What a sharp contrast in today’s reading. Yesterday was doom and gloom, today is hope of salvation. We are witness to a festive scene in heaven once again! I thought it was interesting that one of the 24 asked John who all the people were. John’s response was priceless. “Sir, you are the one who knows.” It was almost as if it were a trick question. I know what it’s like to be asked a question I don’t know the answer to but what should be obvious to the one asking!
This abrupt shift is like putting a movie on pause. It had to happen. We needed to halt the momentum of the fiery judgments of God brought by the horsemen in our last reading. Time was needed to make sure the faithful on earth could be marked “safe” before the full unleashing of God’s wrath. It speaks to me that God is always looking out for our best interests and will make sure we have what we need to stand strong in times of adversity.
The church in Thyatira is a good example of how “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” I don’t know about you, but when I’m sorting through my fruit and vegetables, particularly fresh cilantro, I remove the rotting pieces so that the others can stay fresher longer. But what happens when we overlook the bad apple in our midst?
Jesus commended this church on their love, faith, service, and endurance. Those are qualities that build a strong church community to be sure. Jesus’ words also speak truth when it comes to recognizing the false prophets among us. Sometimes we can’t see and are blinded to the truth. After all, they call themselves prophets. But who is leading them? Whose message are they bringing? They may even be disillusioned themselves to believe they are holy, when instead they are being controlled by the evil one.
What a life Moses had lived. Remember how his mother hid him in a basket and set him in the water so he wouldn’t be killed. Remember how he was found by an Egyptian princess and grew up in an Egyptian household. Remember when he first saw God in a burning bush. Remember how he persevered through the wilderness with a bunch of complainers. Now he stands with God looking over the promised land. Strong until the end. And now he’s gone.
Interesting that we hear in the text that God buried him, and that no one knows where Moses is buried. I suppose in that way the people could truly move on and not spend days setting up some memorial shrine to Moses or even take his body into the promised land after all. The leadership role has now shifted to Joshua, and their happily ever after will soon begin in the land of Canaan.
Notice that Moses begins this passage with the words, “In the future, when..” God knew that the people would turn from him, that they would stumble, that they would be distracted. Notice he doesn’t say “if you mess up.” What happens to people who turn their back on God and endure the curses we’ve read about? Does God shut them out completely? Forever? These verses would seem to suggest to the contrary. “If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you.”
Our God gives second chances. God’s mercy is unbelievable. Even if these people walked away from God, did every despicable thing God warned would end in a curse, he would still take them back. And there’s more, God would see that they were even more prosperous than before.
There are so many distractions that can keep us from God. There are also false prophets, feel good spirituality, and non-believers that do what they can to entice us away from our faith. It’s been going on like this for a long time. Moses had to warn his people to be careful not to go astray. God would not be pleased. I was also surprised to see that Moses told them, “the Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul.” I certainly don’t want to fail the test. Do you?
We do need to be careful. I, for one, don’t want to displease God. Yet, there isn’t a moment that goes by that I’m not falling short in some way, shape, or form. What is helpful, is to realize I’m not alone. Many people over the ages have struggled with temptations. You know the old saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Have you ever had that sense?