Weekly Meditation: 23rd October 2016
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
After prophesying a time of devastation on the land of Judah, including an infestation of locusts that would consume all the crops (Joel 1:2-12), the prophet Joel speaks of a time of restoration. God will restore the ‘autumn and spring rains’ (2:23); the grain harvest will be great and the new wine and oil will overflow (2:25). All that the locusts ate will be recovered as the storerooms are replenished, and the losses of the ‘locust years’ - when Judah suffered famine, defeat and exile - will be restored (2:25). Then the people will know again that their God is with them (2:27).
There was a greater promise, however, not truly fulfilled until centuries later, and perhaps still to be further completed; the promise of an outpouring of God’s Spirit. It would cause young and old to see visions, to prophesy and to dream dreams (2:28). There was the promise of salvation for everyone ‘who calls on the name of the Lord’ (2:32). This was a promise of far more than the restoration of land and crops, and freedom from enemy nations. It was concerning salvation and eternity. A major fulfilment of this prophecy occurred on the day of Pentecost, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on his disciples (Acts 2:1-21). A further fulfilment is indicated by the reference to ‘the great and glorious day of the Lord’.
The salvation that God provides is often spoken of in terms of the harvest and of the abundance of crops. In Psalm 65, the psalmist writes of the forgiveness of transgressions for those ‘overwhelmed by sins’ (65:3) and of the blessings for those whom God chooses to bring near to his courts. These favoured people are ‘filled with the good things of [God’s] house’ (65:4), as if they have been invited to a feast. This is a hymn of praise to God for his goodness and mercy. It uses beautiful imagery of a bountiful harvest, with carts overflowing, the meadows full of flocks and the valleys with corn. There are shouts of joy and gladness (65:11-13).
The ultimate promises of our faith are matchless in their promise of abundance and security. Paul was aware of this in his concluding words to Timothy. He wrote of the ‘crown of righteousness which the Lord will award to me on that day’ (2 Timothy 4:8). Paul’s present condition, however, involved suffering. Incarcerated, probably in the Mamertine prison, he felt he was ‘already being poured out like a drink offering’ (4:6). No one had come to his defence when he stood before the Roman authorities (4:16) but he believed that God had stood alongside him and delivered him “from the lion’s mouth” (4:17). However, in his conviction that the Lord would ‘rescue [him] from every evil attack’ he was not anticipating physical safety, but that he would be received into God’s ‘heavenly kingdom’ (4:18). Paul’s security lay, not in himself or in his own achievements, but in the grace of God. Throughout his ministry, he had sought to share the message that salvation was not dependent upon keeping the law or on performing works, but by humbly accepting the righteousness of God, through faith (see Romans 3:21-24;5:1).
This was also the message of Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax–collector (Luke 18:9-14). It was specifically addressed to those who were ‘confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else’ (18:9). The contrast is between a self-righteous Pharisee who viewed himself as blameless (18:11-12), and a tax-collector who dared not ‘even look up to heaven’ but who simply asked for God’s mercy (18:13). Jesus stated that this humble man, rather than the Pharisee, ‘went home justified before God’ (18:14). To gain all the riches that God has in store for us – the crowning of our year with his bounty (Psalm 65:11) and the outpouring of his Spirit (Joel 2:28) - all we have to do is to repent of our sins and trust in God for our salvation.