The Shadow of Death; October 18, 2022

Isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

This passage as a whole is extremely familiar, being widely referenced particularly around Christmas and being sung in The Messiah. However, familiarity indeed often brings contempt, or at least a failure to really hear what is being said. This verse lays out the foundation for the whole Gospel message, that it is indeed Good News for those who are in desperate need of it. We need light to thrive. We are entering the time of year when many people suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, simply from the days being short, and it’s no joke. What we sometimes fail to recognize is that people suffer even more from spiritual darkness. It’s described here as “the shadow of death,” and indeed, the vast majority of people fear death. A major element of the Gospel is that death is no longer something to be feared, because Jesus has conquered it, demonstrating that fact conclusively by being resurrected from the “double death,” you might say, of blood loss and asphyxiation and then having his heart run through with a spear. (John 19:34) It’s no wonder His disciples were incredulous when He showed up after that, fully and gloriously alive! Those who know that light have the privilege and responsibility of sharing it with those around them. I’m reminded of an invention that was made in a very poor country a few years ago, when someone realized they could fill a plastic drink bottle with clear water and imbed it in the roof of a shack that had no electricity, and then in daylight, at least, the sunlight falling on the part of the bottle that was above the roof would be transmitted through the water and illuminate the area below the roof. We don’t originate the light any more than those bottles do, but we can allow the light of Christ to shine through us to those who so desperately need it. (Matthew 5:16)

The whole matter of “the shadow of death” is close to home these days. I have two friends with potentially fatal cancers, and my wife has recently repeatedly gone under general anesthesia, which is a kind of “mini-death.” Just yesterday they “put her under” to do a lavage (washing) of her surgical site because of an infection that had gotten in, and they certainly wanted to avoid sepsis, which can be fatal. Full recovery from such anesthesia can take a full day or more, before the mind makes all the appropriate connections. This has been something of a “dry run” for when one of us leaves this life, since it’s not at all likely to be simultaneous for the two of us. Frankly, it’s not much fun. I have no fears for either of us in the long run, being fully assured of eternal salvation, but temporal separation after 53 years of marriage can hardly be described as enjoyable. We both need to be focused on Christ all the more in this time, to receive His peace that exceeds human understanding (Philippians 4:7) and look forward to the joy that will erase all our wounds and scars. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for this experience You’re allowing Cathy and me to have. May we indeed receive from it the blessings that You intend, as an encouragement to those around us and for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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