You might want to skip this week’s readings. They won’t be easy—way too much truth-telling for my comfort. But if you’ve had a feeling that lately your idea of God has become too sweet to account for the cauldron of contradictions bubbling just under the surface of your daily life, it might be worth sticking around.
This week’s passages are all about choices. They focus on the contrast between fidelity and failure arising from how we respond to God. In today’s introduction to Psalm 78, the psalmist prepares to recall “the glorious deeds of the Lord” so that “the next generation might know them” (esv). Learning God’s mighty deeds of redemption is not some idle academic exercise. It is the path to living in hope even when everything around us is a mess.
Earlier generations were “stubborn and rebellious” (esv). In heart and action, they were “not faithful to God” (esv). Disastrous consequences followed their failure to respond to God’s work and way. When our wills buck up against God’s reality, we cannot flourish.
The psalmist yearns to teach the next generation “so that they should set their hope in God” (esv). These stories fuel a life of trust. The psalmist wants to save us from the despair of a world that has forgotten God. He wants to awaken faith.
But hope is not the final goal. We learn and remember what the Lord has done in order that we will “keep his commandments” (esv). The point is to live according to the way things really are. God exists. God has acted to redeem a particular people as part of a plan to bless the entire world. God has shown us a way to live that leads to flourishing—by responding in worship to God’s redemption and in obedience to God’s commands.
Triune God, remind us of your works, teach us your will, and enable us to worship and to obey. Amen.
Although God miraculously has brought the Israelites into the Promised Land, some continue to worship foreign gods. Joshua tells them that they must choose whom they will serve and warns of the dangers of unfaithfulness. After they declare that they will follow God, Joshua reminds them of the laws given by God. The psalmist affirms the importance of this kind of reminder; telling the story of God’s faithfulness in the past encourages us in the present. The New Testament readings address Christ’s return. The Thessalonians are concerned that those who have died might miss the final resurrection, but Paul assures them that this will not be the case. Jesus tells a parable to highlight the fact that his return will be unexpected, so we should always be ready.
Read Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25. We are prone to wander. When have you failed to keep promises you have made to God?
Read Psalm 78:1-7. How do you put your hope in God? What are you doing to awaken faith in the next generation?
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. How does the promise of the “coming of the Lord” provide hope when present authorities seem to have a stranglehold? How does the notion that the coming Lord will hold us all accountable encourage you?
Read Matthew 25:1-13. How do you daily choose your faith? How do you keep awake?
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