Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Isaac: The unseen groom

It was hard to believe that she was almost there. They had been traveling for days: out of Mesopotamia, through the desert, and now into the beautiful land of Canaan. Her new home. The servant had assured her that Isaac's camp was just a few hours further. Her long journey was almost complete. She was thankful to the camels for carrying her such a distance, but she would be glad to do her own walking for a little while.

“Just a few more hours until I meet the man I love,” she said to herself. She smiled at the thought. Love. She wouldn't have thought it possible, but it was true. Before the servant had appeared at the well those many days ago, she had never even heard of Isaac. But the servant had spoken so well of him —of his miraculous birth, of his deliverance by God, of his great wealth and inheritance— that she had been willing to return with him and become Isaac's bride. The long hours of her journey were spent questioning the servant further, to learn even more of Isaac, and his every answer had confirmed her decision. How could she feel so strongly about a man she had never met? At times, she had also made the servant repeat the story of how his prayer to God had been answered and he had been led right to her. She had the camels to thank for that too.

Finally, she saw a figure off in the distance. He rose and began walking towards them. “Who is that man coming to meet us?”, she asked the servant as she descended from her camel. He replied, “That is my Master.” She took a moment to smooth out the garment she was wearing, a gift from the man walking towards her. Then she took a deep breath, and placed her veil over her face. And waited.

After the events with his father on the top of Mount Moriah, Isaac disappears temporarily from the Genesis narrative. He reappears to take Rachel as his wife. She is the bride whom Abraham had requested, the one his chief servant had sought and found and convinced to return with him.

In the New Testament, the church is often pictured as a bride. Like Rebekah, this bride had been found by the Holy Spirit. Like Rebekah, she has been presented with blessings and gifts. And like Rebekah, the Church is longing for a groom as yet unseen.

“To you who believe, He is precious, whom having not seen we love,” the old chorus says. Soon the long journey will be over. Soon the marriage feast will begin. But until that day, we wait.

(Genesis 24; 1 Peter 1:6–9)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Elisha: The life-giving grave

The men did not hear the alarm at first. It was drowned out by the clang of shovels, the sounds of digging and their own exertion. But the growing commotion quickly made one fact unmistakable: the Moabites were coming!

This was not the first raiding party —they came every spring— and experience quickly overcame fear. There was no time now to dig this man his own grave. It would have to wait. But someone objected, “We can't just leave him out here.” “Well, throw him in there.” “But that's Elisha's grave!” “Why don't we...” “There's no time!”

And so it was that the poor man's body was unceremoniously dumped onto Elisha's bones. Instantly, the dead man revived. He stood up, looked around, and climbed up out of the grave.

This little event is tucked into just two verses, but its brevity belies its significance. Just a few people were raised from the dead in the Old Testament. The widow of Zeraphath's son was raised by the prophet Elijah and the Shunammite woman's son was later brought back to life by Elisha. The only other instance of resurrection in the Old Testament is in this bizarre little story. The nameless man in 2 Kings 13 was raised by Elisha too, but in a way unlike any other miracle recorded for us in the Bible. It is by sharing Elisha's grave, by being united with Elisha in death, that he is restored to life.

Jesus' death is a life-giving death. His grave is a life-giving grave. Paul writes: “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” When we become Christians, Christ's death becomes our death and His life has become our life. When we are united with Him, we can rise with him and leave the grave behind.

(2 Kings 13:20–21; Romans 6:5)