Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eternal happiness

At the end of yesterday's reading, Calvin pointed out a litany of troubles that Abraham experienced.  Today's reading opens with problems that confronted Isaac and Jacob.  Neither had what anyone would call "happy" lives here on earth.  What they hoped for was eternal life in the presence of God - eternal happiness.

The patriarchs believed and hoped for eternal life.  The writer of Hebrews clearly points this out for us.
By faith he [Abraham] dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God... These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
It would have been foolish for them to keep looking to God for his blessing if they had no hope of eventually receiving it.  As Calvin so eloquently put it, "For they would have been more stupid than blocks of wood to keep on pursuing the promises when no hope of these appeared on earth, unless they expected them to be fulfilled elsewhere."  They absolutely expected to receive the promise of eternal life.

Good evidence (at least for me) that these patriarchs were looking for an eternal reward comes in Genesis 49:18.  This is the very end of Jacob's life and in his last words to his sons he declares, "I look for your salvation, O LORD."  Jacob knows that he is at the end of his life.  He would not be looking forward to any sort of salvation unless he knew that it came in the afterlife.  Calvin writes, "What salvation could he have waited for, when he knew he was dying, unless he discerned in death the beginning of a new life?"

David wrote in Psalm 116:15 "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints."  In Psalm 34:21 reads, "Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned."  David had a clear understanding that the righteous shall be saved and the wicked shall be condemned.  Calvin wrote, "If the final boundary and goal were in death, in it no difference could be observed between the just and the unjust.  But they differ from each other in what awaits them after death."  David declared throughout the Psalms God's mercy and salvation for His people. 

No one could express the hope of salvation more completely than Isaiah.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
And look on the earth beneath.
For the heavens will vanish away like smoke,
The earth will grow old like a garment,
And those who dwell in it will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not be abolished. 

Calvin says about this passage, "There perpetuity is attributed to righteousness and salvation, not in so far as these reside in God, but as they are experienced by men." 

In the last section for today, Calvin lists more Psalms which point toward the eternal life to come.  In his discussion of these Psalms, he points out that David was very focused on eternal rewards in his writings.  If we keep our minds set on eternal rewards, we are more likely to be able to turn from the temptations that surround us with promises of temporary happiness.  For if we begin looking at the happiness of the wicked, we will fall into temptation.  We must keep the hope of eternal life always in front of us.

Tomorrow's reading: 2.10.17-2.10.23

No comments:

Post a Comment

Presbyterian Bloggers
Powered By Ringsurf