Weekly Meditation: 18th September 2016

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

Psalm 79:1-9.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13  

 

God wants all people to be saved and to know the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). God alone has provided salvation ‘for all men’. He is the one God, and Jesus is ‘the one mediator between God and men’, being both human and divine (2:5-6). The apostle Paul recognised this as the message of the true faith with which he was charged (2:7).

Throughout history, God has been working to bring about salvation for humans. His hand was evident even in the appalling devastation suffered by the city of Jerusalem before it fell to the Babylonians. Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 looks like nothing more than an account of divine retribution. But God is mourning – and causing Jeremiah to mourn – over the people of Judah, foreseeing their exile in Babylon (8:19a) and having been ‘provoked to anger with [the people’s] images, with their worthless foreign idols’ (18:19b). It seems there is no salvation or healing for these unfaithful people (18:20-22). This prophecy was given to warn God’s people, and although it failed in its initial purpose, God’s overall purpose succeeded – to check Judah’s move towards complete apostasy and ruin, and to preserve his chosen people as a distinct race into which the Messiah would be born. Jeremiah grieved over the message he had to deliver and over the suffering of his compatriots (9:1), but he no doubt trusted in God’s ultimate purpose.

The writer of psalm 79 provides a graphic description of Jerusalem at its fall, amid his anguished prayer for God to show mercy on his people. He speaks of the temple being defiled, the city reduced to rubble, the dead bodies providing food for birds and beasts, the blood flowing like water, and – probably hardest to bear– the scorn of their neighbours (79:1-4). The psalmist pleads for God’s anger to end, and begs God to ‘pour out his wrath’ no longer on Judah but on the pagan nations who have never acknowledged him (79:5-6). Above all he asks for forgiveness, and is concerned for the glory of God’s name and the reputation of his chosen nation (79:8-9).

It all makes sense, but it is still difficult to see the God whom we have come to know, in all this bloodshed, violence and retribution. Some passages of the Bible are very hard to fathom. Another difficult passage is the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-13). Jesus told this parable to his disciples, but in the hearing of the Pharisees ‘who loved money’ (16:14). It is, as far as we can see, a story of a man, dismissed for ‘wasting his master’s possessions’  who – in order to prepare the way for the time when he was no longer employed – discounted the debts owed to his master, so that the debtors would be grateful and obliged to him.  The master then ‘commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly’ (16:8). It all sounds most unlikely, and even more surprising is Jesus’ interpretation of the parable; ‘use worldly wealth’, he says, ‘to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings’ (16:9). We can only assume it is a message to use our resources, including wealth, wisely in this present life, perhaps to prove our trustworthiness (16:11). Verse 13 re-establishes our perspective, however, when Jesus states that we ‘cannot serve both God and Money’. Clearly, whatever our financial situation, our focus must be on God and the salvation that only he can provide.

Ultimately, all we can do is to trust God; through personal challenges and national disasters, he provides the only true security, and it is his desire that all humans come to salvation in him (1 Timothy 2:4).

By Susan Thorne