Today’s excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Kings signals the end of the Kingdom of David. In the year 587 BC, the defenses of the city of Jerusalem would fall. The temple would be destroyed. The inhabitants of Jerusalem would be exiled and enslaved. The royal family, King David’s descendants, would be put to the sword. The walls of the city would be demolished and all that would remain would be a desolate ruin.
The end of the Kingdom of David should have meant the end of the Israelites, but the words of the prophets were fulfilled, a remnant of faithful Israelites remained. From this remnant of faithful Israelites, God’s people would re-emerge, purified and redeemed. Suffering would give way to new possibilities. Death to new life.
In the midst of the catastrophe of 587 BC it seems that God had abandoned his people, but the prophets insisted that this was not the case. God remained present, active and working. It didn’t feel like this was the case to the Israelites, but the prophets insisted that despite what it felt like, God remained with his people. Despite their refusal, their infidelity, their idolatry, God would not reject the people that had so many times rejected him.
How was God with his people in the midst of catastrophe? The answer to this question was finally revealed in the cross of Christ, wherein God himself descends into shame, into suffering, into death and in doing so demonstrates to us that none of these harsh facts of human existence can separate us from his divine life and presence. Not even the worst possible outcome is beyond God’s power to transform, to save, and to redeem.
The cross of the Lord Jesus is God’s answer to not only the questions raised by the catastrophic events of 587 BC, but also to the questions raised by the shame and suffering and death that we experience ourselves. In the cross we see that no matter how the raw facts of life feel, God has not abandoned us and makes himself present to us even when it seems impossible for him to do so.
Faith is an act of trust that God is faithful to his promises. The Bible testifies over and over again that God remains faithful, even when we are unfaithful. The foundation upon which our act of faith in God rests is the cross of Jesus Christ.
Christ insists that our profession of faith in him be sincere. To call Christ our Lord is not to give him a title or an honorarium. To testify Christ is Lord is a statement about who Jesus is and what our relationship to him actually entails. If Christ is our Lord, this means that we belong to him and have placed our lives at his service.
Is this true? Do we belong to Christ or is our commitment to him mitigated by all sorts of other attachments? Do we place our lives at his service? Or do we seek to serve only ourselves and our own interests and needs?
Being a disciple, truly being a disciple is always an unrelenting test of our sincerity. It is within this test, this crucible, that we are forged into saints.