Be Strong and Take Heart and Wait for the Lord

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EZRA 1:1-2:70 | 1 CORINTHIANS 1:18-2:5 | PSALM 27:7-14 | PROVERBS 20:22-23

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Following the very long list of kings who governed the half of Israel called Judah, from the line of David onward, we traced the lives and times of these kings in the first and second book of Chronicles.  Today, we open a new book called Ezra.  The book opens where II Chronicles left off. 

Persia is the superpower of the day, and Cyrus the Great overthrows Babylon, and is moved to allow the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. 

This is what the text tells us about the decree that he makes: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. 4 And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”

And so, a great exodus begins—the Jewish people by their own volition move back in large numbers to Jerusalem.  After many decades of exile, they are returning to their homeland, and begin the work of rebuilding the temple. What a joyous day it is!

Turning now to our reading in the book of Corinthians, we find Paul writing about the sheer simplicity and power of the gospel of the crucified Christ—to both Jew and Gentile alike. 

Paul says, 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Now there’s something to ponder about.  Paul wishes to emphasize the unique workings of the Lord Almighty in the way that it appears to be in complete contradiction to our own understanding. 

Paul goes on to explains it like this:  27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  31Therefore, as it is written:  “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

In line with this, Paul also wishes to reiterate that his own writing and preaching is not designed to awe his audience; rather, it is conducted in the spirit of great humility. 

He says, 1 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Turning now to our reading of the psalm for the day, we find David, the psalmist, continuing in his plaintive plea to the Lord Almighty for help.  David says:

7 Hear my voice when I call, LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
God my Savior.

It is indeed great confidence that David has in the provision of the Lord Almighty.  Even more so than he does in his own parents—which is how it ought to be for each of us.  God forbid that our earthly parents forsake us, but even if they do, like David, may it be that we also say:

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

And like David, may it be that our prayer might be the same:

11 Teach me your way, LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.

And finally, like David, may it be that we can also remain confident in God’s goodness to the very end.  David says:

13 I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
    be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

Finally, a powerful reminder from Solomon, wise king of Israel, who has this to say concerning injustices that you might be a victim of, and to your instinct for revenge:

22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

3 thoughts on “Be Strong and Take Heart and Wait for the Lord

  1. Paul quotes Isaiah here in v. 19 and really this passage on wisdom and foolishness is a commentary on all of salvation history that has come before him and as recorded in Hebrew scriptures: over and over again God chooses the least likely to do great things, to be the key figures in the narrative of the people’s communal life. From Abraham and Sarah to Jacob to David this is the pattern again and again. Even our friend Kathleen Norris quotes these same words from this first chapter of I Corinthians in The Cloister Walk (as an example of Paul’s complex prose and theologizing) and writes, “Hearing the passage read slowly one night at vespers, I suddenly grasped the exasperation there, and God’s good humor and it made me laugh.”

    1. As I’ve mentioned already, Paul’s message about the sheer simplicity and power of the gospel of the crucified Christ is ironically too complex to some who wish to either see signs and wonders like their Hebrew ancestors were used to, or to be presented with deep philosophies like the Greeks are accustomed to.

      But here comes Paul saying there’s nothing more that you need to do or can do. God’s plan of salvation is here for the taking and it is merely your belief in it that makes you an heir to this free gift. You’re not entitled to it, you can’t earn it, and you can’t buy it. So, have it now, and let it be known to one and all that it is for them too! And if you think all this is too simple and too bizarre and perhaps even unfair, well, then, yes, you are correct!

      It *is* a simple plan of salvation that requires only implicit faith in God’s provision for the perfect sacrifice that serves as an atonement for my sin. It *is* bizarre that God would give such a great price to save one as unworthy as I. And it *is* unfair to think that this gift of salvation is available to one and all — the good, the bad, the rich, the poor, the smart, the dumb, the deserving and the undeserving.

      But that is how it *is*, folks. So, put all your wisdom aside, and accept this free gift today. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Take the wager, won’t you?

      It is not just God’s good humor that I see here, but God’s incomprehensible goodness and grace and mercy to make the playing field level for one and all.

      As always, I thank you for your thoughtful commentary, and wish you good tidings for the day.

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