We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (ESV)
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No More Poverty
Thursday of Epiphany 3
30 January 2014
Everyone has experienced buyer's remorse. This happens when, after you have made a purchase of something like an automobile, you find that you didn't want that car as much as you thought you did when you laid out the money for it. When the thing for which we longed, perhaps for a long time, is in our possession we no longer desire it with the same passion as once we regarded it. Sometimes, if you will excuse the torture of a cliché, "two birds in the bush are worth one in the hand." A thing longed for may be more powerful than the thing possessed. I wonder if that isn't the cause of the poverty of spirit we Christians seem to exhibit in the age of the Messiah, who was once long promised, and who is now among us with an astonishingly generous ministry (Acts 1:1-2). To our shame, we long for the two in the bush in favor of one in the hand. Lord, rescue us from our poverty of spirit!
Long ago, our spiritual forefathers, the saints of the Old Testament, longed for the promised Messiah and foresaw, prophesied and prayed for His coming with deep longing. They saw only in part, despite their perspicuous hyperopia. However, that did not diminish their faith or their sacrificial desire for the messianic reign to be inaugurated. They saw what God revealed to them. That was enough. They passionately looked into the limpid depths of the divine will to see as through a glass darkly what we would see face to face when the living face of the eternal God would become incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. That about which they thought, considered, meditated, prayed, and for which they were willing to suffer, and which they only saw in part now is fully seen by us to whom the end of the ages has come.
What do we do with such a clear revelation? Uh, nothing. It is an object of our passionate longing? Not really. Have we prayed that its meaning become ever more clear to us? No. Have we thought upon the great depth of the divine grace that God's Son was sacrificed for us wretched slaves? None have given that for which we ought to weep for joy more than a passing thought. Have we written treatises of delight about the work of Him who died because He humbly declined to snatch the power of divinity while He possessed its fullness? At best, we have dashed off a few wretched words of impoverished consideration. Have we sung paeans like the Song of the Suffering Servant written in hoped for blood? No, we can just croak a few off key sounds for the One whose back was flayed for our sins. Lord, rescue us from our poverty of spirit!
We act like we are suffering from buyer's remorse. This in itself is an indictment of our spiritual poverty. For the buying and the bought have been confused frightfully and fatally by us. We are the bought. He is the buyer. If anyone ought to have suffered "buyer's remorse," it ought to have been this immaculate Son of God. He has laid out the purchase price to possess us and how disappointing we have been to Him. We have had remorse not over our sins but "buyer's remorse" over the price, which has been paid by Him. The slaves have despised the Son's price. Yet still He calls to us offering the fullness of the price laid down by Him in the humiliating death, which was offered for those who put Him to death. Lord, You have rescued our poverty of spirit!
"All the saints hoped for [the coming of the Messiah]. For this they prayed. This they longed to see with their eyes in proportion to their wisdom of heart and mind. The prophet Isaiah says: 'Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down' (Is 64:1). Habakkuk too declared the same thing for which Isaiah was wishing: 'God will come from Teman,' or 'God will come from the south' (Hab 3:3). David says: 'Our God comes' (Ps 50:3) and again: 'You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth' (Ps 80:1). Some of the prophets declared His advent, which He presented to the world. Others prayed for it. Each in different forms, but all with equal longing.
"They understood up to a certain point how great a thing it was that they were praying for, that God dwelling in God, and continuing in the form and bosom of God, would humble Himself, take the form of a servant (Phil 2:7), submit Himself to endure all the bitterness and insults of the passion, and undergo punishment for His goodness. What is the hardest and most disgraceful thing of all, was that he met with death at the hands of those very persons for whom He would die. All the saints then understanding this up to a certain point (I say understanding up to a certain point, because no one understands so great a thing) by mutual consent all prayed as if with one voice for the advent of God.
"The saints knew that the hope of all men lay in that coming, and that the salvation of all was bound up in this, because no one could set free the prisoners except the one who was Himself free from chains. No one could release sinners, save the one who was without sin. For no one can set free anyone, unless he is himself free in that respect in which another is freed by him. And so when death had passed on all, they were impoverished of life, that, while dying in Adam, they might live in Christ. For though there were many saints, many elect, and even friends of God, yet none of these were able completely to save themselves, except when they were saved by the advent of the Lord and His redemption."
John Cassian, Seven Books on the Incarnation, 5.15
Lord God, in many and various ways You spoke of old through the prophets. In these last days, You have spoken to us by Your Son. Grant that we would listen with rapt attention and meditate on every Word that proceeds from His mouth. Free us from our arrogance that takes His gracious self revelation for granted. Keep us from frittering away the bloody riches of His death through our poverty of spirit. In Your right spirit hold us firmly wrapped in His robe of righteousness most precious. Amen.
For John Meyer, who is undergoing foot surgery, that the Lord Jesus would grant him healing
For Tom Cedel, who has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, that the Lord would be gracious and merciful to him and that he would be kept safe as he undergoes therapy
For Luke George, who is undergoing surgery to get a chest port for chemotherapy, that he would be kept safe by his Lord Jesus
For all Christian pastors, that they might never weary of proclaiming the all-sufficient grace of Christ, the Suffering Servant
Art: MEMLING, Hans Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)
© Scott R. Murray, 2014