Sun, 31 January 2021
(Heb.11:32-40; Ps.31:20-25; Mk.5:1-20)
“They broke the jaws of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword…”
In each of these descriptions of the powerful deeds of the men of old what is conquered is an instrument of death, and so what is indicated is the power of God – from whom these men derive their strength – to destroy death itself. This is made more obvious in the fact that “women received back their dead through resurrection” by their faith in God, and is apparent even in those who “were tortured and did not receive deliverance”; for they suffered all “in order to obtain a better resurrection,” one not simply of the earth and the body, but one which is absolute, one which pertains to spirit and body in heaven… and we can be assured they received such reward.
Brothers and sisters, death is the devil’s instrument, but life is of God; and the Lord of life holds power over all death and banishes it by His word. That death is the devil’s tool, so ready at his hand, is made evident after Jesus “gave the word, and with it the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine”: immediately “the herd of about two thousand went rushing down the bluff into the lake, where they began to drown.” As the demons had driven the man of Gerasene into the tombs upon taking possession of him, so they drive these swine to their demise. Death is the devil’s will; he would see the destruction of all life.
And what of those men of old who seem so much like our possessed man today; what about those who “dwelt in caves and in holes of the earth” and “went about garbed in the skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented”? How do these differ from the poor soul of Gerasene? Does the devil not have power over them, too? The answer is no – the two are clearly different. The power the devil had over the ancient prophets, which is witnessed most fully in Christ Himself as well as all His followers, is a power only over the body, over the physical circumstances of life. As with Christ and His followers, the spirit, the soul of these ancients, remained untouched by the devil’s claw. The same is not so for the poor soul among the tombs: of him the devil had taken possession body and soul. And, you might say, Is the strength exhibited by the demoniac not like that of Samson when he broke the chains of the Philistines? What of this similarity? My friends, the chains upon the demoniac were meant to help preserve his life, and when he “pulled the chains apart and smashed the fetters” by the strength of the devil, it was only that he could continue “gash[ing] himself with stones”; whereas Samson broke his fetters by the power of God in order to preserve his life from the clutches of the Philistines. (One must always use right judgment and discern well, especially the things of the spirit, avoiding preoccupation with the superficiality of circumstances and jumping to quick decisions.)
“Love the Lord, all you His faithful ones!” Keep “constant” in faith and “from the plottings of men” and “the strife of tongues” He will “shelter” you. Whether overcoming or being overcome by death in this life, the life of heaven awaits you and is with you.
O LORD, of the least of us you make use,
joining all to your Body to proclaim your glory.
YHWH, your power is greater even than that of death, and your power you share with all your holy ones, that in your NAME they might overcome death and all its workings. What great deeds are we not capable of if we but put our trust in you? We shall indeed rise from the dead with Jesus your only Son.
Death surrounds us in this world; it is as if we dwell in a tomb. For where can we turn where sin does not exist, and so, how can we be free of its clutches? It is like the lion’s jaw or a raging fire or the devouring sword. But you give power to conquer sin to those who take refuge in Christ’s blood. Even in this dark world, they are screened in your abode. Though we are made to dwell in caves or in holes of the earth, you are yet with us, LORD, we who are to be made perfect in you. O let us sit at your feet in our right mind all the days of our lives! Let us declare your goodness to all.