Comparison

Nothing the world offers compares to the glory of the LORD

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Read: 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Reflect:

John draws a contrast here between the world and God. This is a contrast that might seem absurd to many people today, who hold the common materialist worldview. They think that the world is all there is: scientifically observable and measurable matter.

But John takes for granted there is something beyond the world, above the world; something inherently other. This something is really a Someone: God himself.

Nothing the world offers to us or demands from us is worth anything in comparison to God.

The world passes away. Our toys and technologies; our engineering marvels and scientific wonders; our hopes, dreams and goals; our endeavours and efforts – all pass away, like mist in the pure heat of the sun’s dawning rays. Everything I (in my worldly, fleshy nature) love and cherish, want and desire – all these will fade from sight when seen in the light of the surpassing glory of the LORD.

Crux:

Nothing the world offers holds a candle to the blazing, brilliant glory of the LORD.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are wondrous and marvellous, magnificent and awesome. The light of your glory is blazing, brilliant, blinding… yet so many times I cannot see your glory because my attention is distracted, caught by the world. My love for you is squeezed out; there is no room for it because I am led astray by love for the world.

I confess that today I enjoyed the softness of clean sheets on our bed, while failing to remember your provision of true sabbath rest for me through Jesus Christ.

I confess that today I appreciated the simple satisfaction of hanging washing on our outdoor clothesline, but didn’t focus the eyes of my heart on your cleansing me from my sin through Jesus Christ.

I confess today I delighted in watching my hen-pecked chicken recover in her new separate coop, yet I did not remember that your word says you care for your people as a hen shelters her chicks under her wings, and you have shown your care by giving up your Son for my sake.

I confess today I found pleasure in watching a movie with my younger children and was encouraged by its Christian moral message on the importance of earthly fathers without reflecting on the joy I find in my relationship with you, my heavenly Father.

I confess today I have been too caught up in this world to rejoice in your deeper, truer, more fulfilling glory. My eyes have been on my world, my life, and not on you and your Son.

Please forgive me and help me to pay attention to you tomorrow.

Amen.

Surpassing

No human king’s glory can compare with the surpassing glory of the King of kings

Read: Song of Songs 3

I looked for the one my heart loves…
I will search for the one my heart loves…
“Have you seen the one my heart loves?”…
I found the one my heart loves. (Songs 3:1-4)

Who is this coming up from the wilderness
like a column of smoke? (Songs 3:6)

Look! It is Solomon’s carriage.
escorted by sixty warriors. (Songs 3:7)

Look on King Solomon wearing a crown
the crown with which his mother crowned him
on the day of his wedding,
the day his heart rejoiced. (Songs 3:11)

Reflect:

The juxtaposition of characters in this chapter is intriguing. The bride yearns and searches for “the one my heart loves” and the reader assumes this is her groom. But upon finding her “one”, she immediately describes the appearance of King Solomon in his royal carriage.

King Solomon is accompanied by 60 warriors, twice as many as King David’s famed chief warriors of 2 Samuel 23. He drives a carriage made by himself, which is replete with royal materials like purple cloth, gold and Lebanon cedar. Furthermore, it seems King Solomon wears his wedding crown.

So, is King Solomon the bride’s groom? Or is she just favourably comparing her beloved groom to King Solomon, wisest and richest and most powerful of Israel’s kings? I’m not sure.

But there is another comparison at play here in the text as well: King Solomon in all his splendour is seen coming “from the wilderness like a column of smoke”, a clear reference to the LORD who went before the people of Israel through the desert as a pillar of fire by night and a column of cloud by day.

King Solomon may be twice as mighty as his father King David, but here he is compared to the LORD himself, the King of kings. This King shall one day return rejoicing to claim his bride (the church) who yearns for him and searches for him eagerly.

Crux:

No human king’s glory can compare with the surpassing glory of the King of kings.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the King of kings, majestic in glory.

Your coming will be like that of a great king riding his carriage, made from the finest materials, draped in royal purple. All will see you coming on the clouds.

Your attendants are too numerous to count: the vast hosts of heavenly angels who serve you, the countless descendants of Abraham who shared his faith, the multitude of saints who believe in your Son.

You wear a crown, a crown of thorns, which was placed on your head by your own mother, Israel herself. On that day they celebrated your death on a cross, but you celebrated your union with your bride, the church.

It is not King Solomon, still less any human husband (including mine), who displays your glory in all its magnificence. These are but pale imitations. It is in Jesus the Christ, your Son and Heir, the Messiah, that the radiance of your glory shines fully.

May Jesus ever be praised; may he be forever exalted as the King of kings!

O how my heart loves him!

Amen.

See

Seeing Jesus is seeing the very face of God

Read: John 12

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” (John 12:20-21)

“The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.” (John 12:45)

Reflect:

After the miraculous sign of bringing Lazarus back from death to life, even foreign worshipers had heard of Jesus and wanted to see him for themselves. I wonder how many of these curious travellers became believers when they saw Jesus. How many realised that what Jesus was saying was true: that in seeing Jesus, they were seeing the LORD God himself, incarnate!

When I remember back to the occasion of my conversion to Christianity, I recognise the Spirit working in many ways over many years to bring me to that point. I also recognise that it was one single moment in time that changed my life forever, because (by the Spirit) I saw Jesus Christ clearly and realised – finally – that God had sent him to die for my sins and to save me.

It was in joyful celebration of this faith that 15 years ago we named our firstborn son Joshua, which means “God saves.”

Crux:

Seeing Jesus is seeing the very face of God.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for opening my eyes to see Jesus clearly so I might see you fully revealed. Thank you for bringing Lazarus back to life and for bringing me to eternal life. Thank you for showing your glory to these Greeks and for showing your glory to me.

Thank you for my son Joshua. May you reveal yourself clearly and fully to him, granting him mercy to know you, love you, and find eternal life in you. May you strengthen his faith when it is weak and weaken his pride when it is strong. May he give glory to you rather than seeking it for himself. May he appreciated your mercy to him and seek to extend your mercy to others. May he proclaim your one way of salvation and your free offer of salvation, showing Jesus to all those whose eyes you open to see your Son in his glory.

Amen.

Suffering

God’s grace and glory are displayed in me when I suffer.

Read: John 9

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-3)

Reflect:

There is a clash of ideologies between the disciples’ question and Jesus’ answer. The disciples are looking for a cause to explain the man’s disability, whereas Jesus reveals a purpose to his suffering. The question of suffering is not primarily one of cause and effect, rather, it is one of purpose and plan.

The important thing is not what circumstances led to the suffering. Within the Christian world view, all suffering originated with the Fall, with the first sin and the consequent curse, so all suffering is caused by sin either directly or indirectly. There’s no value in dwelling on who sinned, or what sin led to which consequence, because ultimately, the problem of sin has already been solved.

The solution to sin was and always is Jesus’ sacrifice of himself. However, this sacrifice has not (yet) achieved an alleviation of suffering. The reason any person suffers, whether it is me, my loved ones, you or a man born blind some 2000 years ago, is for the ongoing purpose of showing off the works of God, displaying God’s glory.

This ideology allows Christians to suffer joyfully, to persevere when persecuted, to die with dignity, to mourn hopefully. We can do all this because we know that God is at work within us and within our situation, to bring about our good and his glory, whether or not our wounds are healed in the short term.

Crux:

God’s grace and glory are displayed in me when I suffer.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I truly believe you are a God of loving-kindness, compassion, mercy and grace. You care for your people with tender-heartedness, generosity, patience, gentleness and wisdom.

I see your character at work in this story of Jesus healing a blind man and then speaking to him several times to ensure that he was not just physically healed, but also spiritually nurtured.

When I think of my own past suffering, I am forced to conclude and confess that I have not always glorified you in my responses, particularly my immediate, automatic responses. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Please change my heart so that what I know to be true will be evident from my first response as well as from my more thoughtful and informed responses later on.

I acknowledge that you have always been at work, displaying your care for me as I have suffered. You’ve provided for my needs even before I thought to ask. You’ve comforted me as I cried aloud to you. You’ve encouraged me when I sought your strength. You’ve brought me to the place where I could rejoice with singing where previously I was wailing with grief.

O LORD, continue to magnify your glory in my suffering.

Amen.

PS LORD, even as I pray this, I tremble at the thought of what suffering you might yet allow into my life. Please continue to walk beside me and uphold me, all the days of my life.