What I Saw – December 14, 2019

I don’t typically read a Scripture passage on Sunday, but since I missed Saturday’s reading (due to sleeping late), I decided to go back and pick it up.  That reading was Revelation 14:1-5.

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Now I wasn’t really thrilled about reading Revelation.  This is probably more the fault of modern interpretations and presuppositions about Revelation than it is the fault of Revelation itself.  The Revelation (which is the proper title of the book, the title John gives it at the beginning; not Revelations plural, not even Revelation, but THE Revelation, one single message from God) is actually a great book and even refers to itself as a book that ought to be read and treasured.  But so much baggage has been imported onto the book by (bad) theologies in our day that I find it difficult to find a clear word from God in it.

Nonetheless, I asked the Spirit to show me what I needed to see and sat down to read.  At first I didn’t catch anything, but then I noticed that line They (the 144,000) follow the Lamb wherever he goes.  And in that was my word.

There were two things I saw in this line.  The first was what my mentor called “a covenant word”, that is, a word about God.  What I saw about God or Jesus, here portrayed as the Lamb, is that He is on the move.  He is heading for a destination.  The 144,000 follow Him wherever He goes, which indicates that He is indeed going somewhere.  Though it isn’t stated directly in the text, I believe the implication is that He is going to a good place by a good route.  He is God, after all, and if God goes, that’s undoubtedly where and how He does it.  So that was the first word.  It was a very picturesque word full of inviting imagery and poetry.  God is heading somewhere, that somewhere is a good place, and the way He goes to that somewhere is a good way.

The second thing I saw was what my mentor called “a Kingdom word”, that is, a word about me, a word about how I respond to what I have just seen about God.  The Kingdom word I saw here is that I must follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  That is what the 144,000 (which I believe to be a symbolic number representing all believers in Jesus, a number which is not an elimination (as I would have seen it as a teenager) but an invitation) were doing.  That is what all believers in Jesus do.  And that is what I must do.  I must follow Jesus to the place He is going.  I must follow Jesus along the way He is going.  Again, there is a great deal of imagery and poetry here which is perhaps hinted more than directly stated (or perhaps not; if God is doing the hinting then it is no hinting at all), and that imagery/poetry is very enticing to me.  Following the Lamb wherever He goes seems like such a good thing to me.  Following the Lamb wherever He goes seems not just right but wonderful.

As I thought about these words, I realized they should not be such a surprise to me.  We disciples of Jesus are called “followers”, after all.  Not only so, but the logo of the Moravian Church, a logo I see every time I open my Moravian Daily text app, says this:

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But this still took me by surprise for some reason.  It still took me by wonderful, beautiful, happy surprise.  The truth that Jesus is going somewhere good in a good way and is inviting me to following Him to that place in that way is a wonderful, beautiful, and happy truth.

And that’s the truth I saw on December 14, 2019.

What I Saw – June 29th

I sat down in the bay window of my parent’s rural Ohio home to do my evening prayers.

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The view from the window

In the evening, I follow Tim Keller’s five-step pattern for prayer: evocation (inviting God to be present), meditation (reading Scripture), word prayer, free prayer, and contemplation.  After the evocation, I turned to the Scripture for the evening, which I took from the Moravian Daily Text’s “watchword” (Old Testament Scripture) and “doctrinal text” (New Testament Scripture).  For June 29th, those passages were these:

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I have to admit that this was not what I hoped to receive from the Lord that evening.  I was hoping for a word of encouragement, for something speaking of God’s love for me and His promises to me.  Instead, I got this word about being punished for my sins.  It was not only disappointing but intimidating.  I started wondering what I had done to make God say this to me and what it meant for me.  I started worrying and I wanted to turn away from my prayers.

But I didn’t.  I forged on, meditating on this passage as I have been taught to do.  As I did, I somehow stumbled across the word justice.  I always try to pull a truth about God from the Scripture I read.  In this case, the statement about punishment brought me to the truth that God is just (punishment comes from His justice; He punishes sin because He is just).  When I realized this, I realized that this statement which I found so threatening and disagreeable in the moment, this statement which seemed to be dropping me back into the “God is Zeus who can’t wait to hit you with a lightning bolt for the slightest transgression” territory, was actually a statement about God’s love.  It was a statement about the wideness of God’s love, the universality of God’s love, the fact that God loves everyone.

You see, all sin is a transgression not just of God but of another person.  I have thought long and hard about this.  I have run through the catalog of all the sins I know, and I can’t find one that is not in some way an insult or offense against another of my fellow human beings (my fellow human beings who are created in the image of God just as I am and who are just as valuable in the grand design as me).  Murder is obviously an offense against others, as is theft and lying.  But so is all forms of sexual immorality, even lust; Paul says that sexual sins are “taking advantage” of other people (1 Thessalonians 4:6) and Jesus seems to suggest that even looking at others is using them in an untoward way (Matthew 5:28).  That being the case, what God is saying here in Jeremiah 21:14 when He promises to punish us for our sins is that He is not going to allow us to get away with insulting, offending, taking advantage of, and using others.  That is exactly what would happen if He didn’t punish sin; He would be allowing one person to get away with doing such things to another; He would be favoring one person at the expense of another.  And He doesn’t do that.  He doesn’t operate that way.  He loves all, so He punishes all.  His justice is an expression of His love for all.

Now I don’t know exactly how this will all play out.  Is this punishment in this life or the next?  Is this punishment some sort of physical affliction or is it simply a word of rebuke (much as He verbally rebuked Sarah for laughing but did not physically do anything to her)?  Is this punishment all covered by the sacrificial death of Christ (a strong possibility).  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I saw the strength and immensity of the love of God in this verse.  I saw that God not only loves me but loves everyone to the point that He will punish me for offending anyone and will conversely punish anyone for offending me.  This is not Zeus, who as far as I can tell was cruel and arbitrary in his punishments.  This is the ever-loving Yahweh, the Yahweh who shows His ever-lovingness and fairness and concern for all by punishing in some way all sin, by allowing no sin to go unaddressed.

And that’s what I saw on June 29th.