32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:32–36, NKJV)
The Son of God was deeply touched in His spirit when He saw the sorrow of Mary and Martha and those comforting them over the death of their brother, Lazarus. Mary fell at the feet of Jesus, weeping and confessing her faith in Him. If only Jesus had been there four days earlier, her brother would still be alive. Jesus knew Mary would soon embrace her beloved brother. Soon, Jesus would raise Lazarus from the dead (Jno. 11:38-44). Moved by their grief, the loving Savior wept. He is moved when we face the death of loved ones. Our assurance that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” soothes us in moments of death’s sorrowful separation (Jno. 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:19-20). Death’s sorrow gives way to life eternal for God’s faithful. Jesus faced the agony of death for us. He knows death’s painful grief. He also knows victory over death by His resurrection. We share in His victory over death with confident hope as we weep when death takes those we love because Jesus knows and cares (1 Cor. 15:54-57).
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18–19, NKJV)
The “former commandment” is “the law” given at Mt. Sinai to Israel. God annulled (set aside, abolished) that law because it was powerless to perfect (complete) the one who comes to God. The law served its purpose of identifying sin (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19). It sought to rein in Israel’s sinful conduct by teaching her holiness and the divine blessings that come from obeying God (Deut. 4:13-14; 8:1). But that covenant was temporary and “made nothing perfect” (Gal. 3:19-25). The law did not have the power to redeem souls from sin; it could not save the lost (Heb. 10:1-4, 11). It was a “shadow of the good things to come” in Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:1). Christ and His gospel (not the “former commandment”) bring a better hope to those who draw near to God for forgiveness. We dare not go back to the law of Moses to justify our worship and service to God today. To do so forfeits the grace that is in Christ (Gal. 5:3-4; 1:6-9). Remember, we are not saved by the “shadow” (the first covenant) but by the “substance” of the covenant of Christ (Heb. 10:1-4, 10-12).
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5, NKJV)
Christians have a living hope because Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. His life beyond the grave is God’s proof that we will be raised to receive a heavenly inheritance. When we lived in sin, we had “no hope” and were “without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Now, through faith, God keeps (guards) Christians, and we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (v. 5; Rom. 5:2). Even though living by faith brings tribulations, we do not lose hope. Our confident, lively hope is anchored in God’s mercy, love, and promise of a heavenly inheritance (v, 3; Rom. 5:3-5). We believe God. Our faith assures our hope (Heb. 11:1, 6). Conversely, secularism breeds despair (Rom. 1:18-32). Its atheistic skepticism and reliance on human wisdom fail to nourish the soul with hope beyond death. Faithlessness gives no enduring reason to deny ourselves and follow the Lord’s will with perseverance (Rom. 5:3; Lk. 9:23). Faith overcomes the world’s sin, skepticism, and selfishness (1 Jno. 5:4). Eternal salvation is prepared and will be revealed. Choose to live by faith and live in hope.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15, NKJV)
I had occasion to rejoice and to weep with others this week. Good news joyfully shared brought joy and relief, reflection, and thanksgiving. Sad news of loved ones passing from this life brought resignation and resolution, gratitude for a life well-lived, and prayers for strength to go onward. Christians are ready to rejoice with those who rejoice. Free of envy, jealousy, and pride, we delight in each other’s good fortune. Christians are also ready to weep with those who weep. We have shed tears of sorrow with eyes of faith trained on Jesus, hanging on the cross for our sins. We know what it is to be sorrowful for our sins. Yet, our sorrow turns to joy as we remember His empty tomb, resurrected to die no more. Our hope is in Christ, so we soothe our momentary afflictions and sorrows with expectations of eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:16-18). We all walk paths of pain, regret, and loss, which help us comfort one another when sorrow comes (Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5). Rejoicing and weeping with each other means we know each other, we share our lives with each other, and we love each other. Why do we do this? Because we are “members of each other” (Rom. 12:5).
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. (Psalm 116:15, NKJV)
When death takes loved ones, we ask, “Why?” and “How could this happen?” It is not that we do not know the answers (death comes to us all, Heb. 9:27). Such questions come to our minds because we are left to grapple with our loss. That is natural. The gospel teaches Christians how to deal with death by developing God’s point of view of death. The death of God’s saints (holy ones) is a valuable event in God’s sight. Even at the moment of our loss, it also can be precious to us. Saints have overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). They have lived their lives by faith, not sight (2 Cor. 5:7). A living hope has lived in them (1 Pet. 1:3). When God’s people die, He blesses them with rest from their fleshly toils and adversities (Rev. 14:13; Lk. 16:25). To “depart and be with Christ” is “far better” than this physical realm. So, we accept patiently and joyfully the passing of beloved saints, knowing the assurance of God are real and received. And so, we press on by faith while living in the flesh, anticipating eternal realms of glory with God and His saints. Thanks be to God that death is our doorway to everlasting joy. Are you ready to die? When you live holy as God is holy, you are (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4, NKJV)
We rejoice in the truth that God forgives and does not mark (retain) our sins (cf. Psa. 6:1; 38:1). God’s lovingkindness does not free us from accountability for our sin; We are answerable for our sin, its consequences, and punishment. The way of the transgressor is hard, and the wages of sin is death (Prov. 13:15; Rom. 6:23). Today’s psalm praises God’s forgiveness, His mercy, and redemption of Israel “from all our iniquities” (Psa. 130:8). When God’s people cry to Him with repentant supplications, He hears and forgives (Psa. 130:1-2). He does not withhold forgiveness; neither should (Matt. 6:14-15; 18:32-35). God does not vindictively keep an account of evil (1 Cor. 13:5). His forgiveness generates reverential fear for His wonderful pardon (Psa. 130:4). God’s responsive mercy assures our hearts to patiently trust His purposes and hope in His word (Psa. 130:5-6). Christians trust God’s unfailing love, generous mercy, and abundant redemption. He forgives us when we repent and confess our sins (Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jno. 1:9).
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, NKJV)
The word translated “ignorant” means “not to know.” While knowledge can produce arrogance when one thinks too highly of himself, decided advantages also come with knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1-2). Jesus said knowing the truth (His word) “shall make you free” from sin as you abide in His word (Jno. 8:31-32, 33-36). Today’s passage declares knowing the future of Christians who have died removes our sorrow and gives us hope (v. 13). More specifically, knowing and believing Jesus rose from the dead supports our hope (desire and expectation) that Christians will be raised from the dead and be with Jesus when He returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16). Such blessed assurance replaces the sorrow of death’s loss with bold confidence that invigorates our faith when death separates us from beloved saints. God has a future planned for His people. Whether living or dead, when Jesus returns and raises the dead, the saints of God will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). Knowing what will happen to those who have died in the Lord empowers us to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18).
17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, (Hebrews 6:17–19, NKJV)
God promised Abraham He would bless him and his descendants, and that all the nations of the earth through his seed. And, He confirmed His promise with an oath (Gen. 22:16-18). Jesus Christ is the Seed in whom God fulfilled His promise (Gal. 3:16). God’s promise and oath – two unchangeable things – give us relief from sin and the refuge of hope God has set before us. Our faith in Jesus (who entered the most holy place of heaven as High Priest with His atoning blood) gives substance to our hope (Heb. 6:20; 8:1-3; 11:1). In turn, our hope anchors our souls through the storms of life. Hope combines desire and expectation. Hope secures us when our faith is tested because our faith is in Jesus, not in ourselves. You can weather the storm of sin and the storms of life because God does not lie. His promise and oath are firm. His Son Jesus has opened the way for us to the presence of God (Heb. 10:19-21). So, live by faith and find solace in the living hope we have in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, (2 Thessalonians 1:3–4, NKJV)
The Thessalonians’ faith, love, and patience were worthy of thanksgiving unto God (1 Thess. 1:2-3). Now, Paul and his companions feel obliged (“bound”) to thank God always for them. Just as their faith, love, and patience had been noteworthy, they continued to evoke gratitude in faithful prayers to the Father. 1) Their faith grew exceedingly. Faith is not static. One mark of spiritual development is the increase of our trust in the Lord. Our daily faith and dependence on the Lord are deepened as we obey His word. 2) Their love of everyone was abundant. Their love was superabundant toward each other. Love is an action word, and their love did not exclude anyone; it includes all. So must ours. 3) They patiently endured persecutions and trials. They did not lose heart in the face of troubles from outside forces. They had set their hope on the Lord, who will right every wrong and comfort the faithful on the day of His coming (2 Thess. 1:5-8). Faith, love, and patience influence the churches of God to remain vigilant in the face of trials. These show that our hope is set on God and not on this world.
39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 10:39-11:1, NKJV)
Faith that saves the soul does not draw back out of fear or neglect. It endures present trials, and by doing so receives the promised salvation (Heb. 10:36-39). This is the faith introduced in Hebrews 11:1 and described throughout that chapter. Faith is the substance of hope. “Substance” is a “setting under,” hence, faith is set under hope, supporting and stabilizing it. But, what supports and assures faith? We are told faith is the “evidence of things unseen.” Faith is conviction formed by the evidence of things that cannot be seen. For example, the swaying of the trees causes us to confidently believe in the wind, although we have never seen the wind itself. Faith concludes that “God is” (though unseen by human eyes) because this existence and order of the visible world announces His unseen presence, eternal power, and Godhood (Heb. 11:3, 6; Rom. 1:20; Psa. 19:1). Faith that God rewards those who diligently seek Him is shaped by the word of God (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; Mk. 16:20; 1 Cor. 2:10-13). Without accepting the evidence of unseen tings, there is no faith. And without faith, there is no hope. Thanks be to God who gives us evidence of His presence and the revelation of His will, so we can believe He exists and be blessed by diligently seeking Him (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31).