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?
God’s laws as presented by Moses have not been given to restrict the people but to give them a thriving life. God wants the best for his children. We should focus on the loving God who is looking out for our best interests. While God wants all of his children to obey and choose life, he created us with minds that can make decisions.
God didn’t want to make robots that were programmed to do his will. He blessed us with minds that can think, reason, choose, and experience emotion. It is definitely a blessing to have these abilities. But we have our limits, too. We often limit ourselves by beliefs and lies we have told ourselves or heard from others. There are so many messages flooding our consciousness. Deciphering and filtering through them can be a challenge.
We may read Jesus’ rant here and be a bit surprised. But, we shouldn’t be surprised at Jesus’ words but by the unrepentant sinners of whom he is speaking. We might ask, how do you experience healing, even just as a witness, and not be changed? Or, how do you go back to business as usual after seeing a miracle from God? God is awesome, we should stand amazed!
Do we take our own faith for granted? Do we need constant reminders to keep us focused on God? How long will God be patient with us? It may be hard to picture Jesus with anger in his voice, but he was human. He was surprised at the lack of faith that followed his work. He came to draw people to himself. You would think the people who had seen his great miracles would be especially drawn in and want to know him more.