Light When You Cannot See It (My Redeemer Lives 4:2)

Our family loves meteor showers.

Well, really, it’s my dad. My dad loves meteor showers.

The rest of us love sleep.

I have vibrant memories of my dad waking us up at 1am, 2am, or 4am, whenever the best time for viewing in our area was expected. He would wrap a blanket around each of us and we would climb into the car. We would drive about a quarter mile out into our neighbor’s field, get out of the car, and lay on the hood, all lined up, with our faces turned up to the night sky. Then, it would happen: a speck of light, then another, another, until it felt like all the light was falling out of the sky and filling the space around you. I wanted to catch the falling diamonds with my mouth or in my hands the way children catch snowflakes.

After the shower, as a kid, I wondered how all the stars in the sky could be left hanging, when so many had just fallen out of the sky. How was it we still had light when it has all just fallen and passed away?

As an adult, I found this passage, Job 9:7-10, that gave me my answer:

…who commands the sun, and it does not rise;

    who seals up the stars;

8 who alone stretched out the heavens

    and trampled the waves of the sea;

9 who made the Bear and Orion,

    the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;

10 who does great things beyond searching out,

    and marvelous things beyond number.

Now I know the difference between meteors and stars, between gaseous matter and chunks of blazing stone, but the biblical lesson still holds no matter the substance in the sky we consider.

You can’t take the stars out of the sky, and the sun is still shining even when we cannot see it.

God alone places them in their positions, stretches them out in the galaxies, and plucks white dwarfs out of the sky in their time.

We have such little minds. We continue to believe more easily that which we can see even as we grow from children into elderly.

Likewise, the resurrection of the dead is the easiest thing for us to set aside in our system of beliefs. We relegate it to unimportant, not worth arguing over, and at the very least ignored. We sleep through this important doctrine, when our Father in heaven would teach us and wake us up for His unbelievable and glorious display:

The dead rise at His beckoning. The tombs unseal and Life bursts forth.

Without the resurrection of the dead, we remain in darkness. If death is not defeated in its fullness, what is the point? We could be souls wandering around a heavenly space, but God gives us greater hope. We were made for physical resurrection.

Paul says it better. We find his argument in 1 Corinthians 15:12-28:

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

God is all in all, and we see this vaguely in the stars hanging in the sky even when it’s cloudy and our own vision obscured. We see this more clearly in His Word, like this passage we just read that proclaims Jesus as the firstfruit of resurrection, which means there are the next fruits – each of us raised with Him. One day, we will see this fully: satan stomped underfoot, and our entire world restored. We will be bodily resurrected, with perfect bodies and a celebration like no other. It makes me sit and wonder if the angels praising Him will look like the thousand glimmering specks of meteors I watched with my dad, and there we will be watching them again together, praising together.

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

    who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8b)

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:19 again:

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

We have hope for so much more than this life, even so much more than heaven. We wait for the resurrection of the dead, which means I will praise and rejoice with my dad one day. This is no small hope.

I want to be a next fruit.

I want to stand on this earth again and sing with sparkling angels and all those who have gone before me.

We preach and teach the resurrection of the dead, something we cannot see, because we do not want to rob people of their hope. God gives light from the stars in the sky and warmth from the sun when we cannot see it, and hope for a life where those same stars will shine for Him again – brighter and more perfect.

The same is true of me and of you. You shine for Him now, even when you cannot see it, but oh, will you shine for Him again, praising Him

who does great things beyond searching out,

    and marvelous things beyond number. (Job 9:10)

with feet firmly planted on resurrection soil.

Falling in Fear and Thankfulness (My Redeemer Lives 2:4)

Today we get to enter the weird vortex of Scripture that is Elijah and Elisha. Two guys, different stories, freakishly similar.

Elijah came first. We read about him raising a widow’s son yesterday from 1 Kings 17. Today we will hear the story of Elisha…raising a different woman’s son in 2 Kings 4. Find the backstory in 2 Kings 4:8-17 — Elisha stays with a couple, and he promises they will have a baby boy in the coming year. They never asked for a child. It was a gift from God to this couple, proclaimed through the prophet. 2 Kings 4:18-37 brings us to the rest of the story. It’s pretty lengthy, but has some great dialogue. It’s as action packed as any Netflix drama:

The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers.19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!”

His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.

22 She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”

23 “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”

“That’s all right,” she said.

24 She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, “Look! There’s the Shunammite! 26 Run to meet her and ask her, ‘Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?’”

“Everything is all right,” she said.

27 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.”

28 “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?”

29 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”

30 But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her.

31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”

32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

In verses 18-26 we see a woman trying to hold it together. She takes great pains to use language that says, “I’m fine.” Only her version of I’m fine is “All is well” in verses 23 and 26 (ESV) or “Everything is all right” in the NIV translation.

When have you ever felt like you just needed to hold it together? What situations and people in your life don’t quite feel safe enough to spill all the drama of life to? Just like this woman, we have places where we need to put boundaries, people we can’t spill it all to. We can relate.

Then, she gets to Elisha in verse 27. She falls at his feet. Elisha’s servant tries to push her away, but Elisha recognizes her distress.

Loss brings with it the kind of fear that sucks your breath in and you just want to fall down; you can try to hold it all together, but when we are grieving we need those safe people we can grab on to their feet and they won’t push us away.

The world is a scary place. The world is much scarier without the people we love in it. It’s even scarier without Jesus, without a Savior, without a Resurrected God.

When you have found yourself grieving, who are your safe people? Who can you grab hold of their feet and let the tears fall?

Not grieving? Now is the time to build your tribe, to invest in relationships with people who don’t push away at the hard things, but have their feet planted firmly in the Lord and His Love, and are ready to bear the burden with you, as you will with them.

Elisha responds right away and sends His servant to heal the child. He has faith and hope in a God who does resurrection miracles. He believes God can simply use his staff to do it, but for whatever reason, God sends the man himself. Maybe for this woman’s benefit, maybe so she can have the comfort of his person bringing the Spirit of the Living God into her home once again.

And the boy is healed. He is risen. His resurrection points to the Savior who will bring the power of the resurrection to all His people and the Living Spirit into all our homes through Baptism and the Word of Life — all yet to come.

Elisha and this woman have another moment. Read 2 Kings 4:37 one more time –

She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.

Relationships don’t just consist of falling at feet in grief, but in thankfulness and joy as well. How often is thankfulness related to all that we fear –

Will we have enough money?

Will someone get hurt?

Will people break our hearts?

We fall at the feet of our Lord each day and say,

Thank you!

We pick up our bounty of strength and mercy and we move along in the journey.

Who are your people that you share “Thank you-s” with? Who sing praises to God with you? Who fall at His feet with you, wondering at all He has done?

Fears, friendship, and thankfulness — God brings all of it together in His plans and His time. All we can do is fall at His feet time and again as we witness His Resurrection in our days.

Life in the middle of death (My Redeemer Lives 1:3)

When I was young, my grandfather died. It was confusing and hard complicated by still being a child, not-quite an adolescent yet. This left fully aware of what was happening, but on the edge of every adult conversation, never pulled into the discussion.

What I remember though was my sisters and I keeping company in the basement of the funeral home in our pretty dresses, braiding each other’s hair and playing cards with our cousins. There was a lot of food. After the funeral we hung out in my aunt’s basement, played ping pong and ate summer sausage, chips with onion dip, throwing back orange soda pop and laughing our heads off as two of my cousins snapped rubber bands at one another and faked painful reactions. I think my grandpa wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

How often is life found in the middle of death?

How often in our grief do we find friendship and understanding. It isn’t uncommon for families spread wide to sit for a moment and recall memories of a life well lived or of a God who keeps working despite our obvious flaws?

Christ’s death is no different. There is sorrow, yes. There is darkness, yes. But God Himself brings Life into the midst of the death of His Beloved Son.

Read Matthew  27:50-54. While you read, look for the surprising references to Life in the middle of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ –

 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

If you look closely, you’ll see more than one nod to Life in this account of heartbreaking death and sacrifice, but let’s focus on the most obvious today. Jesus dies. He literally gives His Spirit over to death. It’s notable, as we learned in yesterday’s study that death doesn’t rule Jesus. Jesus uses death for His plan. He subjects Himself to it for a purpose – eternal Life.

Look closer – in the middle of this rock-splitting, women weeping, head turning moment of darkness and death, God the Father inserts, by Matthew’s pen…resurrection.

Read Matthew 27:52-53 again:

The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

This account tells us that the resurrected saints (those who died in belief of the coming Messiah, of Jesus) came out of the tombs after Christ Himself was raised. Notice, though, that the record of these resurrections is given to the reader in the middle of the Good Friday account, not waiting for Easter sunlight to break into the story.

Lots of people were raised with Jesus. Not just one guy, not a couple – many bodies. We’ll hear their story in later weeks. For this week, let’s just sit in the middle and ponder how much God cares about it.

God gives hope wherever He is found. He knows life and death are intrinsically linked. He doesn’t ignore that in the ways we do. God brings celebrations to our funerals through Christ Jesus. He brings gifts of joy in the middle of our mourning. This turns the way we think of death and life on its ear. Jesus gives us insight into this when he speaks to a group known as the Sadducees earlier in Matthew 22:23-33 –

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (emphasis added)

Even in the middle of death, He is God of the Living.

This is nothing less than astonishing. Believers are raised and we are reminded of His Hope in the middle. He reveals things slowly to us over time, but he also never leaves out what we need in this moment.

What a gift that is!

Today, let Life infiltrate wherever you see and hear death. Praise God for Who He is and all He does. When you hear a news report, or consider your own memories of death and life, remember that He is God over all and He brings Life to the strangest places.