June 22, 2017

"Arise!"

So said Jesus to a young man in the seventh chapter of Luke: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” But the most interesting thing about Jesus’ hearer, in this instance, is not that he is young, but that he is dead! Indeed, it is his funeral day. His widowed mother is there, walking along with the coffin. The funeral procession inches along to the graveside. And there is the young man, to whom Jesus spoke, being carried along by his pall-bearers. And what sort of person interrupts such a procession? What sort of person comes from the outside and stops a funeral party on the way to the graveside? What sort of person, indeed, not only interrupts a grieving funeral party, but actually begins speaking to the corpse, and expecting lifeless ears to hear? This had better work! The dead man had better be able to hear, and to arise, or the whole thing is going to be incredibly embarrassing … and quite impertinent, and hurtful to the grieving company.

But, of course, the voice is that of Jesus! And so it does work! The dead young man does indeed hear the Master’s voice; and he does indeed sit up in his coffin! Praise God! Praise the Son of God whose voice is so powerful, He can make even the dead to hear!

You’re probably familiar with the story. So familiar, in fact, that we know that it is inevitable that the dead man will hear Jesus’ voice and respond to it. That’s what happens in the New Testament, right? But does it occur to you to apply this same logic to that person in your family, or your workplace, or among your friends … that person who is spiritually dead, and seems like the last person on earth who would actually listen to the word of Christ, and heed it?

The reason why such people seem so unlikely to respond is because they are, indeed, dead! Dead to God. Dead to spiritual realities. Dead to the life that is in the Son. And so of course he or she is uninterested in your gospel, and in your Savior, and in coming to church with you. He or she really is, spiritually, dead! And, perceiving that to be so, we may sometimes hold out very little hope that they will ever listen, or that they will ever believe. And we are right in ascertaining their deadness to our message! But let us not forget that the voice of Jesus is so powerful that, whenever He chooses, He can speak to dead ears (and hearts, and minds) and cause them to hear, and to arise! As it was with the young man being carried by the pallbearers in the ancient city of Nain, so it is with young and old in your city, and in your family. Yes, they really are spiritually dead! But that is no impediment if Jesus deems that they should hear His voice and live! So keep giving them His word! Keep speaking to them His gospel! Keep warning them of their sin, and of hell. And keep attempting to woo them to the Savior, and to His heaven. Time may come when He will interrupt their slow march to an eternal grave, and bid them arise from the dead … to the rejoicing of mothers, friends, and the crowds round about!

June 19, 2017

“All my desire is before You”

So says David in Psalm 38:9 –

“Lord, all my desire is before You;
And my sighing is not hidden from You”

Now, as the second line of that couplet seems to reveal, David’s desire in Psalm 38 was, it would appear, an as-yet unfulfilled desire. For notice that his desire (v.9a) and his sighing (v.9b) run parallel to one another … as two halves of the same sentence; as two motions of David’s soul, walking hand-in-hand. It would appear that his sighing, then, was related to the status of his desire. He sighed because his desire had not yet been fulfilled; because he was longing for fruit that had not yet appeared upon the tree. And most of us know what that is like – a promotion that doesn’t come; a pregnancy that doesn’t happen; a relationship that doesn’t pan out; a prayer that goes a long time (seemingly) unanswered. We have desires, too, don’t we? And often we sigh.

Probably the unfulfilled desire, in David’s life, was related to his sin (see vv.1-8, 18). It may have been a desire to overcome sin; or perhaps the “desire” in v.9 was some hope or dream that had gone unfulfilled because he hadn’t overcome it. Or the desire may, perhaps, have been for healing of the bodily infirmity that his sin had brought upon him (vv.1-8). But in any case, David spends long enough talking about his sin and its repercussions that it seems likely that he had pinpointed sin as at least part of the roadblock in his life; at least part of the reason for his unfulfilled desire. That’s not to say that sin is necessarily the culprit in your unfulfilled hopes and dreams! It may be. Or it may not. But for David, anyway, it seems likely that sin was at least one ingredient in the bitter soup of unfilled desires that David was tasting.

It could also be that David’s unmet desire (v.9) was related to the strained relationships he mentions in v.11, or the opposition he faced from certain enemies (vv.12-15). Or perhaps it was some overlap or correlation between some or all of these things – strained relationships, opposition, and sin. It could also be, of course, that there was some other (unknown or unmentioned) reason, added to the mix, why David’s desire had gone, thus far, unfulfilled. We don’t know for sure how all the ingredients mixed together, and in what proportions … just like it’s hard, many times, to figure out why it is that our desires may seem to go unsatisfied. Is it my sin that’s holding me back? Or roadblocks thrown up by other people? Or is it something else? Or a combination of things? It’s often very hard to tell for sure. For God doesn’t always reveal to us all the various strands that He weaves into the web of His providence.

But one thing we do know is that – whatever our desire; and whatever our sighing over its failure, as yet, to take wings – our heavenly Father knows our desires and our sighings! “Lord, all my desire is before You” David exclaims. “And my sighing is not hidden from You.” Our Father knows our hopes, our dreams, our longings, our prayers. And He knows the tears, sighs, and groans that wring out of us when those desires are unmet. He knows! If ever an earthly father knew his child’s most earnest Christmas wish, then surely this Father knows the desire of His children … and their sighing, too. And He is kind and gracious enough that, even when sin is the culprit in our unmet desires (and even if we require His discipline for it), He still cares about His children’s hopes, and sent His Son to die for His children’s sins … and always does us, His children, ultimate good, even in spite of ourselves!

Can I guarantee that God will grant you exactly what you’re dreaming of? I cannot. He may have reasons for not doing so. But I can tell you that a Father who knows the desires of His children, and who hears their groanings, and who loves them enough to have given His only begotten Son for them … this God will not let His children down (remember Romans 8:32!). This God, whether or not He fulfills your every dream, will surely satisfy your soul, if you are His child. And sometimes He will fulfill your dreams, too! So cry out to Him, as David does in Psalm 38, and in so many other psalms. And believe that He hears, that He knows, that He cares, and that He will surely “give what is good” (Matt 7:11) to His children.