“Word for Today” – 2 Corinthians 9 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

March 10, 2009 at 5:45 am Leave a comment

umbrella-1Last weekend in Adult Bible Class, I made passing mention of a form of speech called an “oxymoron.” An oxymoron, of course, is two terms that, though at first sight might seem contradictory, are used in concord with each other. Some oxymorons are serious. Others are more humorous. Jumbo shrimp. Numb sensation. Swiss Navy. Microsoft Works. Hmmm. Although these are of more the humorous and light-hearted variety, in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians 9, we encounter a more profound and thoughtful oxymoron when Paul quotes Psalm 112:9: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever” (verse 9). Paul talks about, as he quotes the Psalmist, a righteous scattering.

In an ancient Jewish context, to talk about a righteous scattering would have appeared to be the height of absurdity. For, to be scattered was a tell-tale sign not of righteousness, but of unrighteousness. In Genesis 11, when the people of earth decide to build a tower which will reach to the heavens and pretentiously usurp the very glory of God, the Lord, in his anger, “scatters them from there over all the earth” (verse 8). In Exodus 32, when the Israelites build a brazen idol in the form of a golden calf, Moses, when he returns from meeting with God only to find this abhorrent pagan trinket, “takes the calf they had made and burns it in the fire; then he grinds it to powder, scatters it on the water and makes the Israelites drink it” (verse 20). And in Jeremiah 13, at the sight of the people’s sinfulness and injustice, God promises, “I will scatter you like chaff driven by the desert wind” (verse 24). And this indeed happens when the Israelites are carried off into exile by Assyria and Babylon. Scattering is not good.

The Greek word used for “scattered” in 2 Corinthians 9 is skorpizo. And in the New Testament, as in the aforementioned verses from the Old, this word continues to take on a very negative connotation. Jesus warns in Matthew 12:30: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” And again in John 10:12: “The wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” In fact, this word skorpizo is used universally in a negative way except in this one instance: “God has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

So what gives with this oxymoronic use of this universally negative word? God, it seems, recognizes that we are a people who have been scattered by sin. Our calendars are scattered by appointments. Our brains our scattered by worries. Our deepest relationships either have been, or one day will be, scattered by death. Sin scatters our lives. So, if God is going to reach us with his love, if God is going to reach us with his grace, if God is going to reach us with his righteousness, he needs to reach us where we are. And so, he scatters. The prophet Isaiah puts it like this: “You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it” (Isaiah 45:8). Droplets of God’s rain of righteousness, scattered over all the earth to those who need it most. That is the picture that the prophet is painting. And that is what God gives to you and to me.

The promise, then, is that no matter how scattered your calendar, your brain, and your life may be, you are never too scattered to be out of the range God’s righteousness, grace, and blessing. For he has scattered these marvelous gifts over the face of this whole earth. And this means that these gifts can, and these gifts will, find you.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 2 Corinthians 8 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 2 Corinthians 10 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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