1 Thessalonians 2:17

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. 1 Thessalonians 2:17

Paul has been speaking of the Jews who had been opposed to the gospel message, and who had done their best to keep him and those with him from sharing it with the Gentiles. After his thoughts about them, he now says, “But we.” The words are set in contrast to what he said about them. Instead of fighting against getting the message to the Gentiles, their longing was not only to share it with them, but to continue fellowshipping with them. He deemed them as brothers, united in Christ, not as “Gentile sinners” who were unworthy of being fellowshipped with.

He then continues on with the word “brethren.” It is his way of identifying himself with them, personally. He has actually set a partition up between himself and the unbelieving Jews, and he has united himself, and his associates, with these Gentiles. The bond with them is stronger than his previous bond to his people of national origin. As brethren, he says they have “been taken away from you for a short time in presence.” Here he chooses a word, aporphanizó, which is found nowhere else in Scripture. It literally means “bereaved.” It is as if they had left the Thessalonians defenseless as orphans. This then is a return to the parent metaphors of verses 7 & 11.

In this state, he then uses a strong term to define the time of their separation. The words “for a short time” are literally, “for time of an hour.” It is his way of defining the time of separation exactingly, as if they counted the minutes that they had been separated, just as parents would when separated from their children. There was a longing to return and see their beloved face to face.

However, he then notes that this bereavement was “not in heart.” Though they were separated because of the enmity of the Jews, the hearts of Paul and his associates remained united with their beloved brethren in Thessalonica. Because of this heartfelt and brotherly bond, he says that they “endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire.”

The time of their separation didn’t result in. “Out of sight; out of mind.” Instead it resulted in, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Their hearts were truly longing to return to Thessalonica and be united in personal fellowship once again.

Life application: If you are a part of a church which has missionaries being supported by you, remember them in your prayers, and also remember them with a blessing in the mail once in a while. They are certainly lonely at times, frustrated often, and desiring to reunite with those they love. And yet, they continue on because they have a duty which is more important than any other. Be mindful of them, and be sure that they know they are appreciated.

Lord God, how tough it must be on missionaries who are out in the field, often alone, surely missing their families, and wondering if their efforts are of any value in Your eyes. They may not be making great headway, and the level of frustration would then be a source of consternation for them. And even if their field is productive, there are countless ways in which they must yearn for the comforts of home and family. Be with these wonderful souls, and make it known to them that their efforts are never in vain. Amen.

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