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The September 20 meditation in volume 1 worked its way through 2 Corinthians 9. Nevertheless I want to come back to that passage.
Paul’s carefully worded exhortation to the Christians in Corinth—to have ready for him the money they pledged to send to the poor in Jerusalem (chaps. 8–9)—need not be reviewed again. What I shall focus on for today’s meditation is how Paul’s exhortation about giving and money is tied to the Gospel.
In chapter 8 Paul invokes the example of Christ’s self-giving: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Here in chapter 9 Paul says that, if the Corinthians come through with their promised gift, people “will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity” (2 Cor. 9:13, italics added). In any case Paul never lets Christians forget that all our giving is but a pale reflection of God’s “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15), which of course lies at the heart of the Gospel.
So much of basic Christian ethics is tied in one way or another to the Gospel. When husbands need instruction on how to treat their wives, Paul does not introduce special marriage therapy or appeal to a mystical experience. Rather, he grounds conduct in the Gospel: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). If you are looking for maturity, beware of any “deeper life” approach that sidesteps the Gospel, for Paul writes, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:6–7). Of course, there is “deeper life” in the sense that Christians are exhorted to press on toward greater conformity to Christ Jesus and not to be satisfied with their present level of obedience (e.g., Phil. 3). But none of this is an appeal to something that leaves the Gospel behind or that adds something to the Gospel.
We must avoid the view that, while the Gospel provides a sort of escape ticket from judgment and hell, all the real life-transforming power comes from something else—an esoteric doctrine, a mystical experience, a therapeutic technique, a discipleship course. That is too narrow a view of the Gospel. Worse, it ends up relativizing and marginalizing the Gospel, stripping it of its power while it directs the attention of people away from the Gospel and toward something less helpful.
The first two verses of the following poem are a meditation on part of Luke 24:1–8, 13–25. The last two verses draw on other resurrection accounts (John 20:24-29; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:50–58). It may be sung to the Londonderry Air (“Danny Boy”).
They came alone: some women who remembered him,
Bowed down with spices to anoint his corpse.
Through darkened streets, they wept their way to honor him—
The one whose death had shattered all their hopes.
“Why do you look for life among the sepulchers?
He is not here. He’ s risen, as he said.
Remember how he told you while in Galilee:
The Son of Man will die—and rise up from the dead.”
The two walked home, a study in defeat and loss,
Explaining to a stranger why the gloom—
How Jesus seemed to be the King before his cross,
How all their hopes lay buried in his tomb.
“How slow you are to see Christ’ s glorious pilgrimage
Ran through the cross”—and then he broke the bread.
Their eyes were opened, and they grasped the Scripture’s truth:
The man who taught them had arisen from the dead.
He was a skeptic: not for him that easy faith
That swaps the truth for sentimental sigh.
Unless he saw the nail marks in his hands himself,
And touched his side, he’ d not believe the lie.
Then Jesus came, although the doors were shut and locked.
“Repent of doubt, and reach into my side;
Trace out the wounds that nails left in my broken hands.
And understand that I who speaks to you once died.”
Long years have passed, and still we face the fear of death,
Which steals our loved ones, leaving us undone,
And still confronts us, beckoning with icy breath,
The final terror when life’ s course is run.
But this I know: the Savior passed this way before,
His body clothed in immortality.
The sting’ s been drawn: the power of sin has been destroyed.
We sing: Death has been swallowed up in victory.
21:1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave,1 he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her2 for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14 But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.
16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.
17 “Whoever curses3 his father or his mother shall be put to death.
18 “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, 19 then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed.
20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.
22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm,4 then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
26 “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. 27 If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.
28 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. 31 If it gores a man's son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels5 of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
33 “When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.
35 “When one man's ox butts another's, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share. 36 Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his.
24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.
13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles1 from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,2 43 and he took it and ate before them.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for3 the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
39:1 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you observe the calving of the does?
2 Can you number the months that they fulfill,
and do you know the time when they give birth,
3 when they crouch, bring forth their offspring,
and are delivered of their young?
4 Their young ones become strong; they grow up in the open;
they go out and do not return to them.
5 “Who has let the wild donkey go free?
Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,
6 to whom I have given the arid plain for his home
and the salt land for his dwelling place?
7 He scorns the tumult of the city;
he hears not the shouts of the driver.
8 He ranges the mountains as his pasture,
and he searches after every green thing.
9 “Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
Will he spend the night at your manger?
10 Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes,
or will he harrow the valleys after you?
11 Will you depend on him because his strength is great,
and will you leave to him your labor?
12 Do you have faith in him that he will return your grain
and gather it to your threshing floor?
13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,
but are they the pinions and plumage of love?1
14 For she leaves her eggs to the earth
and lets them be warmed on the ground,
15 forgetting that a foot may crush them
and that the wild beast may trample them.
16 She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;
though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear,
17 because God has made her forget wisdom
and given her no share in understanding.
18 When she rouses herself to flee,2
she laughs at the horse and his rider.
19 “Do you give the horse his might?
Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
20 Do you make him leap like the locust?
His majestic snorting is terrifying.
21 He paws3 in the valley and exults in his strength;
he goes out to meet the weapons.
22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
he does not turn back from the sword.
23 Upon him rattle the quiver,
the flashing spear, and the javelin.
24 With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
25 When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’
He smells the battle from afar,
the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
26 “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars
and spreads his wings toward the south?
27 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
and makes his nest on high?
28 On the rock he dwells and makes his home,
on the rocky crag and stronghold.
29 From there he spies out the prey;
his eyes behold it from far away.
30 His young ones suck up blood,
and where the slain are, there is he.”
9:1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending1 the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift2 you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.3
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully4 will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency5 in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they6 will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!