Weekly Meditation: 16th October 2016

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 119:97-104

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Luke 18:1-8

Christians are called to a lifetime of patience, devotion, faith and unrelenting prayer.  In the parable of the persistent widow, Jesus’ message regarding prayer is that we must keep at it, pestering God with our importunities, not giving up but ‘bothering’ him until we are answered. It is not polite behaviour, but it works. As parents we know the results of ‘pester power’; pet-owners also will know how effective is a persistent meow or whine; like the judge in the parable (Luke 18:4-5), we are eventually worn down by it. The clear message of Jesus’ teaching is that if even an ‘unjust judge’ will eventually act on behalf of an importunate woman, how much more may we expect God to come quickly to our aid (18:6-8). It all hinges on faith, however. Will our faith last a lifetime, so that our prayers persist until ‘the Son of Man comes’ (18:8)?

The writer of Psalm 119 needed no such reminder. He is exemplary in his devotion, setting a standard that would be hard to match. He ‘loves’ God’s law; what we might view as an uncompromising list of rules fills him with delight so that he thinks of them ‘all day long’ (119:97).  He recognises how God’s law has kept him ‘from every evil path’ (119:101), and how he has gained ‘understanding’ from God’s precepts (119:104).

Faithfulness is rewarded. God’s people of Judah had long been unfaithful and were to experience deportation to Babylon.  However, the prophet Jeremiah was able to give them reassurance that if they returned to their faith, they would be restored to God’s favour. God promised them a new covenant, not like the old covenant that they had broken (Jeremiah 31:32). This new covenant, rather than being written on tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18) would be inscribed on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). They would come to know God intimately, and he would forgive them, ‘remembering their sins no more’ (31:34).

Ancient people had God’s law and the prophets to guide them; we have the full works, the entire Bible to inspire our devotion and faith. In writing to Timothy, Paul recognises the advantage that Timothy has in having known the scriptures ‘from infancy’ (2 Timothy 3:15). He reminds him that ‘all scripture’ is inspired by God and that it ‘fully equips’ God’s people (3:16-17).  He encourages Timothy, therefore (and us too, no doubt) to be persistent in sharing God’s word with others. He tells Timothy to be prepared, whether it is convenient or not, ‘to correct, rebuke and encourage’ (4:2). The phrase ‘comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’ was not coined in Paul’s time, but could well sum up what he was saying.

Then, as now, not everyone would listen; they would prefer a watered down version of the truth, or tall stories; just what “their itching ears want to hear” (4:3). One is reminded of those who listen to the spectacular claims of tele-evangelists, leaders of cults, fundamentalists, who make it all sound so simple – just give your money, keep these rules, believe just what we say. Those whom they mislead have rejected the truth and “turned aside to myths” (4:4). The true gospel, however, is free and without condition, though it demands our eternal devotion.  Not for nothing is Timothy warned to ‘keep [his] head in all situations, endure hardship...discharge all [his] duties’ (4:5).  We too are called to endure, like the persistent widow, and to rejoice in God’s word like the psalmist.

Susan Thorne