A Devotion for Friday, March 27, 2020
Revelation 11:15-19 (NRSV)
15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”
16 Then the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 singing,
“We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. 18 The nations raged, but your wrath has come, and the time for judging the dead, for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints and all who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
“We give you thanks, Lord God Almighty …
for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.”
“There’s no hope.” The cry of desperation looms large in our culture. Senseless violence robe us of security in our supposedly save places. Systemic poverty steals from the young the chance for a bright future. Nations seem to be more steeped in racism than ever. Where is the hope?
The book of Revelation addresses our human distress. Christian churches were being severely persecuted by the Roman Empire, while the immorality of Roman culture was seeping into their tanks. To give them hope, John of Patmos shared this mind-boggling vision of a fierce spiritual warfare between heaven and earth. This reading affirms Christ’s ultimate victory.
We are to live boldly in that truth of Jesus’ triumph here and now. This is our hope. This is the conviction that gives us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (“Great is Thy Faithfulness,” text by Thomas O. Chisholm, 18t66t-1960).
Ezekiel 33:10-16 (NRSV)
10 Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” 11 Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?
12 And you, mortal, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not save them when they transgress; and as for the wickedness of the wicked, it shall not make them stumble when they turn from their wickedness; and the righteous shall not be able to live by their righteousness when they sin. 13 Though I say to the righteous that they shall surely live, yet if they trust in their righteousness and commit iniquity, none of their righteous deeds shall be remembered; but in the iniquity that they have committed they shall die.
14 Again, though I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” yet if they turn from their sin and do what is lawful and right— 15 if the wicked restore the pledge, give back what they have taken by robbery, and walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity—they shall surely live, they shall not die. 16 None of the sins that they have committed shall be remembered against them; they have done what is lawful and right, they shall surely live.
Ezekiel’s words ring of a “do it right or die” mentality. At the same time, they remind us – as Paul does in his writings – that righteousness is not enough if even once we fail. By that standard, none of us have any hope, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). And yet, for the one who sins, those sins will not be held against them when they turn their hearts to God – or as Paul would say, those who live by faith.
The key to it all is seen in verse 11; “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live.” God wants the best for us, wants life for us. And we see that heart of God for us in Jesus’ life among us, and in his sacrifice on our behalf. What could not be done, is done, and we are made righteous in Him, for we could not do it on our own.
That is the real story of the Old Testament – God’s people, try as they might, never get it all right, not even his chosen servant David, through whom God makes the promise of a throne that will last forever. And now, it is Christ, born of Mary, of the house of David, who sits on that eternal throne – our Savior and King. So we turn to Him, for in Him we have hope and life. In Him, indeed, life wins!
Prayer: God of the universe, fill every breath I take with assurances of your love. Amen.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope,
comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NRSV)
Blessings & Peace,