Shadow Lands

When we are confronted by future circumstances or events that we know, beyond all reasonable doubt, will take place, the wise will make preparations and only the foolish will bury their head in the sand and pretend the certain will never happen. Yet this is what millions of people do.

However, during these days we are living through – with the future uncertain and the ongoing prospect of health, wealth and happiness perhaps not as certain as they once were, many people are turning their minds to the deeper questions of life. And these questions will, for many, include a contemplation on the future certainty of death itself.

As I said in the last post, humanity in general has a deep seated fear of death. But, I strongly suspect, we can never really live, in the fullest sense of the word, until we have come to terms with the certainty of death. However, in general, the fear of death’s shadow prevents us from doing this.

My late mother in law’s favourite words in the Bible were those uttered by a man in deep suffering, uncertainty and indeed facing the imminent possibility of death –

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he will stand upon the earth at last.
And after my body has decayed,
yet in my body I will see God!

Job 19:24-26 (NLT)

These words have been poured over and torn apart by Bible Scholars throughout the ages and at times made to say something very different from their apparently plain meaning. I have, over the years, looked at what many commentators (of all shades) have said and weighed the evidence to the best of my ability. Again and again I have come back to the same conclusion – Job said what he meant and meant what he said. It is therefor also for me the most astounding declaration made by any man in the whole of the Old Testament. Job faced death with the unshakable and certain belief in a literal bodily resurrection!

For him the shadow of death had been displaced by The Light. Indeed, when the coming of Jesus is envisaged by the Prophet Isaiah, and his words repeated by the writer of Matthew’s gospel it is this thought that is prominent –

“You who spend your days shrouded in darkness
can now say, “We have seen a brilliant Light.”
And those who live in the dark shadow land of death
can now say, “The Dawning Light arises on us.””

Matthew 4:16 (TPT)

And today, as they were to the first people who heard his words uttered, Jesus promise is most relevant –

“Don’t get lost in despair; believe in God, and keep on believing in Me. My Father’s home is designed to accommodate all of you. If there were not room for everyone, I would have told you that. I am going to make arrangements for your arrival. I will be there to greet you personally and welcome you home, where we will be together. You know where I am going and how to get there.

John 14: 1- 4 (VOICE)

“Don’t get lost in despair!”. I believe many of us need to hear this today. Among the few people I speak to in the current climate of lockdown I detect various degrees of despair. And perhaps that is only natural – but in Jesus, God has overcome despair. Because of him we have hope – whatever the future holds!

But when we speak like this we must not take away from the reality of the fear, pain and brokenness of those who are suffering. I have said this before, but I say it again – I am certainly not here to make light of the suffering or uncertainty of others – only to offer hope.

This may be unpleasant to address but the process of death, if not the prospect of death itself, also strikes fear in to many a heart. The Bible recognises this – God is not unfeeling to our doubts and fears.

I have sat beside too many people at the end of life and dealt with too many grieving wives, husbands, parents and families not to fully recognise the tragedy and pain associated with death. But the apostle Paul, who, I suspect, was not unfamiliar with these things either could say with all honestly –

“It (the human body) is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power!”

1 Corinthians 15:42 (KJV)

That is the christian hope – that is the believers assurance – and it is a hope and assurance offered to anyone who will trust and follow Jesus through death into new life.

“Therefore, we were buried with Him through this baptism into death so that just as God the Father, in all His glory, resurrected the Anointed One, we, too, might walk confidently out of the grave into a new life. To put it another way: if we have been united with Him to share in a death like His, don’t you understand that we will also share in His resurrection?”

Romans 6:4-6 (VOICE)

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