– A message by Doug Yoder
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. – Matthew 5:6.
You’re hungry if you haven’t eaten for a while. You’re thirsty if you need a good drink.
Someone who has been treated unfairly, and takes this to authorities who deal with it justly, will not any more hunger for the uprightness that is expressed in justice.
Someone who sees someone else suffering unfairly, and advocates on behalf of that person, and the authorities wisely exercise their power on behalf of the victim, will no longer hunger for justice, because the demands of justice will be satisfied.
We hunger for justice when justice is long in coming or has been denied.
A young woman was gang-raped in Pakistan some time ago, the clearly guilty captured. But the case wound its way through the legal system over a period of several years, beset with technicalities and unfair tribunals, the assailants always escaping justice, until the matter at last came to be heard before Pakistan’s highest court. The verdict? Innocence for the assailants.
The woman’s response? “I will never stop looking for justice.”
A woman like this, with such a terrible fate, looks like a woman who has suffered a curse. What a grievous wrong, what a miscarriage of justice. What else could explain the mockery of this woman’s pain by the judicial system of an entire country?
But Jesus tells us that this woman is, in one way, blessed. Her hunger and thirst uprightness — if only one judge had shown it! — knows no bounds. To that same degree, according to Jesus, she is blessed.
How is this possible?
Is it because to those who deeply hunger and long thirst, food and water are sweeter than to those who have never known want? Does a purification comes from fasting that makes it hard for complacency to set up shop? Do those who most suffer injustice most delight in deliverance from it? Miriam sang and danced with all her might on those far shores of that Red Sea.
Jesus blesses the hunger for justice because one day – will it be in the life we know or in another one? – this hunger will be filled, all things and all things and all manner of things made well.
The blessed hunger for justice does not in time turn bitter in the mouth, nor sour the face, nor shrivel it up. A blessed hunger makes the face shine with a clear hope, with a firm purpose, and with the pure knowledge that darkness cannot understand a light lit with the fire of God, nor put it out (John 1), nor discourage nor defeat it – not yesterday, not today, and not tomorrow, when the hunger for all things upright will be fully satisfied.
– A MESSAGE BY DOUG YODER
When you set up the seven lamps, they are to light the area in front of the lampstand. … This is how the lampstand was made: it was made of hammered gold: from its base to its blossoms. – Numbers 8:2,4
These are the oil lamps on the lampstand of the Tabernacle: golden, pure, and precious.
In Numbers the people of Israel are on a long journey to a destination they can’t see, and there’s plenty of time for bad things to happen. There is grumbling and complaining (Egypt was better!). There is discouragement on the report of powerful enemies (oh that we had died in the desert!). There are threats to good leaders (let’s find someone to take us back to where we came from!).
The Tabernacle was one place Moses went to talk to God about all of this, and it is where God spoke to Moses too. That’s what’s happening just before we hear about the lamps: when Moses entered the Tabernacle he heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him (Num. 7:89). This voice, which speaks from between two cherubim, tells him how to set up the oil lamps of gold, there in the Tabernacle.
Those lamps will need some tending. There’s no electricity, no switch, no sensor. There’s only oil, a fire, and some people to tend it on a daily basis.
There it is before your eyes: hammered gold from base to blossom, seven points of warm light, alive and slightly flickering, tended faithfully, gently burning, in the presence of the cherubim of the Lord.
What an image. What an invitation to prayer. What a presence of prayer in our hearts.
Moses had some good reasons both outside and inside that Tabernacle to visit it.
Another man of God saw something similar later on: “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven oil channels to the lights.” This man of God was a prophet, and he saw it because an angel showed it to him. Because of this the man asked the angel, what is this?
The angel gave a surprising reply, a very surprising reply – a reply so surprising that it is easy to miss the connection the angel makes for this prophet, and for us.
The name of this man of God was Zechariah, and the angel told him that the meaning of this golden, pure, and precious thing, tended always, these gently burning lamps, was this: “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” (Zech. 4:6).
The angel introduces this startling identification by saying something else unusual: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel.” (Zech. 4:6). Why not Zecharaiah?
Zerubbabel was the man who had the hard job of rebuilding Temple from the ground up – the Temple of the Lord, who is sending word to Zerubbabel by means of Zechariah by means of an angel – that had been destroyed,that had replaced the Tabernacle, in which could be found a lampstand of pure and hammered gold.
– A MESSAGE BY DOUG YODER
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under the sun. Eccl. 3:1.
What is it like when a new life is on its way into the world? Uncertainty, hope, and expectation. Boy or girl? Who will it look like? What will it like to do? Will it be healthy? Then, sudden activity and joy. Even the most professional doctor’s eyes will light up — congratulations!
The time to be born is a time like no other.
We don’t think about the time to die unless we have felt it near somehow. Under the sun, the time to die is as sad as the time to be born was happy. Jesus wept at this. We miss the warmth of a human hand, words said in a certain way. The day is lonely, grey, and hard. Cold.
The time to die is a time like no other.
Each life has its times and seasons. There is a time for silence, a time for speech. There is a season of joy, a season of hardship. Times can be short and seasons long. Maybe very long.
If we don’t discern the times or seasons we can miss the most important thing.
Joseph knew that seven years of bounty would precede seven years of drought. Planning in the season of plenty led to distribution in the season of want. Would Joseph have gained anything by fighting against the seasons? Probably not. As things turned out, what could Joseph say to his brothers, at the end of many seasons, who had given him a dreadful time? “What you designed for evil, the Lord designed for good.” Joseph knew how to discern the times and seasons.
On a different day Daniel must’ve wondered if his time had come. But the next morning he woke up with praise because it hadn’t. A vision had been given to Daniel that led him to give thanks to “God who is wise and powerful, who changes the times and seasons, who sets up kings and takes then down, who reveals the deep and secret things, who knows what lies in darkness, and the light with him abides” (Dan. 2:20-22).
Things change. In our own lives, in the lives of our loved ones, or in the lives of our ministries, things can change slowly or quickly, and they can last for a while. We can be thankful that the one who changes the times and seasons is a God of love, who wants nothing but the best for us between the time we were born and the time we die. Our seasons and times are in His hands.
We cannot discern the times or seasons on our own. We do not set up kings, or take them down. We do not know what lies in darkness, or the deep and secret things. If we do not inquire of the Lord about our times and seasons we will step off the path of Joseph and Daniel, and of Jesus, who in the fullness of time came to be born, and at the appointed time, to die, in an act of deepest love.
What season am I in? How has Jesus been revealed in it? What does Jesus want to show me?
We can rejoice with the angels during the season of Advent that Jesus comes to those who long, and wait, and search, and hope.