Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A hope deferred part 2 or contrasting conjunctions and adverbs?

You know, I really want to write about meaninglessness today. I want to quote Ecclesiastes at length and firmly agree with Solomon that “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” I really want to hate life: “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” “For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?” “I have seen servants on horses, While princes walk on the ground like servants.” I yearn to cry out that this life is a vain toil; man will return to the dust whether he is righteous or wicked! The wise man and the fool go to the same place; they have the same end. What is the value in righteousness? The wicked accumulate wealth and are satisfied. Asaph said it well in Psalm 73.
1 Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
3For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4For there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
5They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
6Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.
7Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
8They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.
9They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walks through the earth.
10Therefore his people return here,
And waters of a full cup are drained by them.
11And they say, "How does God know?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?"
12Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
13Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
14For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning
15If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
16When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me-- (NKJV)

Nevertheless, I cannot end there. For some reason, I can’t seem to get 2 Timothy 2:12 out of my head. It is like when you just want to be in the dark and ponder the vanity of your own situation and someone turns on a blindly bright light that illuminates the area. The light is so bright that it takes your eyes a few minutes to adjust to it, but once they adjust you can’t help but see the truth. As much as you wanted to hide from it, the light is inescapable.
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
The keyword here for me is ‘nevertheless.’ I’m amazed that such a small word has such a big effect. The effect is something along the lines of this. It reaches into my very soul and picks my heart up off the floor and says “those things are all true,” and then it screams “NEVERTHELESS that is not all!!” This wouldn’t mean very much coming from someone sitting in luxury somewhere, but this was written by the apostle Paul while he was waiting in prison for his execution. In the face of his pending execution and his much suffering, he could say that he was persuaded that Christ was able to keep him. Looking death right in the eye, Paul still had hope because his hope was not founded on anything that existed in this life. This reminds me of a quote from Luther as well.
Now, the highest degree of faith is to believe that He is merciful, though He saves so few and damns so many; to believe that He is just, though of His own will He makes us perforce proper subjects for damnation, and seems (in Erasmus’ words) ‘to delight in the torments of poor wretches and to be a fitter object for hate than for love.’ If I could by any means understand how this same God, who makes such a show of wrath and unrighteousness, can yet be merciful and just, there would be no need for faith.
Paul and Luther were men of whom the world was not worthy.
Hebrews 11:35bOthers were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-- 38of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.(NKJV)

The verse from Proverbs that I stole part of my title from should actually be considered too. The last time I quoted it, I only quoted the first part. That verse too has a word that serves a similar function to the ‘nevertheless’ in the previous verse.
Proverbs 13:12Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
This time it is a conjunction instead of an adverb, but it provides a contrast nonetheless. “But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” WOW! Perhaps patience is of some value. Perhaps good things are worth waiting for and working hard to get. Perhaps they are even worth all the heartbreak and sleepless nights they cause. Perhaps priceless prizes are worth enduring these things. Romans 8:24For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?


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