Managing a saltwater aquarium, I discovered, is no easy task. I had to run a portable chemical laboratory to monitor nitrate levels and ammonia content. I pumped in vitamins and antibiotics and sulfa drugs and enzymes. I filtered the water through glass fibers and charcoal.
You would think my fish would be grateful. Not so. When my shadow loomed above the tank to feed them, they dove for cover into the nearest shell. I was too large for them; my actions incomprehensible. They did not know that my acts were merciful. To change their perceptions would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and “speak” to them in a language they could understand, which was impossible for me to do.
According to the Scriptures, God, the Creator of the universe, did something that seems impossible. He came to earth in human form as a baby. “The world was made through Him,” says John, “and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10). So God, who created matter, took shape within it, as a playwright might become a character within his own play. God wrote a story, using real characters, on the pages of real history. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v.14).
All praise to Thee, eternal Lord, Clothed in a garb of flesh and blood; Choosing a manger for a throne, While worlds on worlds are Thine alone. —Luther
God entered human history to offer us the gift of eternal life.
As the “messenger” (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; Mark 1:2-3), John the Baptist’s ministry was to introduce Jesus to the world and “to bear witness of the Light” (John 1:7). John presented Jesus as the Logos, the self-existent, preexistent, omnipotent, eternal, Creator God who spoke everything into existence, giving light and life to His creation (vv.4-5). He also presented Jesus as God incarnate (vv.9-14). Jesus added humanity to His deity, becoming one Person with two natures—perfectly human and yet perfectly divine (Phil. 2:6-8). He came to give “light to every man” so that we don’t need to live in sin’s darkness (John 1:9) and to give new life to those who believe so that we can live as God’s children (vv.12-13).
When I was a child, one of my favorite pastimes was playing on the teeter-totter in the nearby park. A kid would sit on each end of the board and bounce each other up and down. Sometimes the one who was down would stay there and leave his playmate stuck up in the air yelling to be let down. But the cruelest of all tricks was getting off the teeter-totter and running away when your friend was up in the air—he would come crashing down to the ground with a painful bump.
Sometimes we may feel that Jesus does that to us. We trust Him to be there with us through the ups and downs of life. However, when life takes a turn and leaves us with bumps and bruises, it may feel as if He has walked away leaving our lives to come painfully crashing down.
But Lamentations 3 reminds us that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end” (v.22 esv) and that God is faithful to the end even when everything seems to be falling apart. This means that in the midst of our pain, even though we may be lonely, we are not alone. And though we may not feel His presence, He is there as our trusted companion who will never walk away and let us down!
Thank You, Lord, that we can trust in Your faithful presence even when we feel alone. Help us to wait patiently for You to manifest Your steadfast loving presence.
When everyone else fails, Jesus is your most trusted friend.
In Lamentations 3 we see the tribulations of God’s people. They are described in terms of physical suffering, painful injury, and imprisonment. Judah’s journey is portrayed in harrowing terms of terrible obstacles, wild animals, a wound to the heart, and bitter food. And the spiritual devastation can be seen in these words: “You have moved my soul far from peace” (v.17). Yet despite the despair of the moment, the promise of restoration and renewal are given: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning” (vv.22-23).
A few days ago, I spied my old friend Bob vigorously pedaling a bike at our neighborhood gym and staring down at a blood pressure monitor on his finger.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Looking to see if I’m alive,” he grunted.
“What would you do if you saw you were dead?” I countered.
“Shout hallelujah!” he replied with a radiant smile.
Over the years I’ve caught glimpses of great inner strength in Bob: patient endurance in the face of physical decline and discomfort, and faith and hope as he approaches the end of his life journey. Indeed he has found not only hope, but death has lost its power to tyrannize him.
Who can find peace and hope—and even joy—in dying? Only those who are joined by faith to the God of eternity and who know that they have eternal life (1 Cor. 15:52,54). For those who have this assurance, like my friend Bob, death has lost its terror. They can speak with colossal joy of seeing Christ face to face!
Why be afraid of death? Why not rejoice? As the poet John Donne (1572–1631) wrote, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally.”
For the Christian, dying is the last shadow of earth’s night before heaven’s dawn.
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is more concerned with dealing with problems than it is with teaching doctrinal truth to the church. However, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul’s focus is not on problem-solving but on the vital importance of the doctrine of the resurrection. Obviously, the resurrection of Christ is one of the central truths of the Christian faith, so it is not surprising that the apostle would want his friends to grasp its reality and significance.