Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Friday, January 17, 2014

Twisted Threads

Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. -- Isaiah 38:17

King Hezekiah was stricken with a disease to the point of death.  In affliction, as might be expected, he despaired.  No matter how harsh and hopeless we may find life from time to time, the thought of its cessation can be frightening and overwhelming.  There is an interesting metaphor in Job 7:6 -- My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle and come to their end without hope.  Matthew Henry comments on this verse, saying, “Our days are compared to the weaver's shuttle … passing and repassing very swiftly, every throw leaving a thread behind it; and when finished, the piece is cut off, taken out of the loom, and showed to our Master to be judged of.”

I had never thought of the “finished product” but always focused on the swiftness of the passing.  Each day, though, is a strand added to the tapestry of our lives.  Some are bright, others dark, forming a pattern and telling a story that can be seen and comprehended now only by the Weaver, the one who knows the pattern He follows. 

Hezekiah longed to live and for good reason:  that he might faithfully lead his people and serve the God of Glory.  The love and mercy of the Lord spared his life, yet there is a twist to this story.  Hezekiah lived fifteen more years, during which time the son who would inherit the throne was born.  His name was Manasseh, and he may have been the most wicked of Judah’s kings.  It is the sin and abominations of Manasseh that led to the eventual fall of Jerusalem and the deportation and dispersion of the Jews by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.

 A lot of my days are composed of black threads.  Many, many years ago, I was still a relatively young man, and I had a dream or perhaps a vision.  In it I saw a man clad all over in dark brown leather standing on a road.  His hands were gloved and balled into fists.  He extended his left hand and opened it to reveal something white and bright, like a large diamond, or a star.  The vision had a specific meaning for me at the time that doesn’t matter anymore.  I think there was also another interpretation in the longer term, that no matter how dark and muddy and colorless my life may appear, there is always some light.  It may illuminate my own path, or it may help someone else find their way. 

I don’t know.  I can’t know, any more than Hezekiah could know what his life or death would mean.  God responds to our cries and to our faith and makes that part of the picture.  Maybe He is making a rug that pulls the room together.  Hezekiah’s healing, by itself, was a good thing because Hezekiah was a righteous king.  Manasseh and his apostasy, taken in isolation, were unholy and unrighteous and evil.  But what are those threads laying side by side, the black mark on the white paper?  What is that message and what does it say?   In love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.  Or, as the final and ultimate Heir of the throne of David (and Hezekiah and Manasseh) said, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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