Personal and Family Devotions
Monday, March 30th
Grace and Peace to you!
You’ll have heard by now that the Covid virus may well have paid a visit to our home too. Like many, we are experiencing isolation and quarantine. We are in something of an exile. What shall we do in such places? It seems to me that three options present themselves to us when we find ourselves exiled from the people of the covenant and living a strange new life.
Psalm 137 describes the option of despair.
“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”
Psalm 137 also describes another very human emotion in the face of exile: anger.
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us!
Unlike despair or anger, a uniquely Jesus-shaped response emerges at the Cross. Jesus suffers an exile, carrying the Roman cross out of Jerusalem to die outside the city, surrounded by mockery and shame. Did he despair? Did he express anger and hope for revenge on those who wounded him?
From the Cross, Jesus confesses Psalm 22, crying out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ This ‘cry of dereliction’ might sound like that note of despair from Psalm 137, but there is far more to it than that. Psalm 22 begins with and proceeds through immense and unimaginable pain and humiliation but ends with the triumph of God’s kingdom in all nations.
From the Cross, Jesus asks for the forgiveness of those who crucify him, seeking their salvation rather than their judgment. ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing’, he prays.
Jesus’ pain was not in secret. It was wide-open and in the street, naked before the world. So too the suffering of the Christian is a sign in the world. It is an open secret. The world seeks an answer to why suffering occurs, or looks for revenge on those who inflict it, or expires under the burden of its weight and terror. The Christian knows the answer is not a philosophical proposition to satisfy the intellect but a personal encounter that satisfies the soul. The Christian knows that revenge may as well fall at his own door, for our own sin is enough to merit all our pain; our hope for ourselves and others is that surely mercy will triumph over judgment. The Christian is persuaded that these things ate true by belonging to Christ through his suffering. This is why our suffering is meant to show his.
Peter writes that exile people are living witnesses among those to whom they are sent, and this is the role of the Christian in our world: “I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
This is why Peter writes that our suffering is a witness we offer the world, a glimpse into the suffering of Jesus that they gain through seeing our pain. He writes that it is our sacred calling, that these afflictions we endure are even a grace we are given, and this is especially true when it seems unfair. “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
This week then, in the face of misery that is physical, fiscal, relational, psychological, or spiritual, let us not hang our harps in the willows by the Rivers of Babylon, but instead take up the song of praise and hope, thanking God that the wounds and ways of Jesus will be seen in the way God’s people offer themselves to him as his servants and to the world as witnesses in the midst of our exile and pain.
Reading: Psalm 137; 1 Peter 2; Mark 8:34-35
The Resurrection means that 67+ Pakistani Christians murdered for their faith during an Easter celebration at a park “will live, even though they die,” because Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:35).
The Resurrection means that the martyrs in Lahore are going to get their suicide-bombed bodies back in glory one day, when “the perishable is clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality” (1 Cor. 15:54). Come, Lord Jesus.
The Resurrection means that evil, terror, violence, and death have an expiration date (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
The Resurrection is not a peacetime truth for occasional, feel-good, religious nostalgia. The Resurrection is a wartime truth for everyday, tear-smeared, blood-stained allegiance to Jesus. – Duke Kwon
I wake up sometimes way in the night and I know as certain as death that there aint nothin short of the second comin of Christ that can slow this train.
~ Sheriff Bell, (Cormac McCarthy), No Country for Old Men
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. Paul, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Hymns & Songs
On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-1wLd_nmus
Lift High the Cross: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgcaigsoNug
Categories in: General