The Lord said, "I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake." - 2 Kings 19:34
God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his." - 2 Timothy 2:19
Lectionary texts: Malachi 4:1-2a; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19
We could read "the Lord knows those who are his" as a kind of threat, like Santa Claus's list of good kids vs. bad kids. We could imagine that God says, "Shape up, if you want to be mine. Or else."
And the Bible does, in fact, include a lot of exhortations for God's people to shape up. God's Law is not an arbitrary list of random character tests, but a way of life that gives the contours for how human beings can succeed in staying healthy and whole and connected to God and each other.
Today's 2 Kings 19 verse comes from a story of a king who needs to shape up. The 2 Timothy 2 verse is written to a young leader who needs to watch his own behavior in order to care for a community of people who often need to be told to shape up.
The thing is that all these people are God's people, even while they're in need of some repentance and transformation and spiritual conditioning. God's Grace and the Gospel of compassion and mercy and forgiveness in Christ are the greater outline of God's true love, which underlies the Law. We need to shape up, not in order to get God to love us, but because we already are God's people, and God already loves us, and wants the best for us.
Today, this is like a call from home. "The Lord knows who are his" is a promise that, whatever is going on in any one individual life, we can know whose we are. We can know there is abiding love as our foundation. And we can come back, any time, to be claimed and welcomed and made whole by our Lord.