On Christmas day, I was pondering again the dark cloud of Covid, which has enveloped the world. As I looked at it in my imagination I saw that it was like a net. A net which is trapping the world. Then a thought came to me: The net is not actually the Covid. The net is something that Covid represents. It is SIN. Behind the cloud of Covid, which will eventually dissipate to a large degree, leaving lots of wounds and scars, behind that and far more serious is the cloud of sin which has covered the world since Adam, covering and entrapping us in a net from which we cannot escape. As serious as the danger and the effects of Covid are, they are nothing compared to the seriousness of sin, which leaves NO PERSON untouched.
There is only one way out. As I read Luke 2 of the description of Jesus’ birth, I was struck again by the description in vs 9: “an angel of the Lord appeared to them (the shepherds), and the GLORY of the Lord SHONE around them”. This is described in the next verse as “good news of great joy”. Good news = Greek; “Evangel”, this is the gospel. This is the greatest Good News of all time! But note carefully it is not a message, the Good News is about a Person. A Person who has just been born. A Person so distinctive, that His birth is the greatest Good News of all time!
Isaiah prophesied 800 years earlier “The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned”. The shadow of death cast by Covid is nothing compared to the shadow of death cast by sin. And there is just one solution = the Gospel of Jesus. He has come to set us free from that net which traps every one of us, much worse than Covid has done to the world.
Yesterday I was reading the first passage in Luke. My attention was grabbed by the statement in vs 18 where Zecharaiah is confronted by the angel bringing him the news that his barren wife would have a child. His reaction “How can I be sure of his?” God’s reaction in vs 20? That he will be struck dumb “because you did not believe my words.” The contrast to that is Mary’s reaction, although she is greatly troubled and doesn’t grasp the full significance of the message the angel brings her, ends up by believing and being filled with great joy.
Simple heh? All you must do is believe or you will be judged. Well not so quick. I was led to God’s interaction with Abraham in Gen ch 15. Here God is heard reiterating the Promise He had made to Abraham several times up to then. Of course this is the Promise which will eventually play out in the birth of Jesus. First the writer records Abraham’s response to the announcement in vs 6 “Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness’. Now Paul regards this response as so important that he equates it with salvation faith in Romans 4:3. Pat on the back for him and 0 out of 10 for Zach. Yes? Well look forward in Genesis ch 15 to vs 8. Abraham is saying “How can I know for sure?” Oops.
Did God strike him dumb? No he went ahead and took him through the whole covenant cutting ceremony. Then Yahweh says to him “there – now you can know for certain”. (vs 13) In fact despite repeated promises from Yahweh to Abraham he still often acts in ways that show he has run out of trust and tries to bring his own solution.
So how do we interpret this and how do I apply it to myself. Here goes (and maybe the Lord may show you otherwise.) Firstly we know that faith is one of he most important means through which we relate to God (through Jesus). It is the KEY to our relationship with the Lord. This is a thread that runs through the whole bible. So here Luke is laying that basic fact on the table, right at the outset of his gospel account.. He starts his book with a statement that he has researched everything carefully so that the reader may KNOW THE CERTAINTY of everything he is about to write about. Then in the very first of his stories he again underlines that, by the story of Zach and compares that to the reaction of Mary to emphasize it. From the very start he wants the reader to know that he should take the writing of the Gospel story seriously and respond by believing it and trusting God and all His promises through it.
But do we all do that? My first reaction was “I wonder how I would have fared if I was in Zach’s shoes?” So we have other stories in the bible, many of them to teach us more about faith. Like Abraham. When Abe struggled with faith God said “here let me make this sure with a physical ceremony, the cutting of the covenant”. And despite Abe’s later struggle we can stand in he shadows at Mt Sinai and see him going up to sacrifice his son. Not only his son but THE SON of the promise. How much has he not grown in faith in this time? For us today we have the terms of the “New Covenant” which God made through the death of Jesus on the cross, to remind us that we can trust Him completely. But we need to see the story written down, after careful research to show us hat it is certain!.
So friends, may I challenge you to ponder these things, like I have. The Evangel, the good News of great joy is not just for Christmas. It was the beginning of a light, far, far greater than the darkness covering the world, the light that is cast by the very Creator of light and of the world. the very purpose of Christmas was to dispel the darkness. The virus will dissipate but the huge challenge, which I believe God is reminding the world of, is the challenge of the other great darkness and the only solution, “the good news of Jesus who has come to dispel that darkness”.
Do you believe this? Or are you saying to yourself “How can I be sure?” Don’t be afraid to be honest, because it is only when we are truly honest that we can grow. So I call out to God: “I do believe, yes I do, please help my unbelief”!