Loud and Clashing Cymbals

Daily Scripture readings for December, set #23:

2 Chronicles, chapters 28-29
Psalm 148
Luke 12:22-34
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Ahaz’s wickedness seems completely unreasonable to me as the reader, but it apparently made sense to him. Notice his backwards logic: “In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.’ But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel” (2Chron 28:22-23). Oh God, protect me from becoming so calloused to your laws and your ways that I pursue such obvious foolishness.

The qualification in Psalm 148:14 stands out to me today. “He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.” The commas seem to separate three ways of referring to the same group: 1) His people, 2) his saints, 3) the people of Israel. Except, the qualification on #3 is “who are near to him.” Not simply the people of Israel, but those of Israel who are near to him. This reminds me of the “Remnant of Israel” in Romans 11.

“Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Lk 12:31). Just yesterday I came across a fitting exposition of this verse from CS Lewis: “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2Thess 3:5). It is worth noting that, at least in this verse, Paul doesn’t command the Thessalonians to direct their own hearts toward Christ, but rather asks the Lord to do this on their behalf.

Daily Scripture readings for December, set #24:

2 Chronicles, chapters 30-33
Psalm 149
Luke 12:35-48
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

I am floored by how relentless the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles have been in giving credit to GOD for what are normally considered human “free will” decisions, with another example in today’s reading. “The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the Lord” (2Chron 30:12).

The tasks (called “honors”) for God’s people, according to Psalm 149: Executing vengeance/punishment on the nations/peoples (vs 7), binding kings and nobles (vs 8), executing the judgment that has been “written” (vs 9). Try putting that on a t-shirt and selling it at a Christian music festival.

 “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating” (Luke 12:47-48). “Severe beating” vs “light beating.” I *think* this is Jesus’ first (and only?) mention of any gradation of punishment, at least eschatologically. Anybody know if I’m correct on that?

Paul gives a very clear theology and purpose for a Kingdom-centered perspective on work in today’s 2 Thessalonians reading. We all have a lazy streak, and workaholism is a very real threat for many people. Nevertheless, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (vs 11).

Daily Scripture readings for December, set #25:

2 Chronicles, chapters 34-36
Psalm 150
Luke 12:49-59
2 Thessalonians 3:14-18

Continuing on the theme of God himself acting toward his purpose, consider verses 16-17 of 2 Chronicles 36. “But they (Judah) kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. Therefore he (God) brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He (God) gave them all into his (Chaldean king) hand.” Two things I notice here: 1) God’s wrath was provoked to a point of no return, and 2) the Chaldeans were brought against Judah by HIM.

As a drummer, Psalm 150:5 has a special place in my heart. “Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” Many church-goers send unhappy emails to the pastor and worship leader when the cymbals are loud and clashing. It’s good knowing I have God’s Word on my side of the discussion. 🙂

Jesus’ strong words in Luke 12:51-53 echo loudly in my mind every time I act in order to win favor for myself among my fellow humanity. “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Romans 12:18 motivates me to seek favor with ANYONE and EVERYONE, but today’s reading in Luke 12 reminds me that it will, ultimately, be impossible.

Paul’s suggestion in 2 Thess 3:14-15 for how to handle a disobedient person was DEFINITELY not on my radar until I read it just now. “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” I mean, seriously? Ignoring a person so that they feel shamed? The last part helps a little, but still… is this a realistic approach for the Church today, or is it specific to the Thessalonian community?

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