Psalm 100; Jeremiah 13:20–14:22; 1 Timothy 1:1–11

Psalm 100: When I was in the 5th grade Sunday School at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, I memorized this psalm )in the original King James Version, of course). The joy of thanksgiving is so palpable. We can easily imagine–and hear–the worshipping throngs crowded into the Temple courtyard: “come into His gates in thanksgiving,/ His courts in Praise./ Acclaim Him,/ Bless His name.” (4,5)

In my old age, though, the true centerpiece of this psalm is:
“Know that He is God.
He has made us, and we are His,
His people and the flock He tends.” (3)

Has there ever been a more compact statement of worship–and of the theology of our relationship with God? First, we are to acknowledge that God is God. Second, we are to acknowledge that we are God’s creatures. Third, that by virtue of being God’s creation we belong to Him. And finally, in just four words–“the flock He tends”–we know that this relationship is that of a shepherd to his sheep: that we will always be protected and cared for. And as Jesus made clear in his parable, even when we wander off or even abandon God because we think we know better and decide we don’t need God, he will still relentlessly seek us out. As the final verse of this psalm makes clear: “For the Lord is good,/ forever His kindness,/ and for all generations His faithfulness.” Would that we be so faithful in return.

Jeremiah 13:20–14:22: Even though the people of Israel seem to permanently have abandoned God, there is always hope: “Then also you can do good/ who are accustomed to do evil.” (13:23) But this is a single glimmer of hope in a relentlessly pessimistic chapter where the eternal question hangs in the air: “Woe to you, O Jerusalem!/How long will it be/ before you are made clean?” (13:27) A question that seems especially relevant in today’s culture that appears to have abandoned God even more than Jeremiah’s Jerusalem.

Chapter 14 opens with a perfect description of the effects of drought on humans and animals: ”
   the cry of Jerusalem goes up.
   3 Her nobles send their servants for water;
       they come to the cisterns,
   they find no water,
       they return with their vessels empty.
   They are ashamed and dismayed
       and cover their heads,
   4 because the ground is cracked.
       Because there has been no rain on the land
   the farmers are dismayed;
       they cover their heads.
   5 Even the doe in the field forsakes her newborn fawn
       because there is no grass.

Of course, to Jeremiah, this is a direct consequence of Judah’s abandonment of God, and God even instructs Jeremiah, “Do not pray for the welfare of this people.” (14:11) Drought in that land is seen by the people as punishment and they seem to realize that their idols are ineffectual and that God may be their only hope in ending their misery as they plead, “Can any idols of the nations bring rain?/ Or can the heavens give showers?/Is it not you, O Lord our God?/We set our hope on you,/ for it is you who do all this.” (14:22) But the question hangs in the air: Is Judah truly repenting or is this a foxhole prayer asking for rescue that will only result once again in abandoning God once the crisis has passed?

Of course, that’s a question that is still relevant today. There is no better recent national example when in the days following 9/11 the churches were full and people cooperated with each other and helped each other. Of course, now that is merely fond memory as our society seems more contentious than ever and even more resolute in its abandonment of God.

1 Timothy 1:1–11: There’s lots of controversy about whether or not Paul actually penned the Pastoral Epistles (1, 2 Timothy and Titus). Personally, I think the evidence is that Paul did not. That used to matter to me more than it does now, and I will write presuming that Paul is indeed the author.

If nothing else the concerns about which Paul writes are the same as those in his letters to Colossae and Thessalonia: that the churches have fallen under the influence of false teachers. Here, he asks the folks to take action: “that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training  that is known by faith.” (3b, 4) This verse also lays out the theme of this book: “divine training,” i.e., discipline. That the Christian faith is not just a random experience to be enjoyed serenely, but that like other disciplines it requires instruction and practice.

But equally important is the attitude with which such training and discipline is to be carried out: “The aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith.” (5) The problem is that “Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.” (7) Wow! How much “meaningless talk” spews forth today, asserting itself as wisdom and insight? The explosion of social media, blogs and on-line discourse suggest that there are more opinions than knowledge, more unfounded assertions than wisdom.

My hope is that this blog, by hewing close to Scripture and attempting to be observational rather than instructional, does not fall into the meaningless category…





Speak Your Mind