As part of my job at Geisinger, I often have to look up anywhere from 10 to 50 patient charts each day. Sometimes I have need to look up a chart for a current patient, while other times it might be several weeks after the fact that I have to go back in to check something. Every once in a while, I will get a brief but uncomfortable message that will pop up on the screen as I attempt to enter someone’s chart. It will say, “you are about to enter the account of a deceased patient” and the system will then double check to see if I really want to keep proceeding. While death is obviously a common thing at a hospital, that message still has a way of stopping me, even for just a second or two.
Our passage today reminds us of another death that has taken place. Colossians 3:1-3 says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Paul just comes right out and says, “you are dead.” Nothing like a direct statement like that to get our attention! Obviously, he is not referring to physical death but to a spiritual death. He is saying that when someone comes to Christ, their life as was once constituted has died, it’s over. Our lives are now “hidden with Christ.” As Paul writes in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.”
He also further explains this idea in Col. 3:5, telling us to “mortify our members which are upon the earth.” Things like fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness. He adds another list in verse 8 to include sins such as anger, blasphemy, and lying.
So Paul is urging us today to consider our old man dead and to put to death the desires of our fleshly nature and to instead live a Christ-centered life that is bringing forth spiritual fruit. Consider the idea of someone trying to access your chart before you came to Christ and having a message pop up that says, “you are entering the account of a deceased patient.”
I wonder why Psalms was not entitled “The Lamentations of Israel”? Many of the Psalms have Israel confronting their enemies; of which, they never lacked. To this day, they are the most hated of people. Israel is surrounded by enemies. They cannot go anywhere in the world where they can live peaceably. Even in America they cannot live free from persecution. Does this example remind you of anything? How about Christians? True followers of the Lord Jesus suffer persecution no matter where we reside. We have much in common with Israel.
We, as believers, do not suffer the persecution that our brethren do in foreign countries; nor the pain of our Christian ancestors in this country. We could speak of the burnings and drownings of the faithful. Read the words to the hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers”, and you will see it is a testimony of their trials. There are those who hide to worship God for fear of being killed.
I dread the thought of waking to find our country surrounded by those threatening our annihilation, as did Israel in 1967 (“For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance (Ps. 83:2-4). Sounds like lines from a present-day newspaper. Just as horrifying is being rounded up for extermination in a concentration camp, or being a missionary having your car lit afire with you in it. What is the root of this anger? A hatred for the things of God! The world would do the same to us if they could. Remember what Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
Most Jews are not believers of Messiah, but the fact their roots are in the true-God make them targets like Christians. If people of Judeo-Christian faith would disavow the True One, our problems would cease immediately. To this we say- never Lord! God will exonerate the faithful. “And the LORD thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee (Deu. 30:7). When we are rebuked for our faith, remember the root is hatred of God. The psalmist petitions God in Ps.83:17-18, “Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” We pray that all mankind would be saved, but that will not happen. We will always have enemies amongst us as followers of Christ. But God will take care of it all and it will be worth it all!
If you delight in God’s creation, then possibly you have enjoyed watching birds dunk, dive, and flutter in a bird bath. The next time you watch such a frantic display of cleansing, think of Leviticus 14-15. The curious rituals and regulations in this second section of Leviticus highlight the natural distinction between man and God. Much of the discussion revolves around circumstances beyond a person’s control. These unclean scenarios were not necessarily sinful but natural. They were innate to any who simply draw breath upon this earth.
Leviticus actively presents both extremes in man. We are unclean because we are sinners, and we are unclean because we sin. It is clear from Scripture, we sin because we are naturally sinners since sin entered the world through one man (Romans 5:12). In these chapters in Leviticus, you read of the restoration and even the renewal ceremony for those who were at one time unclean. The symbolism involves taking two birds one of which was killed over a vessel with pure water mingling its blood in the water. The water pictures purity and cleansing and the blood represents life. The second bird which is yet alive was ceremonially dipped in the vessel and released to live anew.
In Zechariah 13, this imagery is obvious as God intends to renew Israel. A fountain will be opened for sin and uncleanness (13:1). Later in the chapter, the people ask a mysterious figure, “What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends…Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (13:6-7). This is a clear prophecy illuminating the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus Christ’s death became the fountain filled with blood!
As a sinner receives Christ as their Savior, they are redeemed. Ceremonially, he is taken to the baptismal waters where he is “buried with him by baptism into death…so [he] also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Spiritually, we have experienced the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5). It’s a blood bath that supplies new life. The character of this new life is explained in Romans 6: How shall we continue in sin if we are dead to it? We now possess the reality, the hope of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
— William Cowper