Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Strange Mercies

When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.  His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. – Psalm 105:16-19

Matthew Henry comments on verses 8 through 23:  

Let us remember the Redeemer's marvellous works, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth.  Though true Christians are few number, strangers and pilgrims upon earth, yet a far better inheritance than Canaan is made sure to them by the covenant of God; and if we have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, none can do us any harm.  Afflictions are among our mercies.  They prove our faith and love, they humble our pride, they wean us from the world, and quicken our prayers.  Bread is the staff which supports life; when that staff is broken, the body fails and sinks to the earth.  The word of God is the staff of spiritual life, the food and support of the soul: the sorest judgment is a famine of hearing the word of the Lord.  Such a famine was sore in all lands when Christ appeared in the flesh; whose coming, and the blessed effect of it, are shadowed forth in the history of Joseph.  At the appointed time Christ was exalted as Mediator; all the treasures of grace and salvation are at his disposal, perishing sinners come to him, and are relieved by him.

Afflictions are among our mercies … because, among other benefits, affliction helps to … wean us from the world.  The people for whom I feel the most pity are those souls whose only hope is the hype offered by the world.  They buy into the beguiling frauds of the mass media, pursuing and consuming all that the priests of Mammon hold up as desirable, mortgaging their lives and the lives of their children, enslaving themselves to deceitful, dancing images that shift and snare. 

Joseph’s story has come up several times over the last few days, and I am reminded of the Pharaoh’s dream of seven fat cows and seven full heads of grain devoured by seven skeletal cows and seven blighted heads of grain which yet gained nothing from their consumption.  So, too, many fail to realize that in consuming they are consumed by those who claim to be their benefactors yet, in effect, devour their lives.  Sadly, even those ravening predators gain nothing from their deception.  All is vanity, emptiness, as the Preacher says. 

We need to fill our lives with the Word and truth.  I enjoy buying trucks and bikes and tools and gadgets of various kinds, but I understand what I am doing when I do it.  Those things don’t make me into someone different.  They are going to provide me with convenience and pleasure, not transform my life.  I have to give up something to get them.  They provide me with no security or actual worth.  A wealthy friend of mine, whenever I or any of his friends would get something nice and new, would inevitably say, “Praise the Lord!  You deserve that.”  I don’t know if I “deserve” it, but it is always nice to have good stuff and to recognize the real Source of it. 

Every so often, in reading the Bible, I will come across something that, unlike the promises and promotions of the world, does change me.  This is God in His love and grace revealing Himself to me and in me.  A genuine revelation can be known by the fact that it will almost inevitably try us.  Truth tests the one who believes it because much of the time it looks like it is not true.  That’s what the psalmist said of Joseph.  He had a revelation that he was going to be elevated to a position where his family would bow down before him.  In the pit, in slavery, and down in prison, that was probably kind of hard to still believe.     

God says we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin.  When I get angry and spit and swear, I don’t really feel dead to sin.  It doesn’t look like that is going to happen.  Still, it is the truth that we have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer “I” that lives but Christ that lives in me.  Thus, despite the occasional evidence to the contrary, I will reckon myself dead and keep on believing. 

(QUESTION – for the few and the brave who read this stuff:  Does anybody know the origin of this:   If you know what you are doing you are blessed; if you do not know, you are cursed?  I seem to associate it with something like the Gospel of Thomas as some apocryphal saying of Jesus, but I have been unable to find it.  And, maybe, too, I have twisted it to make it into something different from the original.  In my version, it means recognizing and accurately assessing – as far as possible – why I am doing what I am doing.  I should understand my own motives and not be driven by things subconscious and unseen.) 


julie said...

In response to your question, I don' think I've ever seen that before, but it does ring the ol' gong. I'd say most leftist policies fall under the heading of not knowing, and we all suffer under their curse...

mushroom said...

Maybe I invented a corollary of John 13:17 where Jesus says, "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."

But you're definitely right that we are all afflicted by those who act without understanding.

John Lien said...

Can't help you with that quote my fungal friend.

afflictions are among our mercies … because, among other benefits, affliction helps to … wean us from the world.

I like that. It's hard to let go of the world, especially when things aren't too terribly terrible.

John Lien said...

A genuine revelation can be known by the fact that it will almost inevitably try us.

I'll keep that in the back of my mind.

mushroom said...

OK, I found it. It is from a manuscript copy of Luke Chapter 6, after verse 4. I think they mean. It's technically an Agrapha -- something that wasn't written -- as part of the NT:

On the same day, seeing one working on the Sabbath, he said to him : " Man, if thou knowest what thou doest, blessed art thou ; but if thou knowest not, thou art accursed and a transgressor of the Law."

It's in the context of Jesus declaring the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath and saying that David ate of the holy showbread that was supposed to be eaten only by the priests.

It changes my understanding of it a little, but I think I like it better. It sounds "right", which it probably why it stuck with me. Though I still can't figure out where I first ran across it.