4 Pentecost, July 2
“Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob” (Ps. 114:7). The seas fled, the mountains skipped like rams, the small hills like sheep, as the Lord moved over the face of black water. Again and again, God shakes the earth. Tremble, O reader, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of Abraham and his son Isaac on the path to Moriah and the mountain God shows. “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you” (Gen. 22:2). This is but one example. “When the time came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord … and they offered a sacrifice according to the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:22-24). The substitutionary sacrifice was a mercy covering an ancient claim. Take your son, your only son.
Job, a blameless and upright man, was tested long ago. God allowed it. Satan was going to and fro upon the face of the earth with an eye on Job. Marauding Sabeans took his oxen and donkeys and killed his servants. The fire of God burned up his sheep and consumed his servants. The Chaldeans made a raid and carried off his camels and murdered his servants with the edge of the sword. A great wind struck the corners of the house where his sons and daughters were eating and drinking, killing them all (Job 1:13-19). In a second visitation, Satan “inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7). Atheists, generally being literalists, have a point. Is it not cruel to ask for a son, all one’s possessions, one’s health, and dear daughters? Why must sorrow and gaping wounds be the test of a blameless man?
The difficulty is resolved in the New Testament. Or is it? “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their lives will lose it, and those who lose their lives for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). The death occurs one blow at a time: brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, and fields (Mark 10:29). Tremble, O reader, and understand. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, the God of the living and the dead, wants and claims everything. “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee” (BCP; 1 Chr. 29:14).
The language of the Bible is extreme at points, but not extremist. It paints in vivid pictures theological themes of incredible density. So we must see, and then think. Time and death are the background of so much of the Bible’s story. Show me the number of my days, how short life is, the span of a human life. The Bible knows time, and time will take everything. In a sense, God intervenes and takes early what would be taken later. And so a kind of death occurs in the land of Moriah, the Red Sea, the Jordan River, the offering of turtle doves, and consummately in the death of Jesus. We die with him. Before our dead bodies rest in the earth, we are buried into Christ’s death through baptism. And God provides a resurrection from death (Gen. 22:8; Rom. 6:13).
Look It Up
Read Genesis 22:6.
Think About It
Read Romans 6:13: from death to life.