Psalm 97; Jeremiah 9:10–10:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12

 Psalm 97: Celebrating God’s kingship over all creation, our psalmist gives us an image of God that I think beautifully describes the contradiction that God often seems to be to us by using imagery of clouds and fog juxtaposed to fire: “Cloud and dense fog around Him,…/Fire goes before him/ and all round burns His foes.” (2,3). Hidden in the cloud, God is unknowable, but in the fire we see he is a God of action.

The psalmist leaves no doubt as to Who is in charge over nature: “His lightnings lit up the world;/ the earth saw and quaked./ Mountains melted like wax before the Lord” (4,5) God’s impact on nature is a sign of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of humankind, as well:  “The heavens told His justice/ and all peoples saw His glory.” (6) And even those who do not believe in God will eventually witness God’s power: “All idol-worshippers are shamed,/ who boast of the ungods.” (7).  I really like Alter’s neologism: “ungods.” For that is exactly what we–and the broader culture–have done. We have made everything–be they material possessions, attitudes, and ambitions–our “ungods,” which ultimately will melt away like the mountains before God.

Then there’s a crucial instruction: “You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (10The question is, a) Notice that simply loving God does not automatically cause us to hate evil. That is something we must actively will to do–and it’s not a state, it’s an unending process. But why wouldn’t we do that when we realize that God “guards the lives of His faithful./ From the hands of the wicked He saves them.” (10) Alas, our self-centeredness is so strong that too often we would rather enjoy evil than hate it.

But there is always this promise that we should never forget: “Light is sown for the just,/ and for the upright of heart there is joy.” (11) What a marvelous image: God as planter sewing light among us. The question is, will we accept that light and allow it to grow in our hearts?

Jeremiah 9:10–10:16: Unlike the psalmist, Jeremiah gives us a bleak picture of the judging Godin answer to the question, “Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through?” (9:12). The answer is the usual one: “The Lord says: Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, or walked in accordance with it, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts.” (9:13)

After some very grim imagery [“Human corpses shall fall/ like dung upon the open field,” (9:22)], Jeremiah comes to the nub of the problem that is exactly our problem today: “Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; ” (9:23). But he does not leave us hanging. There is something far, far better to boast about: “let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight,” (9:24) 

Knowing God and rejoicing in him as the psalmist has told us to do seems so straightforward, so simple. Yet we cling to our idols and continue to ignore God, “who made the earth by his power,/ who established the world by his wisdom,/ and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” (10:12) And in ignoring God, “Everyone is stupid and without knowledge;” (10:14a) While these ancient people to whom Jeremiah preached may have had idols of gold, we have our own idols which like those golden statues “are worthless, a work of delusion;/ at the time of their punishment they shall perish.” (10:15) Is there a more apt description than of ourselves and the culture we live in than this?

And it seems just as clear today as it did then what the ultimate fate of our culture will be. Yet we persist in our blind stupidity. 

2 Thessalonians 2:1–12: In warning the Thessalonians of not being duped by false preachers, Paul is sounding a lot like Jeremiah as he clarifies the theology of the Day of the Lord: “Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.” (3) This is probably the best description of the Anti-Christ that we have. The real problem, as I see it, is that we will be duped by his claims. Many “anti-Christs” seem to have come and gone over the ages and all kinds of absurd accusations have been made–especially those claiming various popes to have been the Anti-Christ. Personally, I just don’t know what to think of the whole idea of an Anti-Christ. The OT seems to make it clear that there is already sufficient human-created evil in the world without having to have it personified by some sort of supernatural being like the Anti-Christ.

As he does so often, it sounds as if Paul were speaking today: “ The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (9, 10) I guess we should just leave it at that. As Jeremiah makes so clear, our duty is to love God and thereby know God. In the end, all else is falsity. 



Speak Your Mind