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Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Music For the Soul
Devotional: September 23rd

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We . . . who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. - Hebrews 6:18

The writer blends two vivid metaphors here, the one of a fugitive unsheltered in the open, surrounded by foes; the other of a man grasping some strong stay. Look at the two pictures. " Fled for refuge." The scene brought before us is that of a man flying for his life, with the pursuer clattering at his heels, and his lance-point within a yard of the fugitive’s back. Grass will not grow under that man’s feet; he will not stop to look at the flower by the road. The wealth of South Africa, if it were spread before him, would not check his headlong flight. It is a race for life. If he gets to the open gate he is safe. If he is overtaken before he reaches it, he is a dead man. The moment he gets within the portal the majesty of law compasses him about, and delivers him from the wild justice of revenge. " By-and-bye" kills its tens of thousands. For one man that says, "I am not a Christian, and, what is more, I never intend to be," there are a dozen that say, " To-morrow! tomorrow! " " Let me sow my wild oats as a young man; let me alone for a little while. I am busy at present; when I have a convenient season I will send for thee." What would have become of the man-slayer if he had curled himself up in his cloak, and laid down beside his victim, and said, " I am too tired to run for it"? He would have been dead before morning. A rabbi’s scholar, as the Jewish traditions tell us, once said to him, "Master! when shall I repent?" "The day before you die," said the Rabbii. The scholar said, " I may die to-day." Then said the Rabbi, "Repent to-day." "Choose you this day "whether you will stand unsheltered out there, exposed to the pelting hustling of the pitiless storm, or will flee to the Refuge and be saved.

Look at the other picture: "to lay hold of the hope." Perhaps the allusion is to the old institution of Sanctuary, which perhaps existed in Israel, and at any rate was well known in ancient times. When a man grasped the horns of the altar he was safe. If so, the two metaphors may really blend into one: the flight first, and then the clutching to that which, so long as the twining fingers could encompass it, would permit no foe to strike the fugitive. This metaphor speaks of the fixity of the hold with which we should grasp Jesus Christ by our faith. The shipwrecked sailor up in the rigging, with the wild sea around him, and the vessel thumping upon the sand, will hold on, with frozen fingers, for hours, to the shrouds, knowing that if he slips his grasp the next hungry wave will sweep him away and devour him. And so you should cling to Jesus Christ with the consciousness of danger and helplessness, with the tight grasp of despair, with the tight grasp of certain hope.

I remember reading of an inundation in India, when a dam, away up in a mountain gorge, burst at midnight. Mounted messengers were sent down the glen to gallop as hard as they could and rouse the sleeping villagers. Those who rose and fled in an instant were in time to reach the high ground, as they saw the tawny flood coming swirling down the gorge, laden with the wrecks of happy homes and many a corpse. Those who hesitated and dawdled were swept away by it.

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