God will never abandon me, and that’s no casting of lots.
When I was a child, I recall an instance when our family went to shop at the mall on the south side of the city where we lived. As was custom, we had dinner together and then separated to shop our favorite stores. When 9 p.m. came, the mall was closing and neither my brothers nor my parents were at the pre-arranged gathering point. I was overcome with the fear that I had been abandoned. Much to my relief, my family had not abandoned me, but were merely late. That has stuck with me over the years. Jesus had an experience with abandonment. Except His was real.
There is peace to be found in the fear of God.
One of the practices our nation has had to adopt in the face of COVID-19 is contact tracing, identifying those with whom the infected person has had contact, and taking measures to isolate and treat such persons to control the spread of the virus. Sally contracted the virus from Dave, who contracted it from Arnold, and so forth.
The people of Israel had a virus of sorts, one from which they never seemed to be able to extricate themselves: that of adopting the idolatrous practices of those with whom they had contact. Throughout the history of the Israelites, they struggled to maintain purity in their worship to the Lord, instead taking on the beliefs and practices of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and so forth. This went on for generations. Like COVID-19 and contact tracing, the path and growth of this faithlessness to the Lord can be tracked. The people decided to fear the gods of those around them more than the one true God.
The text of Isaiah 53 is one of what are called the Servant Songs—portions of Isaiah’s prophecy that refer directly to Jesus Christ and His work of redemption. It can’t be overstated how good these words must have sounded to the people of Israel. Isaiah writes at the end of the Assyrian occupation of the Northern Kingdom, before the destruction of Assyria and subsequent occupation of Babylon.
There are roughly eight billion people on earth, and that number is growing. As a result of improved economies, cleaner water, more productive farming, stabilized governments, and better medicine, the world’s birthrate has increased, and infant mortality has decreased. Not all countries have increased birthrates, however. In the United States, for example, the population is increasing, but ever so slowly. One would think, with the wealth of the United States, the population would be burgeoning. Yet parents have smaller families than in the past, and hundreds of babies are aborted each day.
A book I read recently suggests that, given the increased use of electronic media (television, cell phones, social media, iPad, the internet) our collective attention span has shrunk. Although we might like short commercials, the fifteen-second ads of recent years have decreased our ability to remain focused on a particular point. News briefs move from one to another at lightning speed. The internet moves information across our computer screens as quickly as we can absorb it. This ease of access to information has also affected our capacity to recall information because our brains are in a constant state of saturation.
I am weary, but God never tires.
In March, our congregation reached the one-year anniversary of making ministry changes in light of COVID-19. Recently, we have relaxed some of these changes after more than ten months of online worship, Bible study, and devotions. Our school was online-only for quite a while. All of this has been in addition to social distancing, masks, and damage to the economy. Even as we move close to “normal,” there is palpable, shared exhaustion. It is physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.
Jesus in the Old Testament?
This month begins a new series of materials for teaching Sunday School. Christians often view the Old Testament as intimidating, irrelevant, evidence of God’s judgment and wrath—a long, boring history of a people long gone. Far from this, the Old Testament prepares us for the New Testament or, more precisely, Genesis through Malachi points us to Jesus Christ.