How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile because of affliction and hard servitude; she dwells now among the nations, but finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests groan; her virgins have been afflicted, and she herself suffers bitterly. Her foes have become the head; her enemies prosper, because the LORD has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. From the daughter of Zion all her majesty has departed. Her princes have become like deer that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer. Jerusalem remembers in the days of her affliction and wandering all the precious things that were hers from days of old. When her people fell into the hand of the foe, and there was none to help her, her foes gloated over her; they mocked at her downfall. Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away. Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she took no thought of her future; therefore her fall is terrible; she has no comforter. "O LORD, behold my affliction, for the enemy has triumphed!" The enemy has stretched out his hands over all her precious things; for she has seen the nations enter her sanctuary, those whom you forbade to enter your congregation. All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. "Look, O LORD, and see, for I am despised." "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger.(ESV)
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Wednesday of Pentecost 13
26 August 2015
I am constantly surprised by the nonsenses that the world is quite willing to tolerate and believe while it rejects, curses, and even persecutes the faith of Christ. Our culture believes in the holiness and ultimate perfectibility of humanity on earth, despite the slaughter worked by man upon man in the wars that ravaged our world in the previous century and the abortion mills that now grind up millions of children, or the basic goodness of infants despite their susceptibility to death, or that given enough money all problems can ultimately be solved, or (dare I say this?) that the bigger the problems caused by the government the bigger the government required to fix them. These unproven postulates of the secular faith are far less believable than the claims of the Christian religion. I can't help but think of that goofy late night radio program: "Coast to Coast AM;" which repeats previously recorded programs on which the guests predict that the end of the world would happen in 2004. There is an invitation to confidence! Yet, we still eagerly listen to this schlock. Much that is on television is of the same "value."
But our culture won't commit a trice to learn the story of our salvation through the suffering Christ. Biblical ignorance seems to be the studied goal of most moderns. The gospel with its message of the death of Christ for the salvation of the world is considered nonsense and humbug, worthy only of mockery and ultimately of extirpation. Who could believe such things? And so moderns believe more reliable things? According to television, moderns believe that beer makes you smarter, more beautiful, and more attractive, that automobiles prove how successful you are, that life is only and always fun, that education ought to be entertaining, and other ridiculous myths. And you say Christianity is hard to believe?
Those who believe nothing will fall for anything. And they will hate those who believe the evangelical truth. About this anger and rage, we should be delighted. For the prophets of old were so persecuted before us and God would never abandon them (Mt 5:11-12
). What makes us think He might abandon us in the midst of our agony? He could never abandon us, because our Father has already forsaken His Son upon the cross because He bore the sin of the world. Christ has taken our place under that forsakenness. He was abandoned to the agonies of hell for us (Mt 27:46
). The Father's wrath burned over our Lord and expended itself fully upon Him. So our suffering and agony must not be seen as signs of God's abandonment of us, but of our Lord's gracious care for those who are being shaped like the holy cross in their daily lives. This trouble is good.
"Up to this point [in Galatians] Paul defended the doctrine of justification with the most steadfast arguments (Gal 5:12
). So that nothing would be omitted, he has inserted into the discussion here and there rebukes, commendations, exhortations, threats, etc. In the end he also added his own example; that he himself suffered persecution on account of this doctrine (Gal 5:11
). He was warning the faithful not to be offended or terrified if they would see tumults, stumbling blocks, and sects arise during the age of the gospel, but rather rejoice and exult. For the more atrociously the world rages against the gospel, the more business the gospel does.
"This should be a most welcome comfort for us in our day. For it is certain that the world hates and persecutes us for no other reason than that we confess the truth of the gospel. It does not accuse us of being thieves, adulterers, murderers, etc.; but what it detests in us is solely this, that we teach Christ faithfully and purely, and that we do not forsake the defense of the truth. Therefore, we should certainly know that our doctrine is holy and divine, because the world hates it so bitterly. Otherwise there is no doctrine too wicked, stupid, ridiculous, or dangerous for the world gladly to undertake, kiss up to it and defend it gladly, in fact, to treat it reverently, support it, praise it, and do everything for those who profess it. The teaching of godliness, life, and salvation, together with its ministers, is the only one that the world detests and treats shamefully. This is evident proof that the world is angry with us only because of its hatred of the Word.
"So when our adversaries raise the objection against us that our doctrine produces nothing but war, sedition, offenses, sects, and infinite other evils, let us reply: 'Blessed be the day when it becomes possible to see all this! But the whole world is in an uproar. Good! If it were not in an uproar, and if the devil were not in such a rage and were not disturbing everything, we would not have the pure doctrine which such tumults and havoc inevitably follow. Therefore what you consider evil we receive as the highest good.'"
Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.12
O Lord God, send me the blessing of seeing Your salvation in the midst of suffering, agony, and trouble. Keep me from being disturbed in my holy faith because the whole world is in an uproar against it. Show me by Your Word that such rage from the devil and the world are signs of Your gospel among us. Help me to see that what the world thinks is evil is to be received by us as the highest good. Lord, send me Your cross! Amen.
For Leslie Doiron Roch, that the Lord Jesus would rescue her from cancer and strengthen her in the midst of chemotherapy
For Diva Pilli, who has been diagnosed with cancer, that the Lord Jesus would keep her in His care
For all pastors, that they might be faithful to Christ and His truth despite persecution
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015