Saturday, June 27, 2009

Still Reading

Though I haven't been mentioning it, or rather, haven't been posting much at all, I am still working through the Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin. I am behind in the schedule of reading, but not because it is ponderous or difficult reading. There are days which seem to get away from me before I realize that I've not taken the time to read. Other days, the time which I do have for reading lends more to falling asleep than focusing on the material before me. Perhaps I should not sit on the couch with Milo in my lap if I want to read a whole section...

I am now in Chapter XVI of book two, on The Knowledge of God the Redeemer. Of especial blessing in my reading of late has been Chapter X, on the similarity between the Old and New Testaments. Having been taught in the past, (years ago- not lately) much confusion concerning the promises of God and how they apply to believers, it has been refreshing to see here confirmed that God's promises of blessing run far deeper than mere temporal benefits. Concerning the patriarch Jacob, who declares to Pharaoh that his days on earth have been short and evil (Gen 47:9),

"In declaring that he had spent his life in constant wretchedness, he denies that he had experienced the prosperity which had been promised him by the Lord. Jacob, therefore, either formed a malignant and ungrateful estimate of the Lord's favour, or he truly declared that he had lived miserable on the earth. If so, it follows that his hope could not have been fixed on earthly objects."

Calvin makes clear the point that the Saints of the Old Testament saw the promises as pertaining to a greater blessing than merely what was possible in their brief lives.

"They had been duller than blocks* in so pertinaciously pursuing promises, no hope of which appeared upon the earth, if they had not expected their completion elsewhere. The thing which the Apostle specially urges, and not without reason, is, that they called this world a pilgrimage, as Moses also relates, (Gen. 47: 9.) If they were pilgrims and strangers in the land of Canaan, where is the promise of the Lord which appointed them heirs of it? It is clear, therefore, that the promise of possession which they had received looked farther."

(*I am copying and pasting these snippets from an online version of the Institutes, which is translated slightly differently than my own copy. Mine reads, "stupider than blocks of wood". Gotta love it!)

And looking at David, expressing his faith in the Psalms,

"And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee," (Ps. 39: 12, 5, 6, 7.) He who confesses that there is nothing solid or stable on the earth, and yet firmly retains his hope in God, undoubtedly contemplates a happiness reserved for him elsewhere."

While there are many promises of blessing throughout the Bible which have been misused, taken out of context, and have bludgeoned believers for years with doubt and fear of losing God's love, there are many more, which taken in context prove the wealth of God's wisdom and mercy toward us here and now, and into eternity. We cannot base our understanding of God, or our estimation of where we stand with Him, on present circumstances without the lens of Scripture that teaches us that all things come to His children from His loving hand, good as well as bad. His love for us does not waver or change based upon our actions, thought, or failings. God knows that we are failures; miserable losers, when it comes to obeying Him perfectly. Yet, while we were still sinners Christ died for us! (Rom 5:8) Our omniscient God can learn nothing new about us that would cause Him to change His mind concerning His love for us. Circumstances may be painful in this life, but they are not indications that God is leaving us to fall through any cosmic cracks. There are many purposes for pain, but Our God is a loving father who will use whatever means necessary to teach us to cling to Him.

But I am descending into rambling at this point. The house is no longer quiet. Chaos is reigning in the kitchen and I have no "cone of silence' to engage about myself to aid my concentration. It is no wonder that I can't finish full sentences or thoughts these days...

sigh. Praise be to God.

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