Weekly Meditation: 9th October 2016
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
2 Timothy 2:8-15
It is sometimes trials and difficulties that draw us closer to God, or that are instrumental in our salvation. Of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed of their terrible disease, only one returned to give thanks. All had pleaded with him (Luke 17:13) and all had been cleansed and sent to show themselves to the priests in order to be declared free of leprosy (17:14). One – a Samaritan - turned back, however, praising God and falling at Jesus’ feet in thanks (17:15-16). This story is not included in our Bibles as a lesson in good manners. It is far more significant than that, because it reveals a man who received not only healing, but salvation. Jesus’ words ‘your faith has made you well’ (17:19 NIV) could equally mean ‘your faith has saved you’. All the lepers had been ‘made well’ in the sense that they had been healed. However, in praising God and thanking Jesus, this man had been ‘made well’ – saved - by acknowledging Jesus and recognising that in him, God’s will was being performed.
Paul, ‘suffering and chained like a criminal’ (2 Timothy 2:9) knew that he was being persecuted because of the gospel of Christ, who himself had suffered, but who had been raised from the dead (2:8). Paul therefore urged Timothy to ‘endure everything’ so that others ‘may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory’ (2:10).
Suffering affects individuals and peoples differently. The psalmist encouraged the people of Israel to ‘shout with joy to God’, recalling their ancestors’ deliverance from Egypt (66:1-6). He recognised that God had tested his people, but through the trials he had ‘preserved’ their lives and kept their feet ‘from slipping’ (66:9). Their time of slavery had ‘refined them like silver’, but had been resolved when they were brought to their promised land – ‘a place of abundance’ (66:12).
On the other hand, the threats against Jerusalem and Judah by Babylon, and the exile of many of the prominent people of Judah, had resulted mainly in arrogance and falsehood. The false prophet Hananiah had predicted that all the captives would be released and the temple treasure restored (see Jeremiah 28). His prediction was without foundation, however, and would fail. Therefore, Jeremiah sent a letter to those who had been deported, telling them to settle down and accept their exile. They should ‘build houses... plant gardens...marry and have sons and daughters’ (29:5-6). Furthermore, they should ‘seek the peace and prosperity’ of Babylon and pray for it (29:7-8). This was important advice, because the captives would be in Babylon for several decades, and would be joined by other exiles from Judah. There was no purpose in hoping for an early release, or in rebelling against their captors. Through this experience, God intended to refine them and draw them back to himself; his intention was eventually to restore them to their homeland (see Psalms 137, 126).
Through trials, we have God’s promise that ‘if we die with him we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him’ (2 Timothy 2:11-12). Paul’s word to Timothy, and to all Christians, is to persevere, ‘as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, and who correctly handles the word of truth’ (2:15).