December 2nd – The Weight of “OUGHT”

There is an experience far more common than we moderns care to confess. It is the pressing sense of “ought-ness”. A moral imperative which we cannot escape. In it we are weighed down, burdened, pressed into a corner, stressed, under tension, until we have unburdened ourselves by following it. Listen to the first sentence in the small but might Old Testament book of the prophet Habakkuk.Habakkuk Chapter 1 v. 1
The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received.
Notice that word “oracle”. It’s a word nowadays that we usually associate with magic or mediums or fortune tellers. It was literally ‘a word from the gods’. In ancient Greece, Delphi was the place where the Olympian gods delivered cryptic prophecies. There the medium became the message-the oracle. But when that word is used by the prophets of Israel, beware! It has been transposed into an entirely new dimension. They experienced such a sense of “ought-ness”: such a moral imperative: a crushing load, or burden of “the word of the Lord” they had to deliver it. They knew that they were not the originators of it, merely the recipients. They were not the message – just its transmitters. God had laid a burden on them which they must declare. It was what Jeremiah experienced when locked in the stocks, humiliated and ridiculed. He vowed that in future he’d keep his mouth shut. It wasn’t worth all the flack. The instant he was released his first words were: “Thus says the Lord …”. He said it was like: “A burning fire shut up in his bones – I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” That was Jeremiah Chapter 20 v. 9 and 3.
The prophet Amos put it like this, in Chapter 3 v. 8
The lion has roared – who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken – who can but prophesy?
Lest you should think that all the prophets were just a touch fanatical, listen to the words of the only truly balanced man ever to walk this earth – Jesus is his name, and he said, in Luke Chapter 12 v. 49-50
I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!
‘How stressed up, constricted, constrained, pressurised I am’. It was that burden of “ought-ness”. He – the very word itself – said: “Ought not the Son of Man to suffer and die?”.
It’s what Paul meant when he cried, in I Corinthians Chapter 9 v. 16, with that wonderful Hebrew expression of distress ‘Oi, Oi, Oi’, or ‘woe, woe, woe’. Listen to him:
“Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

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Thought 4 The Day

The Old Testament scriptures are intelligible only when understood as predicting and prefiguring Christ. (C. Hodge)

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