Romans 8:18-25

When our first child was born, the doctor who was a family friend persuaded me to sit in on the delivery. For sheer drama and breathtaking excitement the experience was unparalleled. I suppose any first time father would feel the same under the circumstances. I marveled at the precision of the doctor’s hands as he skillfully moved them to deliver the child. The nurses and the doctor worked together with my wife like a well-oiled machine to insure a normal delivery. And then at the instant of birth there was a simultaneous joyful shout, “It’s a boy!” almost as if they had all been holding their breath, experiencing the birth pangs with my wife, silently groaning with her, encouraging her, waiting for the bundle of new life to make its grand entrance. And when he did, my wife’s first question was, “Is he all right?” That is, “Is he healthy? Does he have all his fingers, toes etc.? Is he complete?” The baby put on quite a show himself. He had at that moment been set free. He was unshackled and alive. With his first breath he let out a howl, and with his arms and legs he flailed freely as if to acknowledge that the Lord had indeed brought him forth into a large place. Released from his cramped quarters where he had been hemmed in on all sides he was now gloriously free in his wide new world. If he had been able to speak he undoubtedly would have said something like, “Does this ever feel good!” When the hands of Him who fashioned the heavens and the earth completed their task, when the universe was born, everything was in its proper place, perfect – like a symphony in which every note was played just as the composer intended it. The Book of Job describes it this way: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy!” The work was finished. The universe was delivered complete in every detail, in perfect health, brimming with life, God’s life and light permeated the entire creation.

And then right in the middle of that joyous celebration of birth and life, that awful disaster, ruination, darkness and death everywhere. In a sense it was as if God himself lost a child. In fact that is exactly what it would cost him to restore everything. The psalmist describes the condition of the creation which God saw and which prompted his coming. “For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary, from heaven did the Lord behold the people; to hear the groaning of the prisoner, to loose those who are appointed to death.” In a world in which death reigns over everything, restoration would have to be “life from the dead.” The clay marred in the potter’s hands would have to be plunged back into the lump and an entirely new creation molded and shaped in those hands.

God did in fact hear the groaning of the prisoners and came down to visit and save them, to take on their groaning himself. The hands which shaped and gave birth to the creation would be pierced in order to give birth to a new heaven and a new earth. He took on himself our burdens, he served with rigor in our place, the bonds and stripes, the cruel rod which we deserved were laid on him as was the iniquity of us all. He took on the darkness, the forsakenness, and death as the wages of sin which was ours and he made it his. And when he came out of that land of slavery and death, he brought us with him. We came out with him through the waters which washed away all our enemies. He delivered us on the other side free and alive and kicking, born again, under a new leader who we can be sure will lead and feed us as we travel through this “barren wilderness” toward the Promised Land. And he will certainly take us by the hand and bring us safely across Jordan’s flood to live with him in his home forever. In that home we will joyfully sing praises forever to the One who is our redeemer, creator.

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