* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here.
Wednesday 17 December
Read: Isaiah 44:1-5
(light three candles)
Perhaps, one of life’s greatest questions, which nearly all of us ask at one point or another is “Who am I?” The challenge many of us face is that most of our responses to that question have a certain level of instability and insecurity to them. We might say I am a beautiful person. But shifting cultural definitions, age, disease, and tragic accidents all threaten our beauty. We might say I am an intelligent person. But even the most intelligent among us face the threats of Alzheimer’s and dementia, brain injuries, addictions, and emotional breakdowns. We might identify ourselves by our jobs, our family structure or reputation, our parenting skills, our financial success, our ability to communicate, or any number of other things – all of which can be undone in a moment. Those who take this question seriously come to recognize the frailty of our lives.
But this passage roots our identity and our joy in a deeper, more secure ground. We come to know who we are by first engaging the question of “Whose am I?” Isaiah points us to God, the One who “formed you in the womb” and who chose us to be the people of God. We are ones created by God, which at minimum means God wanted us to exist. We are ones chosen to be God’s people. In other words, God not only wanted us to be alive, he also desired to be associated with us. The blessing given to God’s people from ancient times into the present emphasizes this even more in that it was intended to place God’s name upon God’s people (Numbers 6:22-27). God wanting us; God desiring to be associated with us; God giving us the gift of God’s own name. None of these acts of God can be earned by our achievements or undone by our shifting circumstances.
God’s sure promise extends even further in this passage. Because we belong to God, God has entered the wilderness with us, taking our suffering as his own, and promising that our current circumstances will not undo us. Though we have seasons where life seems to be unraveling more quickly than we can knit it back together, these seasons will not separate us from God, nor be the end of us. God promises that our offspring – our children, the ones whose life continues after we die, will receive God’s blessing. Yes, God’s love – that never-ending, unshakeable, covenantal faithfulness of God – will continue beyond us into the generations that come after us. Joy is possible not simply because God’s blessings are given to us, but because God’s faithfulness extends beyond us. Or to say it another way: because there is nothing in our lives or after our lives that can undo God and because we belong to God, we have every reason to rejoice no matter the circumstances we journey through.
God is rooting our identity in the certainty of God’s own being, made known in Jesus Christ. From conception through death and into the life that is to come, we belong to God. As the Heidelberg Catechism has so eloquently declared: our only comfort is that we are not our own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to our faithful savior, Jesus Christ.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus, that the light of your life may fill us with everlasting joy as we anticipate your coming kingdom! Amen.