December 14 - Change and Decay; Certainty and Security

Change and decay; certainty and security


            Life is full of alarming uncertainty, as our circumstances are subject to radical changes, both planned and brutally unexpected.


            The tradesman is working on your house; a minor job is soon to be completed, and then comes the news that he has found evidence of extensive rot. It has been there for some time, undetected, yet threatening the structural integrity of the building. Now there will be enormous upheaval and expense in the very place which has provided you with shelter and whose walls have kept you secure.


            You thought you had a job for life. You have mapped out your own future towards retirement, when the pension will provide you with a decent living. You are enthusiastically planning how you will spend those retirement years. Then comes the news that the company is in trouble, and your job is under threat, and retirement will be delayed as you seek new employment, and the pension will be strictly limited.


            The unexpected phone call comes through from the surgery, asking you to make an appointment with the doctor. The news is not good. A routine health check throws up a health issue about which you were unaware. Your body has begun to let you down. Suddenly, hospitals and blood tests and consultations will dominate your life as never before.


            In all manner of ways life can be full of uncertainty and change.


            Is this not what young Joseph discovered, as he made plans to spend his life with Mary? Here was the woman he loved and upon whom he had set his dreams. One can imagine him regarding Mary, to whom he was engaged, as the one around whom his life revolved as they eagerly planned their future together. Then comes the shocking news of her pregnancy, and all his hopes and dreams appear to lie shattered before him in shards of betrayal.


            Yet the story of Godís dealings with Joseph is the story of human hopes being dashed in order that bigger and better hopes, centred on Godís promises, might be established. This is often the pattern.


            Amidst times of insecurity and change and disappointment, it is vital to remember that one thing never changes and never lets us down, and that is the Promises of God. Amidst chaos and turmoil, the Word of God is ever sure. Of the many lessons to learn surrounding the Christmas story, is surely the reassurance that Godís promises are the only certainty in a universe of disorder and confusion. Wonderfully Christ came, that first Christmas, in fulfilment of the ancient promises of God. We can read through the pages of the prophets of old and learn how Christ is the long expected Messiah. The fact of Christmas tells us afresh that Godís word is ever sure.


            At the very beginning of the Bible, in the immediate aftermath of the ancient disobedience of Adam and Eve, we read the promise of the coming of the serpent-crusher, the one born of the human family, yet who would, though being bruised Himself, crush the evil one (Genesis 3:15) - a reference to the Cross of Christ. Read further in the Bible: The great prophet and leader of Godís people, Moses, saw that God would raise up a prophet like him, but greater, to whom the people must listen (Deuteronomy 18). Further again: great King David, Israelís greatest king, whose reign was the benchmark against which future kings were measured, saw that one day God would send One to reign on the throne of David whose kingdom would be everlasting and under whose rule the nations would be brought (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 2). Keep going: the prophet Jeremiah saw how someday, in some way, God would make a new covenant that would bring about the final forgiveness of sins (Jeremiah 31). Then, perhaps the pinnacle of Old Testament revelation is found in the prophet Isaiah, who saw the coming of the One who would be the suffering servant, wounded for our transgressions, yet after suffering would see life and exaltation (Isaiah 53). The apostle Paul makes the point that the mystery of Christ is now made known through all these ancient prophetic writings; for we see now that all that was promised and foretold and expected is truly fulfilled in Christ (Romans 16:25-27).


            One of the many lessons of Christmas is that Godís promises are sure; and upon them we can depend and build our lives and fix our hope.


            One final story. Let me tell you about the woman who saved Christmas, as the scholar Dale Ralph Davis describes her. Her name was Jehosheba. The fact that you are unfamiliar with her name is testimony to how God delights to use ordinary and obscure people to quietly accomplish mighty things. Jehosheba lived in dark days, when the line of David was all but extinguished. Over the years, dynastic struggles had led to the degradation of the line of David as one slaughter followed another. Finally, a wicked woman called Athaliah, daughter of the evil King Ahab of Israel, seized the throne of Judah and proceeded to massacre the entire royal family (her grandchildren included!). In the midst of the chaos and violence, Jehosheba stepped in and saved one of the royal princes, Joash, and over the coming years she kept him safe in the temple, where her husband served as a priest. (1 Kings 11)


            Joash was the sole survivor of the house of David. The line of David was hanging by a slender thread as only one surviving heir survived. Do you see the significance of this? Had the line of David been cut, there would be no journey to Bethlehem by descendants of the house of David in the days of Caesar Augustus, and no royal birth heralded by angels and shepherds, and no child to whom the Magi would bring gifts. Jehosheba, courageously and quietly did the right thing, saved the wee boy Joash, and saved Christmas.


            But the truth is, Christmas had to be saved. The line of David had to be preserved, because God had promised it would. What we read in the story of Jehosheba is not only the story of one womanís quiet courage and faithfulness, but also of the utter, absolute certainty of Godís word. The line of David had to survive, because God promised it would.


            ĎYour house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.í 2 Samuel 7:16


            Whatever seems insecure, uncertain and subject to change this Christmas, know that Godís promises remain sure, including the one Jesus gave us:


            ĎAnd if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I amí John 14:3


Wishing you a blessed Christmas.


Martin Thomson

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