Monday, 11 May 2015

Before the foundation of the world

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. (Ephesians 1:4)

Early morning, I watched the brilliant little humming bird and his drab lady, flitting through the scarlet flowers of a large pineapple sage bush outside my kitchen window. The sun reflected off his wings. The air was alive with a flurry of  fat bumble bees among the bejewelled leaf-tips and spider webs. For a moment it was possible to forget that it is winter. But the cat is stretched out on an old crocheted blanket in front of the fire, a sure sign that the temperature outside is everything but balmy. I glance around our home. There are very bare patches on the faded Kelim rug, its frays frayed and dog hair clinging to its fibres. The couch is draped in two pieces of fabric at different angles to hide the marks of time, children and animals, always more animals. There is one green chair (also draped), one burgundy chair and a bronze-orangy one of Victorian appearance but without the pedigree. A sturdy tree stump serves as a footstool and books and toys are on most of the surfaces that we don't normally sit on (excluding the floor of coarse...). Our dining room chairs don't match and the table has tell-tale marks of boy's activities and a black ring from a hot pot of stew, put down in a hurry. Grubby little finger (and nose) marks are forever appearing on the windows, no matter how many times I wipe them off. Children "look" with their hands, and there is evidence of this all over our home. Our animals consider themselves to be adopted children, and there is also evidence of that all over our home.

But even to my critical eye - I have to admit, the overall effect is still pleasing. The smell of roasted coffee beans still lingers in the air from the morning brew, and it mingles with the smell wood-fire, herbs and spices and dogs. I have tasted such riches in this home. The fullness of a family made whole. Love and goodness lavished on us with such abundance, that it sometimes feels like my chest has not enough space to contain it all. Many things have failed us here - our own hopes, dreams, expectations, friendships (electricity and water supplies...) to name but a few. But there is one thing that has never failed us - God's unfailing love and grace.

On Sunday at our fellowship, I listened to Psalm 130 being read aloud. Some of it registered, but I have to admit, much of it slipped through the cracks and I needed to go back to it to "hear" it all.

I love the way David puts into words the intensity of his longing for God. "I wait for the Lord" he cries, "my whole being waits... more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning."

Watching the horison of his hope and knowing, that without fail as the sun comes up and the watchman announces the coming of a new day, God would once again reveal Himself to those who place their hope in Him.

After reading over the Psalm a few times, this is the line that has stayed with me and has been playing through my mind for a few days: 

"For with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption".

What struck me is that he says "with the Lord", not from the Lord or in the Lord, but with Him. For me that means to be and have part of that unfailing love I'd want to be near Him as He is near me. Close, really close.

Then again David says "with Him is full redemption". Redemption from all sin came through Jesus, but with Him the fullness of it is realised as well as the freedom from the power of sin on a daily basis. Our Lord is a personal God, He does not love or redeem from a distance, He also longs for us to receive the fullness of his love, of what was gained at the cross. Not from afar, but with Him, near Him.

The next thing that stood out for me is how David says, with Him is full redemption, not shall be one day, but is. Have you ever wondered how David can speak so intimately about Jesus, enter into the reality of His suffering and the fullness of forgiveness that came with the cross? He speaks of  the LORD of Israel's hope and redemption not as a Messiah who would come one day, but as the Lord that he knew, had communion with, lived with. There are many more Psalms that are a witness to this. David pointing to the personal Redeemer that would be born into the world (as a man) from his own lineage, but was known to Him as the "Lord of lords, whose steadfast love endures forever."

I grew up thinking that Jesus only "existed" in the New Testament times. Before that there was Almighty God in all his omnipotence and fearsome might, who protected and nurtured and punished his children and tried to keep them on the straight and narrow path from the thundering heavens. And when all that didn't work, He sent Jesus, the "Liewe Jesus" (gentle Jesus) of my Sunday school songs.

All that was challenged one wonderful day when I read John 1:1-2 with spiritual eyes: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God."

The Son of God, one with the Father, was with Him when the world was made. Not only that but also:  "Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made." (v3). I remember holding my bible still in that place for a long moment, then paging back to Genesis, flicking through the pages of the Old Testament with wonder.

Since then, one beautiful step at a time, I have started "meeting" Jesus on every page of the bible, all history, all the laws, all the genealogies, all the "boring" bits. All have but one purpose - to point to Jesus.

Another exiting reality has started opening up for me recently. I asked my husband how he thought David could write about Jesus in such intimate detail. The Holy Spirit had not been poured out yet, and even though God did speak to his people often, how did David as well as prophets like Isaiah speak with such conviction and intensity about the Redeemer?

John also writes in John 1:18 that "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known"... 

So who was it that walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden at the cool of the day? (Gen 3:8)

In Genesis 18, I read the account of Abraham and the "three men": And the Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground."

Abraham receives the news of Isaac and then gets up to walk with the men as they are leaving. Then I read in verse 22: "The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord". After Abraham had finished pleading for Sodom with God we read: "And the Lord went His way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.(KJV)

If no one has ever seen God then who did Abraham face as he pleaded for Sodom?

Who did Jacob wrestle with at the place he named Peniel? (Gen 32:30 - So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.)

Who spoke to Moses in the desert - face to face? (Exodus 33:11 The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.) and (Deut 34:10 - Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face).

There are probably more examples like these, but this was enough to convince me that not only was Jesus with God in the beginning and all creation was made through Him and for Him, he walked with His children through the pages of the Old Testament.

For me it was as if He had leaned in close to say - You see, I have been always been there...

When we ask to know Jesus more, not just as Mary's child in a manger, or God who came near in the shape of his Son and who was made known to people through His ministry on earth. But as a personal Redeemer, who cares about individual people and walks with each one in such an intimate way that it cannot be imitated. 

From the beginning to the end.

There has never truly been a BC - a time before Jesus and there will never be an AC - a time after Jesus. God exists outside space and time - a concept difficult for us to understand, but a knowledge that can bring the comfort to know - He is limited by nothing, has never been, will never be.

Know this beloved of the Lord, He knows you, has always known you - but He longs for you to know Him. To receive all that He wants to lavish on you. There is nothing to fear. His heart is the heart of a lover's and your story will be written alongside all the great Romances in history. But the romance can only be divine if the bride takes the hand of her Bridegroom and trusts Him to lead and guide her, whether it is in a dance, a slow walk to freedom, or a path through briers and thorns into a place of peace.

For even before He made the world, God loved you and chose you in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.