TIME TO CONFESS
I made a big mistake. The reflection titled "For November 19, 2023" are the readings scheduled for November 26th. The reflections below were read today, November 19th. Please accept my apologies, if there was any confusion.
NOTE BEFORE WE BEGIN
This is the third and final study on the “Day of the Lord”, or the “end times”. I hope that you have come to understand this subject a little better. Perhaps we can all look forward to that day with hope and expectation, rather than fear and dread.
This week, I will rearrange the order of the passages, and close with the epistle reading.
ZEPHANIAH 1:7, 12-18
The message preached by Zephaniah, and the complacency of God’s people sound very similar to last week’s reading from Amos. The surprising thing is that they lived about 125 years apart! So, it seems that history has a way of repeating itself. And things are no different today.
- Zephaniah announces that the day of the Lord is at hand, and he’s set to act. (v. 7)
- The people are so complacent, that they think God doesn’t care, and won’t do anything, if they disobey Him. The phrase “complacency on their dregs” is a confusing phrase. Maybe it means this: When grapes are pressed to make wine, you have the fermenting juice on the top, with the dregs (the solid grape matter) down in the bottom of the vat. If you don’t stir up the dregs, they will thicken, and destroy the wine. Zephaniah is telling these spiritually lazy people that God is about to stir things up! (v. 12)
- When you build a new house, and plant a garden, you have probably made plans to enjoy yourself in your new surroundings for a few years. Zephaniah tells the people to not get too comfy; God is going to clean house. (v. 13)
- And clean house he does in the final paragraph. The first part of this, verses 14-16, sound like a war. But the last verses sound more global; like an epidemic or global disaster. (vv. 14-18)
Complacency is the reason God is upset with His people. They are complacent in spiritual matters. Laziness is another word for complacency. They are spiritually lazy to the point of being arrogant with God. But let’s examine our own selves. What about our spiritual laziness? Or are we living up to God’s expectations?
Jesus is wrapping up his teaching, and is about to be betrayed, tried, and crucified. He concludes his teaching with some lessons about the day of judgement.
Jesus teaches us a new lesson using a parable. Remember to look for only one God Lesson in this parable, and not get hung up on the detail.
- The story goes that a rich man was going on a journey, and entrusts three of his servants with his bank account. He gives the servants five, two, and one talents respectively. Now, a talent is a lot of money—15 years’ wages. So, in today’s wages, at $50,000 per year times 15 years, a talent is worth $750,000 in today’s wages. Yep, a lot of money.
- Well, the guys who got the most money, invested it, and doubled their money. This pleased the owner. But the guy who was given the least, went and buried the cash. When the owner returned, he said “here’s your money back”. The owner was not happy. He threw that servant out “into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (There is a lot of teeth-gnashing in the gospel of Matthew.)
So, what’s the God Lesson for us? Why did Jesus teach this parable?
God entrusts each of us with spiritual gifts. Every one of us has been blessed with spiritual abilities of one sort or another. God expects us to use these gifts to build up his kingdom; to grow the Body of Christ. Some of us are spiritually lazy, and do not use the gifts He has given us. We disappoint God with our lack of action. Let’s do our best to recognize our gifts, and put them to good use.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-11
Paul is wrapping up his letter to the church in Thessalonica by giving them words of encouragement regarding the “day of the Lord”, or Jesus’ return.
- Paul starts out by saying “I don’t need to tell you any of this, but…”, and then he goes on to tell them anyway. (v. 1)
- He uses two analogies, to illustrate the unpredictability of when Jesus will return (vv. 2-3):
- It will be like a “thief in the night”. I’m surprised that he uses the word “thief” to describe Jesus. But just as how you never know when someone will break into your house, you never know when Jesus will return.
- It will be like a woman going into labor. (Here’s one we can all understand!) Unless your labor was induced, or you were scheduled for a C-section, you never know when that baby is coming.
- Next is the heart and soul of this passage. We are ”all children of the light”. Yes, you and me! Since we are in Christ, we live in Jesus, the light of the world, not in darkness. (vv. 4-5)
- Then, we are encouraged to keep awake (or vigilant), and eagerly await his return. (vv. 6-7)
- Now, we put on armor. But this is not ordinary armor. This is the armor of faith, hope, and love. These are unusual weapons. (v. 8)
- More words of encouragement— “God has destined us not for wrath, but for salvation”. Paul is telling us not to worry, that God has our back. (v. 0_
- We can be so confident in this, that even if we do fall asleep, we know that we will still live with him! (v. 10)
- Since we know that God will save us, we can use our energy to encourage & build up one another. (v. 11)
So, then, we should not be fearful for what lies ahead, as long as we are in Christ Jesus. Our job is to remain faithful, and encourage & build one another up in faith. In love, faith, and hope, we await his coming.
In church, we sometimes sing a sweet old Lutheran hymn— “Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness”. I’m sure that it is not familiar to most of you. It’s an old German hymn that was written around the year 1650, nearly 400 years ago. One thing I like about singing these old hymns is that they connect me with Christians of all space and time. I would like to share two of the verses here, because they are appropriate to Jesus’ return.
Hasten as a bride to meet him,
Eagerly and gladly greet him.
There he stands already knocking;
Quickly, now, your gate unlocking,
Open wide the fast-closed portal,
Saying to the Lord immortal:
“Come and leave your loved one never;
Dwell within my heart forever.”
Jesus, source of lasting pleasure,
Truest friend, and dearest treasure,
Peace beyond all understanding,
Joy into all life expanding;
Humbly now, I bow before you,
Love incarnate, I adore you;
Worthily let me receive you,
And, so favored, never leave you.