“Word for Today” – 2 Timothy 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

May 5, 2009 at 4:45 am 1 comment

cell-phone-2Have you ever had one of those experiences where someone begins talking to you as if they’re your long lost best friend and, although you know you should remember who they are, you’re honestly clueless as to their identity? Once, I received a phone call from a number I did not know. In fact, it was from an area code I did not know. The caller began, “Zach?” “Yes,” I responded. “Hey,” the man on the other end of the line continued, “It’s Rufus.”

I have known a lot of people over the course of my life: Justins, Marks, Pauls, Joshs, Jamess, Josiahs, and even a couple of Jedidiahs. But I have never known a Rufus. But Rufus seemed to know me. So I played along. “Oh hi, Rufus,” I said with a mixture of curiosity and nervousness in my voice. “What’s up?” “I was wondering if you got that fax I sent you,” Rufus continued. Rufus? A fax? I was totally lost. I finally cracked. “Who is this again?” I asked. “Rufus,” the man replied. “And who are you?” “Zach,” I said, “Zach McIntosh.” “Oops,” Rufus responded. “I was trying to get a hold of a Zach Allen. Sorry! Wrong number.” And we both hung up the phone.

Honestly, at the end of our conversation, I breathed a sigh of relief. “So I’m not going crazy,” I thought to myself. “I really don’t know a Rufus.” But then I read our text for today from 2 Timothy 3: “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth – men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected” (verse 8). Jannes and Jambres. Am I supposed to know these guys? I don’t remember them from the story of the exodus. Thankfully, I shouldn’t remember them. Because their names are not actually in the story of the exodus.

Paul, in naming Jannes and Jambres as men who oppose Moses, draws from an ancient Jewish tradition which names Pharaoh’s magicians who compete against Moses and Aaron in Exodus 7:10-12:

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

Notice that in the original text of Exodus, Pharaoh’s magicians remain nameless.

But now consider this text from the Targum of Jonathan, a second century commentary on this passage:

Moses and Aaron went unto Pharaoh, and did as the Lord had commanded. And Aaron threw down the rod before the sight of Pharaoh, and before the sight of his servants, and it became a snake. But Pharaoh called the diviners and magicians; and they also, Jannes and Jambres, magicians of Mizraim, did the same by their burnings of divination. Each man threw down his rod, and they became snakes; but were forthwith changed to be what they were at first; and the rod of Aaron swallowed up their rods.

Pharaoh’s magicians now have names. And Paul quotes these names in today’s reading.

Why is this important? Because it means that Paul was a man thoroughly familiar with his Scriptures and even with what other people had said about the Scriptures. He had read his Bible. He had consulted his commentaries. He had sat at the feet of great Bible teachers. That is why he knew even the lesser known names of Jannes and Jambres. Because he had so diligently studied theology. And Paul encourages us to do the same:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (verses 14-17)

Paul says, “Continue in what you have learned.” Keep on studying the Scriptures. Keep on peering into God’s book. Keep on discovering new things about the Bible. For the words of Scripture are the words of God. That’s why Jannes and Jambres matter. Not because they’re historically important. They’re mere blips in the history of God’s people, and godless blips at that. But Paul takes the time to remember and mention them because they relate to Scripture. And for Paul, there is nothing more precious, more life-giving, and more worthwhile than God’s Word. Is the same true for you?

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – 2 Timothy 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – 2 Timothy 4 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Bo Lora  |  May 5, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Thanks be to God that he left us with such a life giving word. I am constantly amazed how one can read the same passage and have new revelation from something you read many times.

    I love that as the Holy Spirit reveals truths and there is a surprise and a promise at every turn of the page.

    Thank you for this message and very nice to meet you this morning.


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