Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Voice of Truth

The culmination of the ancient promise stood poised and ready that week. Jesus had sent for the donkey to complete the prophecy of his victorious ride into Jerusalem. Word spread quickly of the imminent victory. The streets began to fill with those who wished to view the triumph march of the soldier of the Lord. The joyous expectancy of long awaited attainment of scriptural promises appeared so close at hand. At last, the long awaited Messiah had come to claim His kingdom. The multitudes of Jerusalem, clothed in the legacy of oppression, had come to witness the materialization of their hopes, dreams and their faith.

As His approach of Jerusalem grew ever nearer and word spread like wildfire, the streets overflowed. When even standing room disappeared the reception brimmed over to the extend that even the trees began to fill with onlookers. The fever pitched roar of the excitement of His approach quickly turned to cheers and shouts of triumphant as Jesus passed their way. The jubilant spectators ceremoniously waved palm branches of ovation. Coats were thrown down to carpet the dusty road, a path of hospitality, as they welcomed the new king. There were no limits upon the joy and relief that the faithful anticipated witnessing. The day had arrived at long last and there was no end to the jubilee.

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Three crosses hung empty upon a hill. Their dark deed of earlier that day outlined against the heavens. Their emptiness reflecting the same of the scores of citizens of Jerusalem and the disciples. Scattered, bewildered, humiliated and broken, there was nowhere now to turn for answers or comfort. That the expectancy of Palm Sunday should yield to the stark hopelessness of those empty crosses on that Friday was nearly unbearable. Where now was the victory? What had become of the promise, and how had the promise ended so suddenly, so violently? What a bleak dark end Jesus' death had put to the joy and hope. That end, crowning despair as king instead of Jesus as king, had settled through Jerusalem.

The disciples, some in hiding, reeled in grief and confusion. The pervading heaviness of their collective hearts seemed to stifle even the very air for which they now gasped. Where they asked was the healing? Where did this ending leave their faith? What was it in the first place that they thought they had heard and believed? What point had there been in their lives of the last few years? What had been accomplished? If Jesus the Christ, was indeed who He said He was, where then was His victory? Why then only failure in the place of victory? If He was our Lord and our savior, why would God have allowed His death? Why did He not save Himself? What kind of king would willingly submit to his own brutal execution?

Our earthly attempts at understanding divinity, so obviously lacking and consisting only of human reasoning begs for answers which we deem acceptable. Why grief, why sorrow, why suffering? Where is God and why would a loving God allow this to happen? How can we be sure that we are hearing God's response accurately? Why do our heads and our hearts arrive at different answers to the same question? Which is the one true voice of God and therefore the voice to which we belong? Which is the voice of truth?

Beverly was my friend for what seems only a brief time. We had met online and residing in the same state, began to chat with one another. I, as all others around her was shocked when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I had known her for probably less than a year. Her prognosis was horribly grim. Beverly's faith was something miraculous to behold. She lived more deeply entrenched in the word than anyone I have ever known. She possessed a blessed assurance of life and a countenance of confidence. She needed those to continue to care for her family consisting of herself, her husband and seven children.

The last time that Beverly and I visited during her hospitalization at Durham Regional, we talked at length about the voice of truth and the courage to stand before a giant. Anyone who has had the honor of viewing Facing the Giants or heard Casting Crown's song, "The Voice of Truth" will instantly identify with our conversation. Cancer was Beverly's giant, as it is mine. We spoke at length regarding not listening to the discourager and recognizing the voice of truth.

Her death belies our human voice of reasoning. Firmly convinced from day one that God had promised her healing, her death shook the faith of many. Where was God? What promise had really been made? How do you know that it is the voice of truth to which you are listening? Who IS that talking to you anyway? Where is the victory?

The disciples, weighed down and victims of the entombment of grief and despair could easily have missed the great escape. Had they simply left Jerusalem the final victory and actual fulfillment of the ancient scriptures would have been missed. God's plan, though seemingly not understandable was so much larger than human expectations. Christ could have stepped down from the cross and taken up the sword at any time. God the Father could have rained fire and judgment upon the entire city of Jerusalem. At any moment there could have come the call to end it and a multitude of angry Heavenly hosts could have destroyed the earth with a whisper. Yet not one to "perform in splashy cinematography" He did not raise Christ from the cross amid thousands of Heavenly Hosts proclaiming His might. He chose instead to perform a quieter more private victory for those who hear His voice and would choose to listen and believe.

So often His voice is that small still voice. I have to remind myself to listen, really listen to hear Him, giving Him my full attention. He deserves no less but I sometimes find myself so distracted in human understanding and disbelief. It makes no sense on the surface. It defies human logic. But to whose logic is it that I am listening? Satan, so skilled at appeal, even seemingly using scripture to prove his point can carry us down the road of logical thinking. Beverly, one of the truly faithful, who dies after believing with her whole heart that she has heard His promise of healing - it makes no sense. Jessica, never having smoked a day in her life, dies of lung cancer - it makes no sense. Cancer itself - it makes no sense. Couples who deeply desire children remain childless while children are born to those who just abuse them - it makes no sense. Faithful servants of the Lord who suffer - it makes no sense. Hunger, homelessness, poverty - it makes no sense. Well intentioned churches are torn by politics - it makes no sense. War, death - it makes no sense. Where is God in the midst of mindless suffering and grief? These surely were the questions on the lips of the disciples late Friday, through the day Saturday and the first thing to veil and cloud their souls as they awoke on that Sunday morning.

Where do we find God in the midst of a confusing and often demoralizing world? There are times when allow the flood of finality to overtake me. When it does, He gently nudges my heart forward and reminds me that He is the in same place He always has been. He is in the same place that He was when He watched the agonizing death of His own son. It is His tears which fell as the cross finished its despicable and intended purpose. He gently reminds me that He is in front of me, hand outstretched, beckoning me to come to Him in my times of need and sorrow. His voice of truth still whispers in my ears. His sheep know His voice, the voice of truth. It is up to me, not Him to avail myself of His truth, love and salvation. It is not up to me to try to utilize human reasoning to understand the baffling world and events around me.

Chuck Swindoll theorizes that when you die and leave this world that you see in "panorama". You see what was, what is and what is yet to come. Having clear sight as that affords understanding and gives meaning to the meaningless. It is at that moment that we will have peace in seeing the whole plan. Those parts which seem so unclear to us now will make sense in context of all that God shows us. I suppose its like turning half way through a book and expecting that it will make sense. We have no idea of what has already been written and no knowledge of what is to come. What may seem incomprehensible is actually just a small piece of the whole puzzle.

As those closest to Jesus reeled in shock and despair, there was no understanding. The expectancy of victory was thought of in human terms born of our experience. Victory is force, victory is might. Victory produces winners and losers. They had no way to foresee that God's victory was so much greater, leaving open the door of possibility of only winners, with no losers. The senseless making sense in the context of the whole. How often do I view my world in only narrow human context without allowing for a greater whole?

And as I prepare my heart for my own coming day of jubilee many things weigh heavily upon me. Some of which I will share later and some I probably won't. When I stop and be still a quiet assurance awaits me if only I listen. I do rest in the assurance that the voice of truth will never leave or forsake me. Queen of logic and reasoning, a painfully linear thinker, life often doesn't make sense to me. Why this, why that Lord? It doesn't add up. Where is that whole anyway?

The indisputable finality of death cannot be ignored. But is it to be feared? That depends on your heart. In whom do I believe? In whom do I trust? If I trust Him, then what is there to be feared? Exactly how is it that I truly view death? While the season of Easter brings the joy of the Resurrection, the horror of betrayal on Maundy Thursday culminating in the stark brutality of the cross on Good Friday also cannot be ignored.

This Easter as many others, when I reflect upon the season in earnest I cannot help but recall the victorious words of hope and joy from a former pastor of ours, Sid Huggins, on an Easter Sunday many years ago. He related an account of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. A great admirer of Churchill who had a larger than life profile, Sid graphically described the expected pomp and circumstance of a state funeral. Painting a vivid word picture of the presence of the Queen, highest ranking military personnel, he moved to an account of two balconies filled with some of the world's finest brass musicians. Churchill had given detailed instructions for his funeral and it was closed in a manner of his choosing.

From one balcony, the soulful rendition of Taps was heard by a lone trumpeter paying his final tribute. As that last sad note of Taps faded into the distance of history in St. Paul's Cathedral, the congregation was awakened to the present and beyond as the music of multiple trumpeters burst forth from an opposing balcony. Heralding a new day by the joyous notes of Reveille the meaning was unmistakable. For you see Churchill knew, as do all Christians, that death is not the end, but the beginning.

Where oh death is thy victory? Where oh death is thy sting? Your victory was not in Jerusalem. Your victory does not exist in the life of a Christian.


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