“Man no longer lives in the beginning–he has lost the beginning. Now he finds he is in the middle, knowing neither the end nor the beginning, and yet knowing that he is in the middle, coming from the beginning and going towards the end. He sees that his life is determined by these two facets, of which he knows only that he does not know them” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Today undid me. It’s Easter Sunday. All is new, resurrecting, life is supposed to be full of hope and joy and the promise of what’s to come, and yet, at church this morning, I couldn’t help but feel…sad.
I was sad because I was thinking of how exclusive this celebration is. That there are many people I know who have not accepted Jesus for what He is. Prophet – yes. Teacher – yes. World-changer – yes. But Savior? No. God’s only path to salvation? No.
In that sense, the Easter story is only a celebration for those find themselves at the foot of the cross and at the empty tomb…undone. The Easter story is only a celebration for those who have repented and “turned back” to God and accepted His Son, Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. For everyone else – even those in pretty Easter clothes attending lovely Easter brunches – if Jesus isn’t Lord and Savior, the hope of the Resurrection, the glory in the promise – it’s irrelevant. The hope, the glory, the life that abounds with the Resurrection is for the people of faith – the believers. And there are many who are not. And that makes my heart heavy.
At church this morning, a song was played by a friend of mine who composed the song years ago in another church. The last we spoke, he was “taking a break” from God. That makes my heart heavy.
The closing song at church today was a song that was played at a sorority sister’s 3 year old son’s funeral. That makes my heart heavy.
Tonight, the news is all about the terrorist attack in Pakistan. Having just been in the vicinity a mere month ago (not Pakistan, but Rajasthan, India, which borders Pakistan), I am so upset. I know that Christians in Pakistan are well in the minority, and an attack on Easter Sunday targeting Christians and killing primarily children is just unthinkable. That makes heart heavy.
So, today…it’s Sunday. Resurrection day IS glorious, and I AM thankful Sunday has come…but…let’s be honest, many days (even on Easter Sunday), I feel like I’m stuck more in Holy Saturday. And what is Holy Saturday?
The Waiting. The Middle.
Saturday was when the disciples did not know how the story would end. I know how the story will end for me (and all the believers), but what about those closest to me who do not know Jesus as their Savior? Today I find myself struggling with the middle. The Waiting. The Not-knowing.
What happens when you pray and nothing changes? When you feel like you are doing all you can and it’s not enough? When you long for the day when Jesus returns and yet also long for more time so those closest to you can accept Him as Lord and Savior and also be part of the celebration at His return?
As always, Scripture never disappoints, and tonight I’ve found some advice on what to do in The Waiting.
First, in a sense, I’d liken our sojourn here on earth to the “wilderness” the Israelites experienced on their journey to the Promised Land. The “wilderness” was not their home (just as the earth is not our home), but rather a place that tested their faith and demonstrated God’s faithfulness to an undeserving people. So, let’s take it all back to Moses and see what we learn.
I have often heard Romans 9:15 quoted: “For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” Having grown up in a Baptist church and currently a member of a Presbyterian church, I’ve heard lots of interpretations of this verse.
In my opinion, it’s best to interpret this verse in light of its original context – which comes from Exodus. In Exodus 33, the Lord has said he will not go with the Israelites as they travel to the Promised Land because of their unbelief. He will send an angel before them, but will not personally go with them (based upon their worship of a golden calf in the previous chapter). Yet, Moses pleads with God. In Exodus 33, he begs Him to go with them (not just him, but them). In Exodus 33:17, the Lord says He will do this thing because Moses ASKED, and because He KNEW HIM BY NAME, and LOOKED FAVORABLY UPON HIM. Then, Moses asked to see His glory, and God’s response in Exodus 33:19 is: “The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”
It seems to me that God is saying He will show mercy and compassion on Moses as He chooses because He knows Him by name. He will allow His goodness to pass before Him and will do as Moses asks because He KNOWS him and looks favorably upon him.
So, in a sense, it appears that in Exodus 33 God is honoring Moses’s plea for the unbelieving Israelites based upon Moses’s standing with God. Likewise, as believers, because of what Jesus did for us, we are made right with God and enjoy special standing with Him.
We read something similar in John 10:3 which talks about Jesus as the Good Shepherd: “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”
Before we move on, I’d like to point out that during the wilderness experience, God was preparing the Israelites for WAR. For instance, in Numbers 1, God commands that they take a census to see militarily how they are doing. God knew their time from deliverance to the Promised Land would be a battle. Likewise, our time as believers from deliverance of sin to the Promised Land (i.e. heaven) is also a battle – a spiritual battle – and we are best to be fully prepared (see Ephesians 6:12).
Changing gears a bit, we move WAY forward to Revelation 8:1-5. I won’t even attempt to do justice to John Piper’s commentary, but will instead just link the whole thing here:
But here is the piece I really want to highlight:
“There are at least two practical implications of this for us. One is what Jesus said in Luke 18:1, “We ought to always pray and not to lose heart.” This truth—that prayers are stored up on the altar of God and made the power for great divine interventions in history—should encourage us that it is not pointless to pray again and again, “Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
And I can’t help but conclude from this that the principle applies to answers to prayer in the shorter run—that is, as we pray for any given thing, our prayers are stored up on the altar of God with the prayers of others for that thing until they reach God’s appointed proportion and then God pours them out in blessing in the best way for all concerned. So that no believing prayer is in vain. Ever.”
So, on Saturday…when we are struggling…waiting…in the middle…what do we need to be doing? Praying! Interceding! Foregoing our own self-sufficiency and grasping as hard as we can for the CROSS, the RESURRECTION. The symbols of Easter that remind us of our NEED for a Savior and a Redeemer. That we ARE inadequate. That we need to tap into the POWER of the Cross and the Resurrection. That we need to PRAY for the lost, the broken, the hurting, the persecuted.
Easter is more than pretty clothes, lovely brunches, and inspirational posts. Easter is about POWER. A power that’s not our own. A power we are privvy to based upon nothing less than grace.
Shame on us for not taking advantage of the power that Easter brings. May we all hit our knees and pray for those on our hearts this Easter season. There are many that need our prayers.
Curious to know more about how to pray for those who need to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior? Here’s a great guideline here:
May you join me as I seek to forego my own self-sufficiency and cling to the cross and PRAY wholeheartedly in the Spirit for those need to see Jesus as their Savior?
“Then he said to me, “This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” – Zechariah 4:6
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19
Blessings on Easter and every day of the year. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.
Until then. We wait. Patiently. For the Lord.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.” – Psalm 40:1