Job 38-39 – WHO DOES GOD THINK HE IS?

Who does God think He is? Picture created by Ross Cochrane using Morguefile

GOD IS THE HOST and Job is the contestant. Not “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”but “Who Thinks They Know More Than God?” God says “Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. As the questions are asked, Job the contestant remains silent. The suspense is electric!

GOD IS AN ARCHITECT AND CARPENTER, a designer/builder. His workmanship brings great joy (Job 38:4-7). Psalms 19:1-8 (NLT) says “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.” Who else does work like this? Job, measured and shaped by the hand of God, is silent.

GOD IS A FATHER AND A MOTHER,giving birth as the sea rushes forth like amniotic fluid and He clothes His creation in a blanket of clouds cradled by the boundaries of the earth and gives freedom and protection within the limits He sets (Job 38:8-11). He is father to the rain and mother to the ice, to whatever weathers of life we face (Job 38:28-30). Job, the child of God the Father, is silent.

GOD IS A GENERAL commanding his troops – the dawn of each day, like an army of light, spreads out over the earth dispelling the darkness of sin. Each day is an opportunity for His righteousness to be triumphant over wickedness. Job, sitting in the receding shadows, a wounded warrior awaiting the healing warmth of the light, is silent.

GOD IS A POTTER who shapes His creation with each day and places His seal upon it (Job 38:14). Job, malleable with each touch of the Potter’s hand is silent.

GOD IS A WRITER who writes on the clay tablets of creation and, with the rotating cylinder seal of the dawn, engraves His personal signature within the soft surface of the clay, revealing it’s hills and valleys (Job 38:14). Job, who bears the signature of God on his life is silent.

GOD IS A FASHION DESIGNER clothing His creation in a brilliant robe of colours as the dawn wraps around the earth (Job 38:14). Job, clothed in the dust awaits the dawn in silence.

GOD IS A PATROL OFFICER whose light shines on situations of darkness and gives the wicked the opportunity to lay down their arms and reassess their violent intent (Job 38:15). Job finds himself in the spotlight and surrenders himself to God in silence.

GOD IS A DEEP SEA DIVER who has explored the deep caverns and springs of the ocean (Job 38:16). Job is lost at sea, desperately seeking to remain afloat, in silence.

GOD IS A DOCTOR who understands the transition between life and death. Jesus Himself travelled through the gates of death and has faced the depth of hell due to our sin (Job 38:17). Job lays in palliative care in silence as God, the great Physician, gives his diagnosis.

GOD IS AN INTERNATIONAL TOURIST who has traveled the extent of the earth (Job 38:18). His general and specific knowledge of the world is expansive. In the land of Uz, an unmarked and unexpected tourist destination on the face of all the earth is visited by Royalty. Job receives the visitation of God in silence.

GOD IS A LAMPLIGHTER, the source of light and One who dispels darkness (Job 38:19-20). Job, burnt out and laying in the ashes, is silent(Job 38:21 NLT).

GOD IS A WEATHERMAN AND STOREMAN who stores snow and hail for their seasons and is acquainted with the cold and difficult times of our lives (Job 38:22) and who has remarkable forecasting skills (Job 38:34-35,37-38). Job, weathered and spent in the face of the storm, is silent.

GOD IS A MILITARY TACTICIAN. He is prepared for the cold ferocity of battle tempests, reserving the elements of snow and hail for a future storm. (Job 38:23, Revelation 8:7; 11:19; 16:21). Job, the displaced refugee, humbled and helpless, is silent.

GOD IS A MAPMAKER AND PATHFINDER who gives direction to the elements of His creation (Job 38:24-27). Job, lost and confused as to the way ahead, is silent.

GOD IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT who houses the north-wind (Job 38:24) but the wind of His Spirit cannot be confined. Job, homeless and destitute, is silent.

GOD IS AN ASTROPHYSICIST AND ASTRONAUT on a mission to the stars, orchestrating their movements across the sky (Job 38:31-32). Job, his face in the dust, is silent.

GOD IS A MAGISTRATE AND LAWYER who understands and executes the laws of the universe, regulating how they relate to earth (Job 38:33). Job, the defendant, is silent.

GOD IS A PSYCHOLOGIST who knows the innermost workings of the heart and mind (Job 38:36). Job, on the edge of psychological breakdown, is silent.

GOD IS A ZOOKEEPER who provides for His animal kingdom in the wild (Job 38:  Job 39). Job, prey to the animals, is silent.

Job is concerned with questioning God. God answers his questions with questions of His own and shows He is vitally interested and involved in relationship with His creation and less interested in us trying to understand His sovereign will. As creations of God we will never be able to understand the mind of God but we can be intimately acquainted with Him through Christ. He invites us to such a relationship of trust. The answer for our lives, apparent in creation, is that God is in control and in His presence we are appropriately bereft of words and filled with awe and wonder.

Pastor Ross

EASTER AND THE ANZAC ON THE WALL 

Easter and Gallipoli

Easter and Gallipoli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Brown wrote a wonderful poem called “The Anzac on the Wall” (http://iwvpa.net/brownj/the_anzac_s.php) and inspired me to write these verses relating Anzac Day to the Easter Story. 

I bought another picture in the Antique shop that day

Behind the books and chairs, with a mirror in the way

A painting of the Christ upon the cross, and on the back

It said that it was painted by a man whose name was Jack

Do you know this name? I asked. The old man answered “No…

Just more unwanted junk from a sale so long ago.”

 

On the frame was written “To Mum with love”, and more,

It said it was a gift to her before he went to war.

Jack Matthew Thomas Kelly who suffered such great loss

Had painted her this picture of Christ upon the Cross

 

Perhaps he knew that he would fall, that day at Galipoli,

And wanted to remind his mum Christ died to set us free

On Anzac day Jack fought a fight that he could never win

But Easter tells the Victory of Jesus over sin

 

On Anzac day the Last Post plays a song “Lest we forget”

At Easter we Remember Jesus dying for our debt

On Anzac day Jack died so our country could be free

At Easter Jesus died to save us all eternally

 

Anzac day reminds us death is certain, life is brief

On Easter Sunday Christ conquered death and now instead of grief

Jack Kelly’s mum would know of life and peace with God through grace.

When we place our faith in Christ our world becomes a better place.

 

A photo and the painting Jack’s mum had on the wall

Reminds us of the sacrifice when Christ died for us all

Where Christ cried “It is finished” and a curtain tore asunder

Where hammered nails accompanied the rolling waves of thunder

Where cruel blows crack like 303’s and ricochet again

Where on this hill the gusts of wind sound just like dying men

 

While on that beach so far from home – so many lives were lost,

Jack’s photo hung upon the wall, with his painting of the Cross.

When some would pass and ponder at the words upon the frame

She’d point towards her photograph of Jack and then explain

He knew the pain of sacrifice – her Anzac on the Wall

But also knew that Peace with God is the greatest gift of all.

Job 38:1-41 – GRAVITY

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?

Even Astronaut Buzz Aldrin called the visual effects “remarkable”. In the film “Gravity”space shuttle mission STS-157 goes terribly wrong. It begins as Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is anchored to the space shuttle Explorer. Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is spacewalking and receives warning about a Russian missile strike on a satellite. They are informed of a space-storm of high-speed debris coming their way and sure enough it strikes the Explorer and Hubble before they get a chance to abort the mission, causing catastrophic damage. Stone is violently detached and left to tumble into space without an anchor. At first she is helped by commander Kowalski but he is separated and floats off into space without her. She is alone without any communication with earth. 

“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind” (Job 38:1 NLT).  

Job has also experienced the shattering ruin to his support systems in life – his family, his health and his friends. He is alone and desperately seeking to grasp on to an anchor, but is left spinning in a noisy world of criticism and judgment. From such a whirlwind the voice of God says “Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them” (Job 38:3 NLT). “Like a man” because he is inadequate, limited, unable to truly prepare. “Like a man” because he can’t brace himself like God. “Brace yourself” because in the storm we are vulnerable. We need to be tethered to Christ, when in the empty depths of inner-space, our world spins. That’s when our questions and all other noises are silenced by the voice of God and we are confronted by a universe of truth.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you know so much.” (Job 38:4 NLT)

This space-storm of “Gravity” is a brilliant symbol for the turbulent, tumultuous, and violent nature of our sin, out of control and leaving us helpless in trying to face our inner circumstances. The debris causes catastrophic damage and detaches us from God. It takes away everything we rely upon, but God turns such a space-storm into a place where we hear His voice. We are propelled into a place of refuge, like entering the womb of a spacecraft, or being found in the eye of the tornado. Jesus speaks to the storm and brings calm. It is our response in the face of such disaster that will determine our salvation.

Job has presumed a little too much and underestimated God’s purposes for his life. He has misjudged God’s ultimate authority and sovereign power, God’s wisdom and perfect character, God’s mercy and love. Job resigns himself to die with his questions still ringing in his head as he sits at the controls with no fuel left to make the final flight or fight the final battle for his innocence. But God appears at the airlock, enters the craft and takes the controls “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?” And we find ourselves once again in a place where the only way ahead is for us to trust unquestioningly in the wisdom of God.

Questioning God’s wisdom shows a lack of trust and somehow detaches us from who we are created to be. God recognises us as creatures of trust and when we do not act in faith or trust in Him, we seem to get lost in the vacuüm of space, unable to tell Him who we are and where we are. We cannot find the right frequency, and when we do hear something, it’s the wrong language.

Isaiah 40:28 (NLT) “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding.” 

God takes me back to creation. I wasn’t there when He created the earth. If I can’t explain what is seen, how can I hope to explain what is unseen? All I know is that God is eternal. My life on earth is temporal. God is Omniscient, I am ignorant. God is Omnipotent, I am powerless. The only thing I can offer God is my humble faith and sincere obedience. Even that is inadequate but it is the only way I can relate to a sovereign God when I am hurtling through inner space or flooded with lost hopes. 

Abandoning those things that I once relied on, I finally realise the gravity of my situation and swim for the surface, gasping for the first breath of new life, like a newborn child. Reclaiming life. A risk of faith. Intoxicated with the freedom that comes from knowing Christ and grateful for His gift of life, I take a tentative, trembling step from the sand to the solid rock, one small step for man, one giant step for mankind. 

Pastor Ross

Oil Painting of Colin Malcolm Shedden by Ross Cochrane

Oil Painting of Colin Malcolm Shedden by Ross Cochrane

 

Photo on left - oil painting on right.

Photo on left – oil painting on right.

Oil Painting on Easel

 

JOB 38-39 – HEARING GOD SPEAK ABOVE THE STORM

Hearing God Above the Storm

Hearing God Above the Storm

The ferocity of it’s thund’rous fury startled us for a moment when lightning ignited the sky last night. Why is it that we have come to associate storms, lightning and rolling thunder as God’s wrath against sinful people, fire from heaven, acts of God? With all the complaints and presumptuous questions I have thrown at God over the years, I would be terrified if God actually answered me face-to-face in a tempest. I would be even more shocked if God began to interrogate me with the resounding questions he directs to Job. Job faces his Maker and all that has plagued him about the cost he has paid in grief and loss suddenly seems trivial in God’s presence.

Job 38:1 (NLT) says “Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: …”

I love God to speak to me in quieter, calmer moments, when I am alone in my study, reading my Bible, but sometimes it is in the hustle and bustle of life, when I don’t think I have time to pray, when circumstances are upon me like a storm and I am caught up in the whirlwind that has twisted my thinking that He chooses to speak.

Perhaps we associate storms with God’s wrath because of Moses and Mt Sinai. When God spoke to Moses it was also from the midst of chaotic weather conditions – “thunder roared and lightning flashed, and a dense cloud came down on the mountain … All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky … and the whole mountain shook violently … and God thundered His reply” (Exodus 19:16-19 NLT). Riding on the storm. Yet the majesty and power of God makes even the ferocity of the elements seem insignificant. Job has desperately wanted God to answer him. Now when the Lord does speak, Job is so humbled by his own arrogance and pride that he is silent, listening intently.

Can I get to know God through the storm? God introduces Himself to Job in this storm as Jehovah (Yahweh), the personal covenant relationship name of God. Romans 1 echoes how God chooses creation to reveal to us His character. In the book of Acts, those gathered in the upper room, humbling themselves before God were confronted with “a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.” They were filled with the Holy Spirit and found themselves serving God in the most amazing ways. (Acts 2:1-13 (NLT).

David Attenborough-like (but with a vastly different commentary on Creation) God begins asking Job His 77 questions. It seems it’s the only way to let Job know that his case against the Lord is baseless and ill-conceived.

Job has never cursed God. He proves Satan to be wrong (Job 1:10-11), but even Job needs to be humbled before God. I was looking forward to the Lord rebuking Job’s friends for their insensitivity and false claims first, but God confronts and addresses Job and ignores his friends! I guess they are in on the conversation too and probably prostrate before God at this very moment. Job, the one we think doesn’t need to repent, repents before God. Even the one described by God as “the finest man in all the earth. … blameless—a man of complete integrity, who fears God and stays away from evil” (Job 1:8 NLT) repents!

From Job we learn that we are never justified in accusing God of being unjust and unfair. How can we be? We don’t know all the facts. Even the right things we say are often thrown in sinful abandon in the face of God. Isaiah 64:6 (NLT) says “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags …” We will never be perfect as Christians, and our sins cloud our thinking about God and others around us. God confronts us, not just those who we think deserve it! The Lord Jesus Christ died for the sins of our presumptious pride. Even Job humbly repents (Job 42:6).

The Lord doesn’t answer all Job’s questions? Far from it. Or mine. Some things we will never know or understand. This passage reminds me that my relationship with God is continually life-changing. Perhaps the most difficult thing for me as I rail against God when things don’t go my way, is to accept that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 NLT). 

When I acknowledge that God the creator and sustainer of the universe (Job 38:4-38) works out His purposes in His way, not mine, then I am silent before God and I hear His voice (Job 40:1-5) above the storm that surrounds me. And then from the upper room of my repentance, comes “a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm” (Acts 2:2), and the Holy Spirit fills my life with the covenant promises of His purpose. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 29:21-35 – CAUGHT IN A TRAP! I CAN’T WALK OUT!

Caught in a Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Caught in a Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

“What have you done to me?” Jacob rages at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?” 

Treating Rachel as a commodity to be worked for, a mail order bride on lay-buy for 7 years, he is surprised when he receives the wrong package. Perhaps he had celebrated with just a little too much wine at the wedding feast but “that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her” (Genesis 29:23).

How do you confuse Leah for Rachel, even in the dark. They obviously don’t talk? Or is it that in 7 years Jacob really doesn’t get to know Rachel except for her “beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17).

Has her father forced Leah to say nothing? Surely Leah could talk, but to do so will lead to Laban being embarrassed by his guests and by the community. Retribution for her will be swift and perhaps brutal. Leah will never escape the life she lives with her greedy father unless she marries this man who will one day inherit a double portion of Isaac’s wealth and take her away. After 7 years she knows Jacob to be a hardworking man and it seems she has fallen in love with him. When she bears him children, she laments that he does not love her. Caught in a trap. She can’t walk out.

Jacob the deceiver is deceived. By pretending to be Rachel, Leah was inadvertently treating Jacob in the same way he had treated his father. As Jacob had pretended to be Esau to obtain his birthright and blessing, now Leah pretends to be Rachel to obtain freedom from Laban. He reaps what he sows. What he expected to be his dream life is rapidly becoming his nightmare. Caught in a trap. He can’t walk out.

Discovering he is married to the wrong woman makes him feel like an old fool, but there is nothing Jacob can do about it, … except to marry Rachel as well. It seems bigamy is an acceptable practice in Haran. He receives Rachel a week later after an agreement with Laban to work another 7 years for her.

Was Leah God’s choice for Jacob in marriage? We are not told. Jacob only sees that Rachel has a beautiful face and figure. Does God approve of this second marriage? No statement of judgment is given, but it is interesting that He gives children to Leah and not Rachel.

The Lord sees that Leah is unloved, but why does He decide to take sides in this matter? Jacob prefers Rachel. Is it that the Lord prefers Leah? Is it only because Leah is hated that He blesses her with children or is there more to it than that? (Genesis 29:31). Perhaps it is also that Leah is a woman of faith and Rachel is yet to believe in the Lord. Jesus would come through a line of believers.

Leah expresses her belief in God through the names of her children, Reuben, Simeon, Levi. She is grateful for children because she is miserable in her marriage. Each time she has a child she expresses her desire to be loved and says, in effect “The Lord has noticed my misery. I am unloved, but now my husband will love me” (Genesis 29:32-34 NLT). We all want to be loved. Many life-lessons unfold in the years to come.

When she names her fourth son Judah (“praise to Jehovah”) she seems to have come to a place where she is content to simply trust in Jehovah, God of the Covenant, to work out His purposes in her life. From Judah the Saviour will come and the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be fulfilled.

God is Leah’s marriage counsellor and she finds her strength in Him. When our heartaches collide with His purposes, soap operas are transformed into stories of salvation as we learn to trust in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Spider and Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table - Photograph by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table – Photograph by Ross Cochrane

 

Genesis 29:2-20 – LOVE STORY OR DYSFUNCTIONAL SOAP OPERA?

Love Story or Dysfunctional Soap Opera. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Love Story or Dysfunctional Soap Opera. Image created by Ross Cochrane

A beautiful shepherd woman runs to tell her father of the stranger, a distant relative, who has arrived in Haran. He has greeted her with a customary kiss at the well. It is an event that will alter the course of her life.

The covering stone on the well is too heavy to be moved by only one or two children, so when all the flocks have arrived, a number of shepherd boys, helping each other, will be able to move the stone on the well. It seems that Rachel is the young adult who guides proceedings here on her father’s behalf. Laban is an influential businessman in the district and her flocks are always watered first.

Because of his age, and especially because he knows Laban, the young shepherd boys treat Jacob with respect, and Jacob is able to help them by moving the stone himself just as Rachel’s flock arrives. He’s doing alright for a 75 year old who has just walked for over 700 km! (Genesis 29:2-11).

Is this the well where Rebekah’s life had been changed forever? Rachel and her sister Leah have heard the story of how Rebekah married a man she had never seen, a relative from far away. Laban has told them of the riches a servant had brought from Isaac for the hand of his sister (Genesis 24 – http://wp.me/pLiNz-aR ). Is it happening again?

Laban is more than happy to entertain his sister’s son, Jacob. And happier still to hear Jacob’s story because Jacob is also here to find a wife and will one day inherit Isaac’s fortune (Genesis 27-28 – http://wp.me/pLiNz-mi ). A lucrative plan of deceit is already forming in Laban’s mind. For now he will embrace Jacob as his own son (Genesis 29:13).

If he is to stay, Jacob knows he must broker a deal. Custom gives him the option of working as a slave would for 7 years, knowing that he will not leave empty handed when his service is completed (Deuteronomy 15:12-13), so after a month, when Laban offers Jacob to name his own wage, Jacob proposes to work for Rachel’s hand in marriage (Genesis 29:15).

There is no mention of Jacob asking the Lord about whom he should marry or for that matter of him asking Rachel. How does she feel about marrying a man who will be in his 80’s by that time (Yes, I know they lived longer in those days, but still..!). It seems Rachel is much younger than Leah. Leah is obviously more Jacob’s age, but all he sees is that “There is no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel has a beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17). Isn’t there more to choosing a wife than this? I wonder what Rachel thinks of him?

Without even asking Rachel, Laban agrees to paying Jacob’s “wages”, and two dysfunctional men broker a deal more akin to the trafficking of women than to marriage. They are treating Rachel like a commodity. It seems Jacob is still trying to manipulate God’s will for his life.

(Leah and Rachel know that they are being bought like slaves. Later, when they are considering running away from Laban, they say “Are we not considered by him as foreigners? For he has SOLD us,…” Genesis 31:15 NASB). 

Jacob is determined to get what he wants by trading his work for her. “So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days” (Genesis 29:20 NLT). I wonder how long it seemed for Rachel and whether his “love” was reciprocated or whether her love for him was as strong? Is this a love story or dysfunctional soap opera? I can hear the Beatles song playing in the distance; “Money can’t buy me love” but Jacob is not listening. 

Jesus, the descendant of Jacob also paid a price for a bride with His work on the Cross, but unlike Jacob He paid the price for our sin. Dying for us was His ultimate expression of love for us, but rather than entrapping us or forcing us to respond, He opens the door to freedom by removing the barrier that separates us from Him. You are free to choose whether or not to respond to His love. 

Pastor Ross

PS I see this story through Western eyes and the customs of the East are a puzzle to me, especially this kind of arranged marriage, yet the story here which is so often presented as the great love story seems flawed to me. I love how the Bible makes no judgment but presents the story as it is and leaves us to find what God is saying to us. Much of the details are not given and as this is a devotional blog, I have added my own thoughts (conjecture) about the details of the story in an effort to understand it more clearly and would encourage the reader to explore Genesis 29 themselves.

GENESIS 29:1 – A FRESH NEW BLANK CANVAS

New Fresh Canvas

New Fresh Canvas

The sun lifts the vibrance of the earth after the rain as the palette is prepared afresh. The old, muddied colours are discarded, scraped off and replaced by a spectrum of blues; sapphire, indigo and azure and brilliant reds, yellow ochres, whites and graded skin tones. Once more the canvas is placed on the wooden supports of the easel. What will emerge?

The descriptive strokes begin, rich with latent possibilities, warm and intense. There is no agreement as to which colour must be used. The variations are endless. The music of light is not restricted by set measures and an infinite spectrum of miscible timbres can be created; dynamic descants conducted by the skill of the artist. A rhythm begins as each stroke forms melodic harmonies, silent sequences, impressions only perceived and interpreted by the eyes and heart.

For Jacob, life becomes a canvas, paintbrush, palette and a set of imaginative possibilities which must be explored with brilliant strokes of colour. The raw ingredients of creativity bring “what could be” into existence and somehow eject doubt and any unrealised intentions of the past. A creative space on which to paint something innovative, fresh and original is an exceptionally satisfying prospect. He mixes the palette with renewed purpose and anticipation. Jacob’s deception with his brother and father has muddied his thinking, but God steps in to give clarity and instead of running away from his problems Jacob begins to run towards his destiny. The portrait is yet to emerge.

He leaves his home in Beersheba in disgrace yet his steps are now buoyed with blessing. He had tried to use deception to obtain God’s promise but in the process stains his family relationships. His brother hates him and wants him dead. His father sends him to Haran to escape Esau’s wrath with the excuse of finding a wife, and in doing so he retraces the steps of Abraham of old. He is yet to learn the important lessons in integrity along the way.

Jacob now stands where Abraham had once entered the land and where Lot and Abraham had separated. He is still far from Haran yet his dream of a stairway to heaven and the promises of God have revived him for the journey ahead. Fresh new colours on his palette.

He had better hurry since he is around 75 years old and still has about a 600 km journey ahead. When Abraham’s servant sought a wife for Isaac in Haran, he prayed and was led clearly to Rebekah (Genesis 24:10-67). No doubt Jacob, spending so much time with his mother had heard the story many times, but nowhere are we told that Jacob prays about the outcome of his journey even though this is one of the most important decisions of his life.

As the portrait is painted, what shades and hues will be used to represent his life? Jacob’s stumbling steps toward faith invite me to ask “What is it that needs to change in my life to enable me to be true to the calling of God on my life, to be aligned with all I am created to be, to be more authentic, focused and clear about the challenges of the next step? What image will emerge from the canvas?” 

Pastor Ross

Colin Malcolm Shedden - 1929-2013. The man I respected greatly - my Father-in-law. Man of Faith, Family and Fun.

Colin Malcolm Shedden – 1929-2013. The man I respected greatly – my Father-in-law. Man of Faith, Family and Fun. Oil Painting by Ross Cochrane

Matthew 16:27-28 – DON’T MAKE ME COME DOWN THERE … TOO LATE!

Too Late!

Too Late!

As the first seal is broken an ant trails its way through the polished ridges of the page, across the clear lines of the image; detecting only the light and dark and acute movement of the unrolling scroll, it’s feelers detecting the chemicals of the glue and coloured wax, the air currents and vibrations. It is brushed away as the manuscript is unrolled from side to side across the huge table.

As each section is exposed, another seal is broken, separating each particular aspect of a continuous and meticulously illustrated manuscript. At first, only very limited depictions from the images are understood with any clarity, just ant-like impressions of the page and variations of the artist’s subjects. How is each event depicted on the scroll related? It only makes sense when the last seal is broken. Suddenly, each individual page is revealed to be part of the whole. Undeterred the ant returns to the first page feeling its way along the edge before venturing out across the coloured intricacies of the lines and eventually making its way to a particularly luminous section of the scroll where it stops. At the very end everything is explained, … but not yet to one so small, so limited in understanding, so tiny in the scheme of things.

In Matthew 16:26-28 (NLT) Jesus says to His disciples “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with His angels in the glory of His Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.”

The picture of Matthew 16:28 has proved to be a quandary for many. What does Jesus mean when He says He will judge the world and that “SOME STANDING HERE RIGHT NOW WILL NOT DIE before they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28 NLT) The first part about Him coming to judge the world is clear and foreboding, but it doesn’t seem to connect with this last part? What does He mean when He says they “will not die” before it happens? Is He talking about two different events? Coming to judge in the future but coming in His Kingdom now? When did this happen? Has it happened? One thing is sure; it is related to the soul, losing it or keeping it.

We need to get beyond an ant’s eye view to understand the scroll as it is unrolled in the life of Jesus. When He speaks about “Coming in His Kingdom” He speaks about His rule and reign as the King of kings which is relentlessly approaching; a Kingdom which prophets have painted in countless words since ages past. His Kingdom has always been coming and is already here (Luke 17:21) but its expression is not as openly and personally manifest as it will be in the future (Luke 17:22-24).

Peter has already received the keys to such a kingdom as He hears the voice of God rather than the voices of the world around him. His acknowledgement that Christ is the Son of the Living God is tantamount to coming under His authority as the King of kings. Nothing will withstand such a Kingdom. Not the gates of hell. Not death itself. (Matthew 16:13-19).

This kingdom is revealed in the images on the pages of the scroll in a thousand ways, masterfully illustrated, unrolling the mysteries of His reign. We see it in the face of a leper healed, in the hope of a woman who touches the hem of His robe, in the feeding of 5000, in the gracious influence of His teaching, but mostly in the sparks of belief that set hearts on fire for God. It is confronting at the Cross for a thief and Roman soldier, victorious at the Resurrection for a woman at the tomb, empowering for Peter at Pentecost and all-consuming for a world facing His coming judgment. The Kingdom of God is present here and now in the world, but not of this world, and yet it is coming to the world, big time.

When Jesus speaks about the coming kingdom in Matthew 16:28 it is a picture found on that particularly luminous fragment of the scroll in Matthew 17:1-3; His Kingdom would come to a few who were standing there who did not comprehend what was happening yet some of them would personally experience a glimpse of His glory, magnificently revealed in shards of brilliant light at His Transfiguration. They would not be consumed by it as would be expected at such an event. 

The Transfiguration was a foretaste of heaven’s reign; a downpayment of what is to come, an ant’s eye view of something bigger than we could ever imagine, and most of all an invitation for us to come under the authority of Jesus and be saved. Not because an angry Father is saying “Don’t make me come down there!” but because a loving Saviour is saying “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV) “Come to Me … find life … and unfailing love” (Isaiah 55:3 NLT). 

Pastor Ross