Psalm 104:31–35; Jeremiah 30:12–31:22; 2 Timothy 2:14–26

Psalm 104:31–35: This magnificent psalm, which is the poet’s take on the first chapter of Genesis, concludes with a soaring hymn of praise: “May the Lord’s glory be forever,/ May the Lord rejoice in His works.” (31) Notice how we  sing to God, God but God joins in and “rejoices in his works.”

The poet reminds us once again of God’s unimaginable power: “Who but looks down to earth, and it trembles,/ but touches the mountains–they smoke.” (32) This is the God–Creator of all–whom we worship: “Let me sing to the Lord while I live,/ let me hymn to my God while I breathe.” (33) And as always, worship is not inner reflection or mere thought, it is singing and speech: “Let my speech be sweet unto Him.” (34).

And while we’re worshipping, just one more wish: “Let offenders vanish from earth/ and the wicked be no more.” (35a). Amidst the joy and singing, a sobering reminder that God’s creation has been sullied by fallen mankind. But the poet only notes fallenness in passing as the psalm ends on exactly the phrase it began: “Bless, O my being, the Lord.” And as an extra exclamation mark: “Hallelujah!”  We have truly soared to the heights of worship in these 35 verses. This psalm is itself pure joy.

 Jeremiah 30:12–31:22: We encounter a far more despairing poem here in Jeremiah:
“Thus says the Lord:
Your hurt is incurable,
your wound is grievous.
There is no one to uphold your cause,
no medicine for your wound,
no healing for you.
All your lovers have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you.” (30:12-14)

There is certainly no rejoicing; there is not even hope. Why? “Your pain is incurable./Because your guilt is great,/because your sins are so numerous. (30:15) There will be punishment for sin. There must be punishment for sin. And this is the popular image of the avenging, wrathful OT God. 

But wait: What’s this? “For I will restore health to you,/ and your wounds I will heal,/ says the Lord.” (30:17) Following punishment, the promise of restoration awaits:
I am going to restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob,
        and have compassion on his dwellings;
     the city shall be rebuilt upon its mound,
and the citadel set on its rightful site.” (30:18)

And the greatest promise to Israel of all: “And you shall be my people,/ and I will be your God.” (30:22) Like the whirlwind, or a passing storm, God’s anger and punishment are meted out because there has been sin and injustice, but once justice is satisfied the storm passes. And Jeremiah–giver of doleful, terrifying warnings–writes of Israel’s restoration following exilein these famous verses:
    “Rachel is weeping for her children;
       she refuses to be comforted for her children,
        because they are no more.
     Thus says the Lord:
        Keep your voice from weeping,
             and your eyes from tears;
         for there is a reward for your work,
             says the Lord:
         they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
         there is hope for your future,
     says the Lord:
            your children shall come back to their own country.” (

There is always hope. Even in the darkest of times amidst the deepest agony. Is there any sadder phrase than “ she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more?” And yet just two verses later: “there is hope for your future…your children will come back to their own country.” Restoration, redemption: this is God’s wonderful promise. The promise he offers to all humankind through the death and resurrection of his own begotten son. Surely at that moment God wept because his child was no more. But there is always hope for our future.

How is there hope? Jeremiah tells us: “consider well the highway,/ the road by which you went./Return, O virgin Israel.” Redemption and restoration is all about realizing the hopeless path of sin we are following–and turning around.

2 Timothy 2:14–26: Aha! a verse I memorized in the 5th grade at Lake Avenue Congregational Church: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.” That verse had no resonance to my 10-year old mind. But it does now. In preparation for my teenage years, I probably should have been required to learn the very next verse and a half: “Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” (16, 17a). In fact, in this age of social media, talk spreads not slowly like gangrene, but like wildfire. Almost every day we read of some person being taken down by intemperate remarks on Facebook or Twitter. We should print and post that verse on the top of our computers! 

We encounter a rather odd metaphor–one I don’t I think Paul would have used–but instructive nonetheless: “ In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary.” (20) This sounds like a reference to the hierarchy of the early church where most of the people are “ordinary utensils,” but regardless of our ordinariness, “All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work.” (21) And here are the requirements for doing so, perhaps the two verses with which every church should open any council or congregational meeting: “Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (22, 23)

Of course the question is, am I pursuing righteousness, faith, love, peace and a pure heart? Or would I rather dwell on the controversies?

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