Saturday, February 20, 2016

Trip Preparations for the Wrong Destination


We recently watched a very interesting documentary about the 1974 archaeological discovery of mass graves from before the time of Christ.   These mass graves were not of human bodies but life-size clay models of Chinese warriors. They were perfectly preserved for over 2000 years, except for the paint. From remaining paint fragments some of the clay statues have been repainted for display in the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors.

The clay warriors were commissioned - or, rather, commanded - by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. The workers had to finish all 8,000 before the Emperor's death, which of course they did not know when it would happen.  From the time the order to create them was given to when the Emperor died was ten years, and we have the proof that the project was completed in time. With today's technology it takes one month to make one warrior. Because each warrior had to be uniquely different in form and feature, no molds for mass production could be used.   Each statue bears the name of its creator and there are eighty-seven names.  Each of these master craftsmen would have had their own support team of workers, therefore making it possible to complete the work in time.

At the Emperors' death, his concubines, his officers, his staff and men close to him were given poison to drink giving them the honor of being buried with him so they could continue to serve him in the next life. The Emperor's tomb, - a scale model of his palace-  is huge and elaborate with his coffin surrounded by the coffins of those buried with him.

The Chinese had a strong belief in an eternity that simply continued, after death, the life as it was lived on earth. Therefore, much thought and planning went into what they would need to take with them so they would not be deprived of the comforts and position they enjoyed in their earthly life.  The Emperor's plans began with a 20 square mile underground city that would house all the treasures he would take with him .  This city would be protected by the terracotta army of 8,000 warriors.

As I watched this documentary, I could not help but feel so sad for the people who planned so diligently for a destination they had completely wrong.  We would laugh at someone who planned a trip to Jamaica and packed snow suits, sweaters, boots, scarves and gloves thinking that they would enjoy a skiing vacation. How unprepared they would be when their plane landed and they stepped out into the blazing sun.
We who believe the Bible, know where we are going.  We know that this earthly life is for a very short time and yet how often are we guilty of focusing 99% of our time planning this life and 1% of our time thinking about the next. Someone said, "Imagine all the grains of sand in all the beaches of the world, then pick up one grain of sand and let it represent the time span of your earthly life. Then consider that each of all the other grains of sand represent the same amount of time, but in eternity.  Then ask yourself why we try to cram everything into the one little grain of sand, totally oblivious to how insignificant it is in light of all eternity." 

As believers in the salvation Jesus provided for us, we know our destination. We know that this life is our 'preparation' time, and while we can take nothing with us out of this life - our eternity does depend on what we do with our life here.  All the striving we do to lay up for ourselves the things that make this earthly life comfortable will be left for someone else to enjoy... only the things done with eternity in mind will make a difference. And it is interesting to note that the 'treasure' we store up in heaven cannot be 'stolen' ~Matt. 6:19.We need no terracotta warriors to guard it!

Though we will step over the threshold of death with nothing in hand but our faith - we will find our eternal home perfectly planned and waiting for us to enjoy it. Everything that we could ever wish for and beyond what we could ever imagine will make our new life so exciting that this earthly life will lose all its allure. And best of all, we will see God in all His glory and live in His love and presence for ever more!
  "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; 
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind". 
Isaiah 65:17

Friday, February 5, 2016

Genealogies, Anyone??

Yes...  I'll admit it ... I like to wander in cemeteries and I enjoy genealogies.  Not because I have a morbid fascination with death but because I value people's lives and feel a desire/need to honor someone who once lived, even if it is only to read their name on a gravestone or in a genealogy.
I don't find the genealogies in the bible boring - God has hidden some interesting details in what could be viewed as a boring list of names.  But God is not the author of 'boring' -  His creation and His word are equally beyond our limited ability to absorb all there is hidden therein.

 I was recently looking at the genealogies of Jesus.. the genealogy of Jesus through Mary, found in Matthew 1:1-17 and the genealogy  Luke records in Luke 3:23-38 that is Jesus 'legal' lineage through Joseph, his 'supposed' father.
 Both genealogies overlap from Abraham to David but then Mary's continues through Solomon and Joseph's continues through Nathan, - Solomon and Nathan both being sons of David.

In Jesus' lineage through Mary, we see from King David , a consecutive succession of kings - sixteen of them, while in contrast, Joseph's lineage contains no king after David.
We have Jacob's prophetic word over his son Judah recorded in Genesis 49:10 - "The sceptor shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh comes and to Him shall be the obedience of the people."   In plain English it is saying that "There will be a continuous line of kings from Judah ...  until the Messiah comes!"  And so we see it was ...  The continuous line of sixteen kings until the captivity to Babylon followed by the 400 years of silence - during which period there were no kings - until Jesus was born.

But there was another detail in Mary's genealogy that I found fascinating ....
As I studied this long list of Kings, I noticed something that caught my attention. Jeconiah is listed as 'the son of'  - not his father -  but his grandfather. I had to know why, and I found the answer  proved how the smallest detail of God's word does not return to Him void. When God speaks, we can always follow it with "and so it is already done!"

In Deuteronomy 29:18-20, God warns the Israelites  that if any man walked in rebellion and idolatry, turning away from the Lord God, that God's curses would come upon him and God would "blot out his name from under heaven!"

In Jeremiah 36:30,31, we read "Therefore says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah 'He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day the front of the night .. and I will punish him ....all the doom that I have pronounced against them..."
Jehoiakim was cursed by God for all his iniquity....  and it is his name that is missing in the genealogy of Jesus - literally blotted out!  It should be listed between Josiah and Jeconiah..

I can't think of a greater disgrace than to be blotted out - disowned- and not recognized in your family tree or lineage.

I think of the words of Jesus when He said there would be those who cried out "Lord, Lord!" but would be barred from the kingdom of heaven by His words, "I never knew you, depart from me!" 
Oh ... let us make sure that we are not in that number but that we stand and sing with countless saints the refrain of  Daniel Whittle 's 1883 hymn... 
"I know Whom I have believed, 
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I've committed, 
Unto Him against that day."