REFLECTIONS & ENCOURAGEMENTS: understanding and growing through the covid-19 challenge.
Bishop Peter Brain Reflection 41: Teach us to number our days.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom [Psalm 90:12] are wise and timely words. Wise since wisdom is clearly better for us than folly, and timely because none of us can be sure as to just when we might die. And all of this has somehow become more important because of the uncertainties created by the pandemic. The old rabbi was asked by his students, ‘when should we repent?’ he would respond: ‘that’s easy, the day before you die!’ predictably his students would answer, ‘but we don’t know when we are going to die’. To which he answered; ‘then repent today!’
Psalm 90 is credited as a psalm of Moses. After reflecting on the eternal nature and holiness of God, he muses on how brief our days are, not just because we are frail, but because we are sinners under judgement. His exhortation to number our days is bookended by God’s wrath, yet mercifully, His amazing compassion. But how are we to learn to number our days?
Are we to hope for the best, joke about the future, stand in fear, listen to everyone’s theory, or focus our attention on the gospel assurances? The obvious thing to do is to put our gospel lenses on, since we, unlike Moses, live on this side of Jesus bodily resurrection. We number our days simply by paying attention to the One who rose bodily from the grave, never to die again. This marvellous third day event gives us confidence in the face of death, focus to our evangelism and puts a spring in our step each day. Here are a few thoughts that may help us:
[i] The wrath of God has been wonderfully satisfied and the barrier between God and repentant sinners removed. Death comes to us all because we are sinners by virtue of our birth and our sinning. We inherit Adam’s character and deserve the sentence of separation from God. But, the sinless Son of God, stood in our place on the Cross, bearing the penalty we deserved, opening up the kingdom of Heaven to all who are born again by the Spirit of God. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s loud amen to His Son’s triumphant it is finished [paid in full] of Good Friday.
[ii] The question of whether there is a Saviour who can be trusted was settled once and for all on that Easter Sunday. No other religious teacher, spiritual guru or philosopher ever rose bodily from the tomb. All the events of that day: the empty tomb, the rolled away stone, the folded grave clothes, Jesus appearances, the body not produced along with the transformation of the disciples over the next 6 weeks, confirm that this event marks Jesus out as the Lord and unique Saviour He claimed to be.
[iii] In the light of these two unique Easter events we can be certain that resurrection of the body trumps the Greek philosophical hope of the immortality of the soul and the heartless [and hopeless] notion of reincarnation. We are wise to humbly bow before the Son of God who conquered death by removing the sting of sins punishment. There is no wisdom in the feigned humility of being open minded in the face of the overwhelming evidence: of a crucified Saviour who displays in the most compelling way possible, the love of God at the Cross and the power and truth of God in His bodily resurrection. Because he rose bodily we can look forward to new resurrection shaped bodies.
[iv] But Jesus not only died for our sins and rose again for our justification [Romans 4:25], he ascended into Heaven from where He gives the Holy Spirit, His Spirit to dwell in the lives of believers and bring our prayers to his Father’s throne. Such is God’s love for us. There is life after death and life before death for the believer. Eternal life is not only quantity life but also life lived with a new quality. We fear neither death nor the pandemic, because we live our life in God’s presence, with His help and in company with Him, with our Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit.
[v] The wisdom prayed for by Moses, and millions down through the ages, is open to all and comes as a gift to be received from our Heavenly Father. The information is public domain [in the Bible] and open to all who would come humbly to God. There is no need for uncertainty or speculation that comes from wishful thinking or denial of the obvious facts that death not only happens [it is after all the ultimate statistic; one out of one people die!] and is terminal [there is no second chance at life or of repentance after death]. But mercifully, the great God who has brought death into our lives as a consequence of our sinful rebellion against Him, has made adequate provision for all who would look to His beloved Son. Wisdom would surely suggest that the pandemic, like any painful interruption to normality, is to be seen as a time to take stock and to look beyond our normal horizons. Our gospel lenses take us to the very One who is God’s wisdom personified, and described by the apostle Paul: It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘let him who boasts boast in the Lord’ [1 Corinth 1:30].
Peter Brain 15th September, 2020