sons and daughters of God will be revealed as we allow God to sanctify us.
All this can happen because the proper authority and obedience channels will be restored as we, mankind, are restored to our place as the children of God, the caretakers of the world who have then the authority, not only to till it properly, to build and construct with it properly, but to command the world to be as God has intended. We will be able to quell the storms, heal the sick, and raise the dead. That is how God wants to confirm His covenant with us, by the accomplishment of His purpose to bless us with extraordinary goodness and extraordinary authority.
Psalm 119 echoes these same themes. "Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way, and walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and seek Him with all their heart....." They are blessed because they want the truth, they are truth-seekers. And so they necessarily bump into Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. When we invite God to our town, He shows up.
"O that my ways were made so direct, that I might keep Thy statutes! So shall I not be confounded...." The psalmist will not be confounded because he is following the instruction of God for his life. You cannot lose if you do that. "Thy word have I hid within my heart, that I should not sin against Thee.'" "Hid in his heart" means he has memorized passages of the Scriptures. He wants to remember them to consistently obey them. "My delight shall be in Thy statutes, and I will not forget Thy word."
Delight in the statutes of God is an almost
incomprehensible thought for today's relative-truth public.
The collect is about the nature and meaning of the Word of God. Isaiah and Psalm 119 are examples of the Word of God being put to work. And then St. Paul returns to the theme of the collect, talking about why we have the Scriptures, in almost the same language. The Collect was no doubt modeled after the Epistle.
"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Faith, love, and hope -- these three endure.
Then Paul prays for our being "like-minded"... so that "ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God...." Again, the theme of agreement on the truth and rightness, accuracy of belief and behavior.
Jesus came, writes Paul: "(1) ...to
confirm the promises made unto the fathers [i.e., the Hebrews]: and
(2) that the Gentiles might glorify God for His
mercy." There is that theme again of God confirming His
covenant promises by the blessings He pours out on His people. Six times in this
passage Paul names the Gentiles as the object of God's mercy and grace. A
primary purpose of God blessing the Hebrews was to extend that blessing to the
Gentiles, to all who would accept the blessing. It was not a woolly blessing, it
was a specific and particular blessing about relationship with Himself and with
all other members of the Kingdom. The Hebrews had a mandate to prepare for
evangelism which is now being carried out mostly by Christians.
In the Gospel, the subject shifts dramatically to the End Times. "There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming upon the earth."
Jesus is warning His disciples that the End will be a very troubled time, but nevertheless to lift up our heads, no drooping faces, for the King will be returning. The Second Coming. Your redemption draweth nigh.
The Son of God has come to us the first time as an infant, born in a manger, which season we will be celebrating soon. Then secondly, He will be coming in all of His glory, in a manner which every person on earth will witness at the same time. From east to west, no matter where you might be on the globe, you will see Jesus returning on clouds of glory.
I hesitate to interpret End Times prophecies, but Jesus is telling us that there will be troubling changes in the cosmic structure. That in itself is not surprising, considering the depth of the Fall. We are badly dislocated from what we ought to be, meaning that the very structure of the natural world and the functioning of natural law are broken, dislocated, dysfunctional.
Westerners have been persuaded to believe that the world is fundamentally and totally an impersonal machine-like structure, the laws of which are immutable, and not dependent upon a personal God.
The far more reasonable view is the Biblical one: the world is fundamentally personal, and the depersonalization is a part of the Fall. The shaking up of things to which Jesus points will be the reordering of things back to Godly "normal", that is, to the way God planned for them to be from the start. Sometimes you have to break a badly mended bone fracture in order to reset it.
Certainly our own attitudes and expectations for "the
way things are" will be painfully shaken up, probably for all of us. When God
begins to work on us, there are dislocations
which are actually relocations back to
Godly normal. But because we have become so accustomed to the Fall, the fixes
seem strange and unfriendly and we are frightened by them. Only as we
trust the Lord enough to protect us, and as we
can open ourselves up enough to explore
the new situation, can we begin to settle back in to the
right way that we lost in the Fall.
The remarkable Hebrew honoring of the law of God requires an explanation. I doubt that anyone held Hammurabi's law code in such high esteem, and wrote songs of praise about it. But the Hebrews did about their law.
At some level, the Hebrews understood how special their Creator was, which is why they rejoiced over their laws, while the pagans did not over theirs. That is why the prophets predicted that the pagans would one day stream to Jerusalem and ask to live under the laws of the Hebrews. The pagans might have admired the law code of Solon in Greece, of Hammurabi in Mesopotamia, or the Roman code, but they rarely, if ever, felt a personal loyalty toward it, as a solution to their personal problems.
The Scriptures are unique in all of human history, worthy to be read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested. The Scriptures first produced a people who were saved, who individually came to know their Creator as the lover of their souls. And those saved people, alone on the face of the earth, produced a government which both honored the law of God and understood itself to be constrained under that law as the servant, not the dictator, of the people.
The Kingdom of God begins with personal conversion,
but the Kingdom of God is a kingdom,
and therefore has political
implications. God is looking again for prophets among His people who will bring
His word again to the public arena, holding accountable before God all the
kings, potentates, presidents, judges, and legislators among us.
We live between the first and the second Comings of Christ, our King. We have both a memory and an expectation. But the word of God to us says to be ready at any time and any place for the return of the King-over-all-kings and Lord-over-all-lords. In the meantime, let us not be overly concerned about the drama of the End Times, which will take care of itself, but rather to recover the worldview God has given to us in the Scriptures, and as a sanctified community to be His continually busy witnesses, harvesting in His vineyard.
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