Sunday, February 7, 2010

Womb of Untimeliness

It seems that God's timing is always something that catches us off guard.  We get caught up in the cares of life such as what we are to eat, where we will get the money for bills, what we are to wear, etc...  Jesus tell us to seek first the kingdom of God and these things shall be added unto us. 

The prophet Hosea describes how the sin and iniquity of Ephraim was stored up against him.  He says, "The pangs of childbirth come for him, but he is an unwise son, for at the right time he does not present himself at the opening of the womb" (Hs. 13:13).  Ephraim had been making for himself idols and sacrificing children to Baal.  He did not remember that it was God who had been a faithful Redeemer; who had brought him from the land of Egypt.  The people had gotten away from remembering the Lord first in their daily lives.  How often I get away from remembering God first.  The difficulties in life and the increased pangs created by my own sins put me at odds with God.  I am not where God wants me.  God wants me at the opening of the womb of life ready for his light, life, and love to both bring me forth in birth and to be born from me.
Instead I am unable to see what God wants to do in my life because I am as blind, mute, and deaf as the sins and idols I worship.

God goes on to say through Hosea, "Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?  Shall I redeem them from Death?  O Death, where are plagues?  O Sheol, where is your destruction?  Compassion is hid from my eyes" (Hs. 13:14).  Ephraim's punishment is declared and the hot breath of God shall dry up his springs and his land shall be stripped of its treasure.  Samaria is told that her people will fall by the sword, her children will be dashed to pieces, and her pregnant women ripped open. (Hs. 13:15-16).

The wages of sin is death.  It is more than just physical death, but also spiritual death.  The light, life, and love of God which are in us are aborted by mortal sin.  We are ripped open and the good things that God wants to be born in and through us are dashed to pieces.  We are spiritually slaughtered.  Those in the family and community around us are also hurt by our sins.  However, we are not without hope of salvation.

 There is a Greek Syriac manuscript of  verse 13 which uses the words, "I will be" in place of the word "where".  Rendered that way the passage reads:  "O Death, I will be your plague.  O Sheol, I will be your destruction."

The Greek Orthodox Study Bible quotes St. Jerome in a foot note to this passage as follows: 

"Moreover the Lord liberated everyone, and redeemed them through the suffering of the Cross and the shedding of His blood, when His soul descended into Hades, and He did not experience corruption to His flesh; and He speaks of the death itself as well as Hades: 'I will be your death, O Death!'  For that reason I have died so that you may die through My death.  'I will be your death, O Hades' for you devoured all with your throat."

When Christ descended to hell, he broke the very jaws of death, and when he rose from the dead, he was victorious over the grave.  In the book of Revelation, Jesus refers to himself saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one: I died, and behold I am alive evermore and I have the keys of Death and Hades" (Rev. 1:17b-18).

The Apostle Paul illustrates Christ's victory over sin and death in telling of his own salvation.

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me (1 Cor. 15:3-11).

Paul calls his conversion an "untimely" birth.  Despite his great sins as a persecutor of Christ and his Church, God had mercy on him and saved him through grace.  God then had a mission for Paul to the Gentiles.  Paul, by grace, was able to present himself at the opening of the womb of God's plan.  God's plan for Saul to be born again as Paul was in God's time (kairos), not his time (chronos). For God, "Now is the acceptable time and now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor: 6:2, Is. 49:8).

Paul goes on to explain the mystery of the resurrection of the dead and how the last enemy to be destroyed will be death (v. 26).   "When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:  'Death is swallowed up in victory.'  'O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?'" (vv. 55-56). 

May we all be wise children ready to present ourselves at the opening of the next womb that God has ready for us.

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