Paul continues to give profound wisdom to Timothy and us as well. Despite being uncomfortable and in prison, Paul keeps his focus on the prize. He is also clear on the mission God called him to. “And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.” I’d say Paul did a great job with that assignment. I strive to do well with what God has planned for me.
Paul words of encouragement can really speak to us today amidst our own chaos. “Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.” No matter what happens in the world around us, nobody can take away the Biblical truths and promises that have shaped our lives.
This is the last letter we have from Paul. We should be like Timothy and treasure every word, reading it over and over again for the boldness we need to live out our faith and help others do the same. Timothy was like a son to Paul. You can see that devotion in Paul’s writing. “I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.” At the time of this writing, Paul was imprisoned and facing death. He wanted to warn Timothy and the other believers of the opposition they would face in the last days from self-centered false teachers.
As we walk through 2 Timothy, it is my hope and prayer that we all recommit ourselves to stand courageously for truth, believing God’s word, and letting the Holy Spirit guide us through each day. We are living in an age of deception and lies. I suppose we could look at any time in history and say the same thing. It is because evil is in the world and can take advantage of even the strongest people if left unaware.
We see another vision of Judah here that isn’t very pleasant. Unfortunately, we don’t need to look very far to see some of the same things in our current day reality. I have often thought God must be terribly disappointed in his children. There is so much injustice. People seem to have turned away from God. Our faith has been diluted with attempts to be more “inclusive” and accepting of people. Many are consumed with loving themselves and “things” rather than loving God. It was true then, and it is true now.
It’s pretty clear from God’s message that he is furious. “I will take revenge on my enemies.” God sees his enemies as those who have rebelled, turned against him, and become thieves, murderers, and bribe takers. God is also speaking to those who have failed to care for the oppressed, the orphans and widows. This will be a theme we’ll see over and again. God is calling for people to care for and defend those who have a hard time caring for themselves. Then and now, people have broken their commitment to God and turned their affections elsewhere. How about you? Where do your affections lie?
That’s quite a headline! Satan’s Defeat! Hallelujah! Amen! We can all rejoice and be glad. But there are some challenging parts to today’s reading we should not overlook. First of all, Satan is set free from his 1000 year captivity (or however long this represents). There was no prison reform for Satan. In fact, if I were to guess, he came out stronger, angrier, and craftier than ever.
After all of that, we have these words of comfort. “Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Such a fate, it couldn’t have happened to a “nicer” bunch! Forever banished. It makes you wonder why there was the 1000-year imprisonment in the first place. Again, time and space is not literal. God had his reasons.
Have you experienced that almost eerie stillness that happens right before a storm? Growing up in the Midwest, that was a regular summertime occurrence for me. It wasn’t necessarily a favorite time of mine either because it brought to mind a very traumatic night when a tornado ripped through our town and my father was away on business, perhaps driving through that very storm. My mother did a great job of ushering us and our petrified cats to the basement. My dad arrived home safely after the storm had passed. I can still recall that memory, despite the fact it at least was fifty years ago!
The stillness in our text today wasn’t eerie. It was beautiful, and it was intentional. It was like heaven took a breath while the prayers of the faithful were burned with a sweet incense to the Lord. There was one more seal to go, but it was time to focus on the Lamb and on the victory. This pause was for us to take a breath and revel in the promises of God. We often rush through our days and all the tasks on our to-do list. Is spending time with God on your list? Does that quiet time include silence? How can we listen for the voice of God to direct our lives if we are surrounded by noise all the time?