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Posts Tagged ‘refreshment’

After the singing of Exodus 15 we discover a problem. A lack of water (interesting in light of the fact we literally just walked through walls of water). Short version of the story, Moses throws a stick into bitter water and it becomes sweet. While we are curious about that stick and wonder if we could replicate that feat, the text is content with “If God can part the sea and rescue slaves from the Egyptian army of course He can make bitter water sweet.” Then, while we are still dazzled by the taste of sweet water, the Lord speaks.

It is of interest that the Lord refers to Himself as “your healer.” Not only is the Lord a healer, but “your healer.” It is as though healing a company of slaves has become the primary mission of the Lord. The text unleashes on the world not only One who can sweeten bitter water, but One who can counter the diseases of the empire.

Exodus takes us from a place called bitterness to a resort in Elim where there are twelve springs of water and seventy date palms. From grumbling to a place of rest. From testing and quarreling to a place of refreshment. And we did not find these on our own.

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On July 19, A.D. 64, a fire started in Rome.  In New Testament History, Ben Witherington tells us that half of the regions of Rome were affected by this fire and three regions were leveled entirely.  Some accused the Emperor Nero of setting the fire.  Nero accused the Christians, perhaps for his own survival.  In order to punish them in a way to fit the crime, Nero used Christians as living torches to light the nighttime games at the Circus Maximus.

It was during this time that the Pastoral Epistles were written, including the second letter to Timothy where we are introduced to Onesiphorus.  Onesiphorus is a friend of Paul’s, likely from the church at Ephesus.  Paul is in prison, perhaps the Mamertine prison, as part of Nero’s persecution of Christians.  While there, Onesiphorus shows up when no one else dared risk it.  That this is a terrible situation for Christians is likely the reason that no one supported Paul in his first defense (4.16).  That Onesiphorus is not ashamed is an example to Timothy of one not ashamed (see 2.15).

There is danger for Onesiphorus to search for Paul.  Yet, he risked the danger.  We are told that while others (we are talking about you Phygellus and Hermegenes) “turned away” from Paul, Onesiphorus “refreshed” him.  A contrast is suggested between those who deserted him and one who served him.  Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers suggest that the presence of a friend provided “a special tonic.”  Craig Keener says that “Refresh” is the language of hospitality.  Onesiphorus may have housed Paul during stays in Ephesus.

Where are those like Onesiphorus?  Where are those with the courage to refresh others at the risk of our own life?  What does this refreshment looks like?  The presence of a friend?  Reading aloud?  A cool breeze?  Playing an instrument?  Serving a cold drink?  A sandwich?  Conversation?  Talking about memories?  Is there laughing?  Continuing the mission?  Who and what brings refreshment when days are numbered?  Where can we find this?

This is the work of the Spirit.  It has to be.  People like Onesiphorus are not capable of this on their own.  This same Spirit who unleashed tongues of fire and a rushing mighty wind is able to unleash refreshment into the Mamertine.  While friends and allies were serving as torches and the apostle awaited certain death, the Spirit sent Onesiphorus with refreshment.  Whether we are preparing to receive tongues of fire or to be lit on fire, when summer days get hot and when memories of the ancestors remind us that our fate could be death, the Spirit able to refresh Paul in the Mamertine can certainly refresh you and I.

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