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Christian Biblical Studies
Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version
DAVID, the one who composed Psalm 27, must have been in a desperate frame of mind when he wrote these words. If there is one thing we learn to depend on it is that our parents love us. Paternal and maternal love, however imperfectly expressed in a fallen world, reflects God's ideal of affectionate care toward the human family.
In contemporary Britain the true role of ʻfatherʼ is often neglected in a society increasingly confused about the purpose of sexual relations and the value of the family unit. As for mother love, it is in its ideal form second only to God's in its unselfishness. Addressing the ancient nation of Israel, often wayward and rebellious, God declares (Isa. 49: 15):
Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Perhaps the psalmist had this assurance in mind.
The word home is at once ambiguous and yet plainly understood. The expat who has been away from the land of his birth for many years may still refer to it as ʻhomeʼ. The married daughter with a husband and six children who lives happily in a house hundreds of miles from her mum and dad still goes ʻhomeʼ to see them. As for a house – a building with three bedrooms, four walls and a roof – it's a home once you've bought it, moved in, dented it a bit, and adapted it to your personality.
There is an innate longing in the human heart for a settled abode. True, there are the nomads, travellers across deserts or down leafy English roads, who do not choose to take root in one spot. But they carry home and family with them on their journeys. Itʼs a rare individual who shuns the companionship of kin and the assurance of being wanted, held precious in the minds and hearts of others.
Of Himself the Saviour observed that though the creatures of the field had their burrows and the birds their nests, yet He had no place of His own (Matt. 8: 20). Beyond the hedges and byways in which He often lodged, there were hospitable families who gladly received Him and He had regular fellowship with His disciples and the camp followers in their travels from town to town, preaching the good news of the kingdom of heaven. But for Him who had left the security of heaven and the presence of the Father, there could be no ʻhomeʼ, no haven here.
Of Jesusʼ life as the Logos in the aeons of time prior to His human birth, the Scriptures describe the bliss of His heavenly residence (Prov. 8: 30): ʻThen I was by him [the Father], as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.ʼ And on another occasion, He reveals a sense of homesickness when He prays to the Father, ʻglorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world wasʼ (John 17: 5).
Such sentiments paint a family portrait and a place of love and congeniality, far removed from the trials and tribulations which Jesus endured during His mission. Earth provided a temporary lodging – a house, not a home. Certainly it was not secure environment. Between the malice of Satan, the hostility of those in authority, and the volatile, fickle attachment of the crowds, His life here was fraught with hazards, from which Providence would shield Him.
Nonetheless, greater than all other concerns was His own dread that He might fail in His mission. Fail? How could Jesus, the anointed Christ, not succeed? Yet in Gethsemane it was His anxiety that He might not overcome in the ultimate test which awaited Him – crucifixion – that brought out the bloody sweat and the heart-rending plea to His Father that ʻif it be possible, let this cup pass from meʼ (Matt. 26: 36-39; Luke 22: 44). Jesus was neither flawed nor cowardly, but on His shoulders rested the eternal fate of mankind – past, present and future.
Though Jesus was perfect, His victory over death was by no means assured (Heb. 5: 7, 8):
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him [God] that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared. Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.
Had Jesus known with full certainty the outcome of His ministry, He would not have been tried to the utmost. Of course, the Father knew, and in raising Jesus from the grave offered proof to all of history that His beloved had passed the test of faithfulness and obedience and was the worthy and only Saviour (Acts 2: 24; 17: 31).
But the Father would never let His Son suffer without attendant grace – Divine love could not forget His Only-Begotten. Every minute of every hour of Jesusʼ ministry, the Son felt the presence and warmth of the Father's love. He was never out of His Father's thoughts. Even in the throes of agonising death, perplexed by a sudden abandonment, Jesusʼ pathetic cry, ʻwhy hast thou forsaken me?ʼ – for He had to die in the sinner's place, as though He were the sinner – soon gave way to the calm assurance that His sacrifice was successfully accomplished: It is finished.
So Christ was raised to a higher glory than He had before, even to the right hand of the Father, second only to the Almighty (Eph. 1: 19, 20). The Son had returned home. And now He would prepare a home for His followers, as He had promised them (John 14: 2):
In my father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
As years pass we lose some of the self-confidence, swagger and independence of youth, and begin to worry about our future – how and where we will live, who will look after us. For even in a modern, outwardly prosperous Britain, the news assails and unsettles us with reports of sloppy healthcare, callous staff and sheltered accommodation beyond the reach of our income. Exaggerated though many of the stories may be, the worries are nonetheless the stuff of nightmares. To be home-less, forgotten, vulnerable, abandoned – these are terrors which shadow old age.
King David writes, ʻI have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging breadʼ (Psa. 37: 25). Does this mean that all the homeless on British streets are unrighteous? Or that all the well-cared-for are God's favourites? No.
God does not guarantee material well-being or untroubled lives to His people, no matter how pious or righteous we may be or think we are. Just as Christ had no permanent refuge on earth, so with us. We abide in a tabernacle, or tent-like condition, and this life is uncertain and temporary.
Jesus set a high – some would say, an impossible – standard when He said (Luke 14: 26):
If any [one] come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
Our Lord's meaning is transparent when we shed the common notion of ʻhateʼ. In this context, the word is comparative. That is, a true disciple of Jesus should love all others and life itself to a lesser degree than he or she loves Jesus (compare Matt. 10: 37-39).
This does not mean that we will never prosper or live comfortably, with family and friends for fellowship, support and encouragement. But at best, our natural and material blessings must take second place to our relationship with Christ and the Heavenly Father. And difficult though it may be, we need to grasp the understanding that our highest blessings are primarily spiritual – for it is our spiritual well-being that God has in view – our salvation.
God will see that we have all that is necessary in this life to fulfil our consecration and sanctification; this is His will for His people. He ʻwill supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesusʼ (Phil. 4: 19). Regardless of our anxieties, disappointments and mistakes, if we stick close to the Saviour's side we will receive – as did Jesus at Gethsemane – the needed comfort, assurance and strength to bear whatever life may throw at us. We are in God's memory as beloved ones and will not be abandoned nor forgotten.
Attribution, p. 1: Source of 11th-century decorative initial D, with Celtic knotwork, fromoldbooks.org
Article copyright August 2013 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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