Friday, April 26, 2013

lifted up

The Word for today:
Jeremiah 37, 38
mark this: Jeremiah 38:11-13 --
So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-Melech the Cushite said to Jeremiah, "Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes." Jeremiah did so, and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern.
We Bible teachers talk in big words, not because we want to act like big deals, but because it takes big words to convey big meanings.
The big Bible word you'll hear most often is 'salvation.' So what does salvation mean?
I'm not sure what it means, but it means absolutely everything to me! Ask anyone what being saved means and they'll probably begin using more big words--that salvation means redemption, and justification, and resurrection, and propitiation, and sanctification, and glorification, and even vicarious substitutionary atonement. Yikes.
Which, of course, prompts further questions about those words. What do they mean? And then more big words are necessary to explain those big words, until we are so far away from understanding the first word ('salvation,' remember?) that we are forced to shout "STOP!"
And so I will. Instead of using technical, theological terms, I'll convey salvation in personal terms:
To me, salvation means that I was lifted up.
Lifted up is what I remember about being saved. Lifted up is what I am feeling today as God continues not only to save my soul, but to save my day.
When Jeremiah is lifted out of the cistern in our reading today, that's salvation.
The picture is of a helpless man lifted by the hand and strength of another. If Jeremiah had been able to crawl out, or jump out, it wouldn't have been salvation.
Salvation happens when we can't reach high enough or jump high enough. We can't think our way out or work our way out. We can only be lifted by the hand of another.
I have a poster in the little room where I write. It's directly in front of me because I never want to forget being lifted up by the hand of God. A girl is looking through her tenement window on a rainy day. Photographed in black and white, the day is bleak. But the girl has drawn a smile on her fogged-up window pane. The words of Psalm 30:1 provide the caption:
I will exalt you, O LORD,
for you lifted me out of the depths.
Whatever the depths, and however you got there, is not an issue in God's kingdom. What matters is that, having fallen, you are now in a position to be lifted up. Having fallen, you've met every prerequisite for salvation.
"So look up, for your salvation is near!" (1)
(1) Luke 21:28

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