Confession time, guys. The final third of yesterday’s chapter gets into some end-timesy stuff that I declined even to touch with a ten-foot pole. But, knowing that Paul continues his discussion of what he terms “The Day of the Lord” in this final chapter of his first letter to the Thessalonians, I was only postponing the inevitable. If nothing else, I am an inveterate procrastinator, and as regards his return, some would charge Jesus Christ with inveterate procrastination too.
Welcome to a new letter from Paul. He wrote this one to the church at Philippi while he was imprisoned at Rome. As I read through the first chapter, I found myself asking: how am I gonna talk about this one? Paul’s all over the place! One moment he’s expressing his gratitude for the Philippian church, then he’s talking about preaching the gospel to his captors while he’s imprisoned, then he’s talking about how some people are preaching the gospel out of selfish motives but he doesn’t care because people are still hearing the truth about Jesus Christ. And that’s not the half of it–he’s got more to say about suffering and sacrificing and how faith manifests itself in action, to the point where I ask myself, what’s the theme here? Is there a theme? What ties it all together? Then it hits me: the theme is Jesus Christ himself.
Paul really likes his metaphors. In this chapter, he’s hardly introduced one metaphor when he moves on to another: a metaphor-shark swimming in the stream of consciousness, never stopping. He’s got three metaphors here: a letter of commendation, the stone tablets of the old Law, and Moses’ veil.
Got enemies? Foes? Nemeses? If you’re doing something right, you’re probably going to draw some heat for it. (Let the record show that I don’t have any enemies.) Psalm 129 is a song for coping with having enemies, if you’re ancient Israel. It’s also a Song of Ascents.
Sometimes the psalm summarizes itself for you. Consider the opening lines of today’s psalm: “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments!” (112:1). The rest of the psalm is basically a litany of blessings for the man who fears the Lord. He receives a well-established family tree, material wealth, a good legacy, victory over his adversaries, and more. But let’s zero in on a verse in the middle of the psalm, characterizing this man of many blessings. The man is merciful–and a creditor.
I’m having trouble finding it, but I swear we’ve seen a psalm like this before: written by the king, extolling the king. Psalm 110 is another psalm of David, and the NASB has provided a perfectly serviceable summary: “The Lord Gives Dominion to the King.” It’s also a Messianic Psalm. If you’ve read one of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) or checked out the book of Hebrews, you may recognize a few verses from this psalm that were also quoted by those New Testament writers. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews takes this psalm as referring to the Messiah–and so does Jesus.
There was a time that I had this chapter memorized, and I could probably still recite a good bit of it from memory. It depicts the Lord’s Servant as suffering for the well-being of others, with a number of concrete prophetic descriptions which are fulfilled by Jesus Christ.