May 18, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Revelation 8.1)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
I have spoken of the great chasm that is fixed between Heaven and Hell as alluded to in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. We, too quickly, see a vast expanse such as the Grand Canyon. Images of Evel Knievel come to mind in his attempts, or desires, to jump from one side of the canyon to the other. His son, Robbie, actually accomplished the feat on a motorcycle but across a narrower part of the Little River Gorge. But, even at 223 feet, that is quite a jump and a leap of faith. With a careful reading of that parable (Luke 16.19-31), we will see the true parallel of distance which Jesus wanted to propose to the listeners. At the start, we find Lazarus sitting at the gate of the Rich Man’s estate. Lazarus hoped for scraps of food to be thrown to him and the dogs who licked his sores. He could easily pass his hand through the gate and into the Rich Man’s “space.” But, just putting his hand or foot into that space did not make him a rich and prosperous person. He was close but unable to “cross over.” Now, let’s take the other side of the story. It happens when both men die, as fate would have it, on the same day. We do not hear of their funerals or mourning parties. I am sure the Rich Man’s was elaborate attended by an appropriate number of hired mourners. Perhaps, for Lazarus, the licking dogs howled for a while at the loss of their companion who had increased the “donations” cast to them by the Rich Man with his unsightly presence. We are told, in the words of Abraham, that the distance between them was vast and uncrossable. But, it could have been a figurative distance as well as it could have been a literal distance. The “uncrossable” measure was validated not by anything other than the commitment to believe in the righteousness of God. Choices were made in the Rich Man’s life which established his permanent residence in “a place of sorrows.” In his lament for not believing, or even believing too late, he asked that Lazarus be sent back to the living to warn his family of their fate which would be like his own if they did not repent. Abraham responded, “What good will it do if they would not listen to Moses and the words of the prophets, why would they believe in one who was raised from the dead?” Is this a parable of prophetic preparation for the disciples’ gospel Post-Resurrection commissioning? Where is this “word” that is mentioned but in one’s heart, mind and soul? It is not a bridge across a vast literal expanse. It is in the very midst of us. Is that not the same truth as when Jesus declared, “The Kingdom of God is in the very midst of you“? What is of particular interest to me is the perception of distance. When we look through the eyes of failure, time and distance seem immeasurable. When we look through the eyes of possibility and promise, such time and distance seem measurable if not overcomeable. There is such a “fine line” between them. It brings to mind the words of the father whose son the disciples could not “cast out his demons.” When Jesus asked if he believed that the son could be freed, the father responded, “I believe; but help me overcome my unbelief.” There is a sense of believing just enough that keeps us from the level and place of “success” to which we desire attaining. How many times does it seem “so close, yet so far away”? It is for many- interminable. In fact, we can become so frustrated by that perceived distance of time and space which cannot be crossed that we make it seem even longer and further. Such thinking comes to mind as when the disciples watch the Rich Young Ruler walk away defeated. They asked, as he left unable to divest himself of all he possessed, “If a rich man can’t do it then what chance do we have?” They, of course, missed the mark of Jesus’ teaching. The disciples, who had nothing, did not have such a conflict of interest in being able to take up their cross to follow Jesus. At least, no financially. But, we all, even the disciples, have something which deepens the abyss that is fixed between where we are and where we want to be.
Now, hear the deafening silence which begins the next “leg of the journey” for John in the revelatory Heaven. Six seal have been broken. That means six scrolls have been opened. Each scroll contains a portent for “what comes next.” We were first introduced to seven churches. As the Christ “opened” them up, He described their success in faith and their failure. He revealed the truth about them as they were as well as revealing the truth about them as they could be. I have no doubt that as each church heard “their” word, they felt the burden of a “vast expanse” stretching out before them. Equally, the resolution of time probably felt impossible and too far in the future to overcome. The cries of “Lord come now” may have been accompanied by the echoes through the canyons of the heart, mind and soul of faith and faithfulness: too far, too deep and too long. Then the seven seals, six of which we have seen opened as I must mentioned. The anticipation grows for the audience of John and the angels as to “what comes next.” So far it has been unglad tidings of little joy. Terrible judgments on the people who heard the word but refused to adopt its truth for their own welfare and that of the world around them. The righteous might cry out, as the those martyrs under the throne for vindication and affirmation, “Lord, now and don’t delay.” The unrighteous may well cry out “Oh, we have plenty of time, all of that won’t happen to us!” What happens when that rubberband stretches too far? It either snaps and breaks or snaps back with a “vengeance.” It makes me wonder as I read that first verse of Revelation chapter 8, “How long was it really?” You know, that thirty minutes of silence which fell over heaven and earth when the seventh seal was broken and the scroll was unfurled. It probably seemed like forever. Forever is a very long time. The scriptures declare that “Jesus is coming soon.” We look now with the expanse of two thousand years between the cross and the present day. We ask, as did those in Jesus’ day, “When will this happen? What must come to pass? What is the sign to let us know now is the time?” Jesus answered then as He would now, “No sign will be given save for the sign of Jonah [to call to obedience and repentance.]” Additionally, we know He set in place, “No one but the Father in Heaven, not even His only Son, knows the hour or the day. Be prepared at all times!” And when that time comes, when justice will roll down like thunder, it will cross the expanse like a rubberband slipping from one’s grasp snapping back on the hand from which it originated. In the twinkling of an eye, like a thief who comes in the night when we least expect it. If God has delayed, stretched out and is waiting for the time already established, then it is our opportunity to consider our place in relationship to Him and to His Word. Are we making the most of this time which is given to us? We have to know “this time” will not last forever. What comes next is coming! Let those with eyes to see, perceive; and those with ears to hear, listen for understanding and respond appropriately!
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
You are our God and we shall be Your people in spirit and in truth. Continue to dwell among us. Let the revelation by Your Holy Spirit inspire us to greater service in a more refined identity. We do not live as ourselves for ourselves. Rather, we live in Christ as He lives in us. We declare it with all the elders and angels in Heaven, saying “Holy, holy, holy is He who was and is and is to come.” In Jesus’ name we live, serve and pray. AMEN.