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Today's Readings: 2 KINGS 10 | Ezekiel 1 | 2 Corinthians 7

Reading 1 - 2Kings 11:1-3

"When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the LORD for six years while Athaliah ruled the land" (2Ki 11:1-3).

"The king of Judah has been killed, his alliance with the king of Israel having involved him in the latter's fate. Jehu had also murdered 'the brethren of Ahaziah,' forty-two in number. Next, Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah and a daughter of Ahab, killed all the males of the royal family, and planted herself on the throne. She had Jezebel's force of character, unscrupulousness and disregard of human life. She was a tigress of a woman, and, no doubt, her six years' usurpation was stained with blood and with the nameless abominations of Baal worship. Never had the kingdom of Judah been at a lower ebb. One infant was all that was left of David's descendants. The whole promises of God seemed to depend for fulfillment on one little, feeble life. The tree had been cut down, and there was but this one sucker pushing forth a tiny shoot from 'the root of Jesse.'

"We have in the passage, first, the six years of hiding in the temple. It is a pathetic picture, that of the infant rescued by his brave aunt from the blood-bath, and stowed away in the storeroom where the mats and cushions which served for beds were kept when not in use, watched over by two loving and courageous women, and taught infantile lessons by the husband of his aunt, Jehoiada the high priest. Many must have been aware of his existence, and there must have been loyal guarding of the secret, or Athaliah's sword would have been reddened with the baby's blood. Like the child Samuel, he had the Temple for his home, and his first impressions would be of daily sacrifices and white-robed priests. It was a better school for him than if he had been in the palace close by. The opening flower would have been soon besmirched there, but in the holy calm of the Temple courts it unfolded unstained. A Christian home should breathe the same atmosphere as surrounded Joash, and it, too, should be a temple, where holy peace rules, and where the first impressions printed on plastic little minds are of God and His service" (Alexander MacLaren).

Reading 2 - Ezekiel 2:9,10

"Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe" (Eze 2:9,10).

In Jerusalem, Jeremiah had written such a book, or scroll -- with words against Israel and Judah (Jer 36:2). This scroll was read bit by bit, and then burned by king Jehoiakim (v 23), as though he could so easily rid himself of its unpleasant warnings and predictions. But the scroll was rewritten (v 29), and its dire prophecies would still stand: "This is what the LORD says: 'You burned that scroll and said, "Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and cut off both men and animals from it?" ' Therefore, this is what the LORD says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: 'He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened' " (Jer 36:29-31).

And now, this is the message which Ezekiel sees written on the scroll in front of him -- God's word concerning the pending judgments upon Judah.

Reading 3 - 2Corinthians 9:15

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2Co 9:15).

The indescribable gift of God, by which He showed His exceeding grace, involved His sowing bountifully, generously, and willingly... above, far above, what He might have been expected to do.

This describes the Father's giving up of His Son, to a cruel death... which was a loss and a sorrow that hurt Him deeply. This is what Paul has in mind when, in Rom 8, he compares Abraham's offering of his precious son Isaac (Gen 22) to God's offering of His Son Jesus: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all -- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8:32).

I think we are meant to see, here, an intense, ripping pain... experienced by the Father, the Creator of all things, who was not compelled to experience such pain -- because, in a sense, it was self-inflicted, and He could have stopped it -- but He chose not to stop it. This was not an "academic" exercise; it was not a "clinical" experiment. The agony that the Father felt was like the sun growing dark, and the earth quaking... and these things literally happened when Jesus died... so that we can begin to feel what the Father must have felt.

But, we think to ourselves: THIS is Omnipotence. Surely HE is beyond the intensity of sorrow that we can feel at the loss of a loved one, too young and too soon! Or... surely it couldn't have hurt HIM that badly... because He knew that it could all be remedied, and that it WOULD all be remedied, very shortly. Surely it wasn't REALLY that bad, for HIM!

Yet we must ask ourselves as well: What is there about US, that we can feel so intensely... a hurt, a personal loss, a tragedy, an ongoing sorrow? Isn't it, perhaps, that we are made in HIS image? And, just as our minds are so far above those of other "beasts", and our capacity to understand matters outside of ourselves, and beyond the constraints of time and place, must far exceed that of His other "creatures"... isn't that because we are made in HIS image? So, in our sorrow too, which can burn like a physical pain, and leave an ache that no medication can cure, in that too we must be in HIS image. And if His abilities and capacities so far exceed ours, as Omnipotence does weakness, and Eternity does a short span of years... then... how much more suffering must HE have been capable of experiencing, when HE witnessed His Son at the trial, and the smiting, and the flogging, and the cross?

"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us -- yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. He said, 'Surely they are my people, sons who will not be false to me'; and so he became their Savior. In all their distress he too was distressed ['In all their affliction He was afflicted': KJV], and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit" (Isa 63:7-10).

We are reminded of David, who -- given the opportunity to offer to God a special offering provided by someone else -- refused, saying: "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing" (2Sa 24:24). That, we see, is the essence of sacrifice: to give up willingly something of value, something the loss of which will hurt. He who has a religion that costs him nothing, has a religion that is worth nothing. And, in that light, we look at the sacrifice which the Father offered in His Son, because it was HIS sacrifice as well as His Son's, and we must try to fathom what that offering must have cost Him! Surely it is beyond our abilities to put a price tag on such a sacrifice.

That is why God's gift of grace in His Son is called by Paul "indescribable", because the Father Himself "sowed bountifully" the "seed" of His Son. He gave up on our behalf that precious "Seed", which cost Him immeasurably; and He drew a veil, as it were, over the pain and hurt He felt... but we may get a sense of the intensity of His emotions when we see the sun grow dark, or we feel the earth tremble under our feet.

He did this because He loves us! And He had to do it because we have sinned against Him! And because it was the way, the only way, that He could hope to bring us back to Him. Perverse and foolish, like silly sheep, we wander here and there, and lose sight of the Eternal Shepherd. But He seeks us out, and lovingly calls us, and reminds us again -- pointing to the cross -- of the price HE paid for our redemption. And He reminds us that HE, the Father, is still waiting and watching for us to find our weary way, beaten and broken by the world's vain pursuits, back to HIM. The One who spared not His own Son stands ready to welcome us with open arms.

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2Co 9;15).

"Speak to us, LORD, till, shamed by Thy great giving,

Our hands unclasp to set our treasures free;

Our wills, our love, our dear ones, our possessions

All gladly yielded, gracious LORD, to Thee."


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