World English Bible translation
2:17But we, brothers, being bereaved of you for a short season, in presence, not in heart, tried even harder to see your face with great desire, 2:18 because we wanted to come to you -- indeed, I, Paul, once and again -- but Satan hindered us. 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Isn't it even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming? 2:20 For you are our glory and our joy.
Do you remember what it was like to wait anxiously by the phone, waiting for someone to call? Can you remember a time when you desperately wanted to hear from someone and the time seemed to drag out indefinitely before you heard from them? The apostles want the Thessalonians to know that they wanted very much to be with them, to undergo their trials and to rejoice with them as well. Paul, who is dictating these words to Silas or Timothy, puts an emphasis here. "I, Paul" wanted to come to you time and again.
But Paul says something very interesting here. "... Satan hindered us." I'm not sure exactly what Paul is referring to here. Was his meaning that Satan had a hand in running Paul out of Thessalonica? Was his meaning that Satan somehow actively blocked the Silas and Paul from returning (we will see that Timothy had returned to Thessalonica 3:6)? In whatever manner he means this, he is expressing that he was restrained from returning. And not by the Spirit of God.
Where was God? The answer is found in what we know of the history of this time. The apostles were forced to leave Thessalonica. They found a better reception for a time in Berea but Paul had to leave there as well. After a short stay in Athens, he preceded to Corinth, feeling very concerned. But, in Corinth he finds Aquila and Priscilla, a couple who would be of great help to his ministry. Aquila and Priscilla are later spoken of in the Book of Romans as being leaders in the Christian community in Rome. And Corinth itself, for all the problems that this city caused the apostle, was to become a great base of operation for the early Christian church.
Where was God while Paul was being hindered from returning to the Thessalonians? God was actively using this period to advance His kingdom. Did Paul feel anxiety and concern? Certainly he did. But, his anxiety did not cause him to be ineffective for God.
How wonderfully this passage ends! "For you are our glory and our joy" …"before our Lord Jesus at his coming." The glory and joy of the great apostle was not his own accomplishments. It was the growth and maturity of those he had brought the gospel. And what glory and joy he will have on the final day! When everyone throughout the ages that has been touched by his words and the sacrifices he was willing to make stands before the throne of God, that will indeed be his glory and joy!
So it will be with the servants of the Lamb. The glory that will be ours is rightfully His, but through faith in Him, He will share with us His kingdom. May that day soon arrive!
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