Psalm 134; Daniel 12:8–Hosea 2:15; Revelation 2:1–11

Psalm 134: This short psalm is all about “blessing God,” which of course is praising and worshipping God and how God reciprocates by blessing our lives.

It’s directed to “the servants of the Lord,/ who stand in the Lord’s house through the nights,” (1) which I take to be people who took care of the temple at night, perhaps tending the fires and lamps of the temple. For us today, I like to think it’s the people in public safety–firemen and police–as well as those in hospitals and homes tending to the sick who stand watch through the night.

The final act of the psalm is that we “Lift up [our] hands toward the holy place/ and bless the Lord.” This is the corporate act of praising God for all that he has done in our lives, and how God continues to protect and bless us. In short, it is worship for a single purpose, directed solely to God. It is not worship for our entertainment or even for our equipping to go out into the world.

And in turn, God blesses us: “May the Lord bless you from Zion,” (3a) And at this thanksgiving time, the last line of this psalm reminds us that is is “He who makes heaven and earth.” And all that is within. All that we have, be it life, family, friends, home, wealth comes to us from only one place: God the creator. And that is why we live and have our being in the unceasing cycle of worship and blessing.

Daniel 12:8–Hosea 2:15: Once again, the Moravians have us bridging two books, a reminder, I think, that the Bible is like a seamless garment.

The book of Daniel ends with the reminder that what he has been told (or is it the prophecies written down?) “are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end.” (12:10) There’s a precise forecast that  1290 “days” (actual days?) will pass while “the regular burnt offering [in the temple] is taken away and the abomination that desolates is set up.” (11) That, I presume is the author’s take on how long Antiochus Epiphanes will desecrate the temple.  And then, “Happy are those who persevere and attain the thousand three hundred thirty-five days.” (12) Which at this point I can say only, “Whatever…” The last line of this always mysterious book is one clear promise from the angel to Daniel: “But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.” (13). Which the New Testament makes clear that under the New Covenant is a promise that is for all of us.

The opening chapter of Hosea is one of God’s more bizarre object lessons. He commands the prophet to act out in his life the estrangement between God and the northern kingdom of Israel. Hosea marries the whore Gomer, who gives him three children. Jezreel is representative of a battle to come, where God promises, “On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” (1:5). Daughter Lo-ruhamah represents the time when God “will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them,” (1:6) reminding that dissolute nation that “I will have pity on the house of Judah,” (1:7) Hosea’s third child, Lo-ammi, is the final estrangement, as God says, “you are not my people and I am not your God.” (1:9)

But yet. In the midst of punishment, God always offers a bright future wherein Israel is restored. Some day, “the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered” (1:10) and “in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” (1:11). With God, there is always the possibility of redemption.

But what follows is Jezreel’s long poem that is clearly Hosea’s begging Israel to turn away form its wicked ways as we read him speaking in God’s voice.
    “Plead with your mother, plead—
    for she is not my wife,
    and I am not her husband—”…
For their mother has played the whore;
    she who conceived them has acted shamefully.” (2:1. 5)

Eventually, Israel will come to its senses and say,
    “Then she shall say, “I will go
    and return to my first husband,
    for it was better with me then than now.” (2:7b)

As always, there is the promise of redemption:
  “Therefore, I will now allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her…
   From there I will give her her vineyards,
    and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
   There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,
    as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. (2:14-15)

Even though Israel sinned immensely, God still holds out his hand in promise and hope of eventual restoration. Just as he does for us. No matter how far we drift from God, his hand remains outstretched, pleading for us to come back.

 Revelation 2:1–11: John writes to each of the seven churches of Asia, noting both their positive qualities and their shortcomings, but also God’s promise to them. Taken together, they are a marvelous compendium of the what a community should be–and what it should not be.

The church at Ephesus works hard and has “patient endurance” but its focus on working hard has cause it to “abandon the love you had at first.” (4) In other words, focusing solely on the task at hand can too easily cause us to lose the focus on Christ as doing good works becomes the end in itself, not the means of expressing our love for others.

John tells the church at Smyrna ““I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich.” (9) Even though its members may be wealthy, they are being castigated by members of the “Synagogue of Satan.” Some in the Smyrna church will even be tossed into prison. But despite these trials, John asks them to remain faithful: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (10)

These are words to remember as Christianity becomes increasingly marginalized here. We American Christians may not suffer as other Christians elsewhere in the world suffer–even to death–but that does not mean we will not encounter difficulty in remaining faithful. The point of the our faith is not to have it easy or to become prosperous. Rather, it is to endure suffering inflicted on us by the world. The constant whining from some quarters about America no longer being a “Christian nation” or has lost its “Christian values” is a clear indication they have not paid attention to what John said about the church at Smyrna.

 

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