"Neither Death nor Life..." - New Year's Eve - December 31, 2021
[Romans 8:37-39] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[Lamentations 3:22-23] The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Neither Death nor Life…
Is it just naïve hope? No, it’s not. The man who spoke Lamentations chapter 3:22-23, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning”, is also the man who spoke verses 1-21:
“I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of His wrath… surely against me He turns his hand again and again the whole day long… He has made my chains heavy… He is a bear lying in wait for me… He has made my teeth grind on gravel… my soul is bereft of peace… So I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.”
This is not a man who lacks troubles, but a man who has experienced lamentation under the rod of God’s wrath.
The Apostle Paul said, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” – not to those lacking in tribulations and temptations from the world, the flesh, and the devil, but to those who were wondering, on account of these, if it’s even possible to endure to the end.
“Neither death nor life, nor anything else…” – not because these are received only in manageable doses, but because, though it’s impossible for man, “with God nothing will be impossible” [Luke 1:37; Matthew 19:26].
It’s a gift - the work of God - a gift worth singing about - that nothing in all creation, neither the visible nor the invisible, will have the power to separate you from the One who has loved you – God in Christ. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand” [John 10:29]. It’s because it depends on Him.
Jesus said in tonight’s Gospel, “Stay dressed for action” - “be ready”, because it’s necessary - there really is a battle over you and danger. Yet it is Jesus who has won the battle and keeps you. By His true warnings, He teaches us to flee to Him as our sure refuge.
Our Lord Jesus has said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]
Life has tribulation, not without cause. And life isn’t without God’s wrath – “For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?” [Psalm 90:7-11]
Man’s sin, including your own, not just others – and the devil’s evil – these are the cause of God’s wrath against the world and of tribulations. My sin has made Him like that “bear lying in wait for me”.
Yet, you are now safe – not without cause. God’s wrath comes but is foreign to His will for you. He who has loved you has made you safe from the dreadful consequences of sin in His Son Jesus. You are safe from wrath, sin, and tribulation because these have now fallen upon Jesus on the Cross.
All the waves of death and life which drum against you have drummed against the flesh of Jesus in your place. The devil’s dread power has assaulted Him; He has overcome it. God’s wrath against sin has fallen upon Him; He has willingly suffered it to pay the price for you.
Jesus, the Son of God, became the man of Lamentations 3:1-21 – “the man who has seen afflictions under the rod of God’s wrath” – in your place – so that you are now the men and women of Lamentations 3:22-23 – those for whom “the Lord’s steadfast love never ceases” – those for whom “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” “Great is His faithfulness.”
Now, By Jesus’ blood and merit you are at peace with God. “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope” [Lamentations 3:21]; “If God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31]. Now, you live under God’s grace and not His wrath.
We haven’t deserved it – we live by His sheer grace. His mercies are new every morning - and another new year. “Neither things present nor things to come” – nothing in this last year nor in the year which now begins – will ever be able to separate you from the undeserved love of God which is for you in Christ Jesus your Savior. Amen.