Anger, Exile, and Mercy

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 24.20
20 It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence. 

Reflection: Anger, Exile, and Mercy
By  John Tillman

God put his name on the people so they could “image” him to the world. He promised to bless nations through them. He put his Spirit in the mouths of their prophets, priests, kings, and poets. His presence filled their Temple with glory.

Yet, they rejected him. They chose cursing, not blessing. They blasphemed God’s name by misrepresenting him with their actions.

Instead of lifting up the poor, caring for the outcast, and welcoming the foreigner, they crushed, oppressed, and denied justice. They tortured and killed God’s messengers, preferring uncritical voices. They despised the Lord’s presence by serving other gods and idols right in the very Temple that bore God’s name. They did all this with impunity, still considering themselves righteous.

Can we see ourselves in them? How is God’s name thought of because of us? Do people call us a blessing? What would the poor, outcast, and foreigners think of God’s love for them if they based it entirely on our treatment of them? Do we represent God faithfully?

God planned good things for Israel during captivity. This is what Jeremiah 29.11 is about. In exile, God would rebuild Israel. But to be remade into God’s image they had to be stripped of all they had relied on other than God.

The beautiful walled city? Not one brick left on another.
The newly restored Temple? Stripped of valuables. Razed to the ground.
The proud kings, noble families, and wealthy leaders? Stripped. Shaved. Enslaved. Some blinded. Some maimed. Many would have been castrated and made eunuchs. 

Do we feel destroyed or stripped or exiled or shamed or humiliated? Do we see failure and unrighteousness? If so, we can still turn to God. “I have plans to prosper you and not to harm you,” says the Lord. This was not spoken to “winners.” These words are meant for those who have lost a battle, seen their Temple fall, seen their kings carried off in chains, and admitted their sinfulness and corruption.

Not all misfortunes are judgments of God for sin. But whenever we feel crushed and hopeless, God tenderly reminds us that he has not forsaken us even if we have forsaken him. Even in exile, we do not need to despair but to repent, be restored, and be a blessing where God sends us.

His anger is only for a moment. His mercy endures forever. (Psalm 30.5)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Hallelujah! Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. — Psalm 106.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 24 (Listen – 3:21)
Hebrews 6 (Listen – 2:58)

Read more about Have Mercy
Pray this pluralized version of Psalm 51 this week, confessing not only our individual sins but the sins of our communities, churches, and nations.

Read more about Hope for Mercy
Despite their errors, it is consistently “by faith” that they persevere through hardship.

Prayer and Faith

From John: 
Rather than strictly following our readings in Hebrews or Kings and Chronicles this week, we will pursue a week of thematic reflections on one of the issues closest to the heart of the mission and vision of The Park Forum—prayer. 

Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This week and part of next we take some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer that may strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer.

Reflection: Prayer and Faith
By John Tillman

“In any study of the principles and procedure of prayer, of its activities and enterprises, first place, must, of necessity, be given to faith.” — E.M Bounds

E.M. Bounds’ classic works on prayer are a staple of many theological libraries.
At the beginning of his volume, The Necessity of Prayer, Bounds is clear that what is necessary for prayer, is faith.

“Faith is the initial quality in the heart of any man who essays to talk to the unseen. He must, out of sheer helplessness, stretch forth hands of faith. He must believe, where he cannot prove. In the ultimate issue, prayer is simply faith, claiming its natural yet marvelous prerogatives— faith taking possession of its illimitable inheritance. True godliness is just as true, steady and persevering in the realms of faith as it is in the province of prayer. Moreover: when faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.”

Does our faith falter and feel weak? Reconnect our faith to the power of prayer.
Do we feel that God is distant from us? It is we who have moved. Draw near in prayer.

“Prayer projects faith on God, and God on the world. Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer move God. In his cursing of the fig tree, our Lord demonstrated His power. Following that, he proceeded to declare, that large powers were committed to faith and prayer, not in order to kill but to make alive, not to blast but to bless.”

Can we truly, and honestly say that we have consistently wielded the power of prayer to bless rather than blast our enemies?

“Is faith growing or declining as the years go by? Does faith stand strong and foursquare, these days, as iniquity abounds and the love of many grows cold? Does faith maintain its hold, as religion tends to become a mere formality and worldliness increasingly prevails? The inquiry of our Lord, may, with great appropriateness, be ours, ‘When the Son of Man comes,” he asks, “will he find faith on the earth?’ We believe that he will, and it is ours, in this our day, to see to it that the lamp of faith is trimmed and burning, lest He come who shall come, and that right early.”

*Quotations condensed and language updated from The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.”— Psalm 12:5

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 24 (Listen -3:21)
Hebrews 6  (Listen -2:5)

Thank You!
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One reason faith is so difficult for today’s culture is that we devalue humility. And faith cannot exist without humility

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