Introduction: How patient God is in a world full of restless evil which begs for judgment! How gracious God is to “call into His Kingdom” (1 Thess. 2:12) those whom we would reject as rebels: undeserving and unfit for citizenship for God’s Presence. “But such were some of you,” Paul says to us in his first letter to the Corinthians. Therefore, although our theme in this week’s notes is God’s terrible judgment on those who spurn His patience and slanderously attack His messengers – we will not gloat over Paul’s description of this judgment on the people who opposed him, but rather be reminded of God’s patience in persevering with us in our many sinful failures.
Monday: read 1 Thess. 2:12-15 and John 5:37-47. The means by which God’s “kingdom invitation” in 1 Thess. 2:12 came to men was originally through the “prophets who were since the world began” (Luke 1:70, KJV), and then through Apostolic messengers like Paul. Sadly, God’s own people and Paul’s fellow-countrymen, the Jews, consistently rejected that Word and those called to bring it – even rejecting Moses, the “ultimate” Old Testament prophet! Jesus makes that clear in John 5:45-47, where He asserts, “Your accuser is not me, but Moses…. who wrote about Me…. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” Truly shocking, isn’t it? – That God’s chosen nation, Israel, “had no room for Jesus” in their lives because they had no room for His Word!
Meditate and Pray: So many gifted and blessed people, who have a “history” of God’s blessings in their lives, can turn away from God if they do not maintain a high view of His Word. But, dear believer, isn’t it great to be able to say with Paul that God’s Word “continues to work in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13)? Ask God to ensure that this “working Word” continues its blessed work of faith within you, using hymn # 145 from our Trinity Hymnal:
|The Spirit breathes upon the Word
And brings the truth to sight;
Precepts and promises afford
A sanctifying light.
The hand that gave it still supplies
|Let everlasting thanks be Thine
For such a bright display.
As makes a world of darkness shine
With beams of heavenly day.
My soul rejoices to pursue
Tuesday: read 1 Thess. 2:13-16 and Matt. 23:32. In describing the Thessalonians’ sufferings “at the hands of their own countrymen,” Paul alludes to the prototype of their persecutors: the Jews who “killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets” (1 Thess. 2:15). This is an interesting phrase: How could the very same Jewish foes who killed Christ also “kill the prophets”? The answer is in our Lord’s words to those who hated Him – about their “filling up the measure of the sins of their fathers” in Matt. 23:32. Just as their fathers hated the Word of God brought to them by the prophets, so they in their day rejected Jesus because of their hatred of that very same Word!
Meditate and Pray: Ask the Lord to give you an abiding love and hunger for the Word of God –and a joy in the way the Word of God “tastes” as you open it each and every day. For be assured: God has promised that, if you believe in Him and in His Son whom He sent to save, then His Word “will continue to work in you who believe” (1 Thess. 2:13!) and will, indeed, shield you from apostasy.
Wednesday: read 1 Thess. 2:14-16 and Acts 17:10-14. Are Paul’s harsh words of condemnation of the Jews because they rejected Jesus and crucified Him meant to condemn the whole race of Jewry forever? God forbid! As Acts 17:11-12 makes clear, there were Jews in Berea (the city to which Paul escaped after being run out of Thessalonica) who through the Spirit’s illumining influence “received the Gospel message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Luke even claims that, “Many of them believed…”!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that there is always a “remnant saved by grace” among every tribe, tongue and nation! As we will see tomorrow: just as there were Canaanites who were “grafted in” to God’s people though their whole race was condemned by the “full measure” of sin in Gen. 15:16, so God sovereignly plucked many Jews from Berea from the judgment and placed them graciously in the family of God – even though the sins of their brethren were being “heaped up to the limit” (1 Thess. 2:16)! Are not we also “snatched from the fire” and from our condemned families in the same way? As hymn # 464 puts it:
|I was a wandering sheep,
I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherd’s voice,
I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child,
I did not love my home;
I did not love my Father’s voice,
I loved afar to roam.
|The Shepherd sought His sheep,
The Father sought His child;
They followed me o’er vale and hill,
O’er deserts waste and wild;
They found me nigh to death,
Famished and faint and lone;
They bound me with the bands of love,
They saved the wand’ring one.
Thursday: read 1 Thess. 2:14-16 and Genesis 15:12-16. Every time we come across a biblical description of sin in terms of “measure,” “cup,” “heap” or “pile” we are to understand that these words depict the long-suffering patience of God. When God told Abraham in Gen. 15:13 & 16 that his descendants would have to wait 400 years until the sin of the current inhabitants (the “Amorites,” who as the largest tribe represented all the sinful inhabitants of Canaan) “reached its full measure” – That was a picture of God’s patience! When Paul declares in 1 Thess. 2:16 that God was permitting the Jews to “heap up their sins to the limit” by their opposition to Gospel work, he is describing God’s patience with His own people once again.
Meditate and Pray: Let us think deeply on God’s patience towards rebellious mankind, and tremble at the prospect for those who abuse this patience, using the words of John Calvin on Gen. 15:16:
The Lord here commends his own longsuffering. Even when the Amorites had become unworthy to occupy the land, yet the Lord not only bore with them for a short time, but granted them four centuries for repentance. And hence it appears, that he does not, without reason, so frequently declare how slow he is to anger. But the more graciously he waits for men, if, at length, instead of repenting they remain obstinate, the more severely does he avenge such great ingratitude. Therefore Paul says, that they who indulge themselves in sin, while the goodness and clemency of God invite them to repentance, heap up for themselves a treasure of wrath (Romans 2:4).
Friday: read 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 and Matthew 21:33-38 & 21:45-46. The highest crime of God’s people Israel, especially their chief priests and Pharisees, which brought the wrath of God down on them so severely in AD 70, was not their disregard for God’s Word or His messengers, but instead their cruel rejection and crucifixion of the very Son of God. But, someone may object: If God knew from of old that His people Israel would never listen to the prophets or even to His Son, and if He knew what they would do when He sent His Son to earth: (Matt. 21:38: “This is the heir. Come let’s kill Him and take His inheritance.”), why would He send His prophets, and especially His Son, on such a doomed mission?
Ah well, we rejoice that God did send His Son, despite His certain rejection by His own people – for therein lies our salvation – in the Son’s redemptive suffering and death. But don’t forget that, even when it comes to His reprobate people, to any and all who abuse the Name, Person and work of God’s Son and refuse to give Him their allegiance in any way: God sent His Son for them too – in the sense of righteously heightening their guilt and vindicating His right to judge them. As Matthew Henry put it, speaking of those who oppose the Lord Jesus to the very end:
The righteous God has determined that they shall not be cut off till they have persisted in sin so long, and arrived at such a pitch of wickedness, that there may appear some equitable proportion between their sin and their ruin.
In other words, God justly allows the wicked, be they Jew or Gentile, to “store up for themselves a treasure of wrath” by their refusing the most poignant and loving offers of salvation. No one can accuse God of unjust severity in consigning such unbelievers to Hell, who so consistently and over so long a period of time neglect and refuse the Gospel – offered to them by nothing less than the nail-pierced hand of Jesus Christ. As hymn # 257 verse 3 says, in warning those who look lightly on their sin:
Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.