Life and Death

Day 56

Prayer for the day

I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; search for your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

Scripture for the day

Numbers 12-14, Mark 5:21-43

The subject of life and death and how much control God exercises over the two has been debated for millennia. In the two passages for today we see God in charge of life (Jesus raising and healing) and God in charge of death (all the spies but two perishing, and a curse on those who will not enter the promised land).

We are often tempted to believe either that God is responsible for all life and death directly (God creates and destroys with impunity) or that God plays a hands-off game (God allows life and death to happen naturally). What seems most clear in these two scriptures is that WHEN God desires life or death, that’s ultimately what happens.

This is not to dogmatically assert either one or the other, but to encourage care and concern. God is ultimately the author of life and death according to the scriptures, and however life and death are brought to bear, each can be seen as a glorifying act.

In the First Testament account, God can seem an awful tyrant, willing death and destruction all over the place. However, in so many ways, God is a God who allows people to experience the natural (and supernatural) repercussions of their actions and desires. God gave so many of the Israelites what they desired: a return trip to Egypt (that is, death). Even in the midst of this death, however, God gives grace and mercy. Joshua and Caleb, and the children of the Israelites, are not only spared but given life, a life that will move into the promised land, a life that will prosper. God is not simply a tyrant, nor is God simply the gift-giver. God is complexly both the Lord of life and death and the gifter of life and of death.

Jesus heals and raises in the Second Testament, but there is death here as well. The lesson in both of these stories is not that God is actively trying to kill us all, nor that God will preserve us all. The lesson, I believe, is one for us. Our actions are not consequence-free…life and death happen. God, however, is not hands-off. God sometimes intervenes, sometimes does not, but always cares, always perseveres in His love for His people. And it is in this love and care that we can place our hope.

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