Second Monday of Advent
December 5, 2011
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord! (Psalm 25:4-7)
“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22:31-32)
Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead. . . (Revelation 1:5a)
Certainty isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. There are a lot of things about which we’d like to be certain, but sometimes our desire to grasp tightly to our certainties creates problems for us.
The people who were quizzing Jesus about the resurrection didn’t believe in it in the first place. Their questions to Jesus weren’t about learning from him, but rather intended to trip him up. They wanted to discredit Jesus in order to shore up their certainties. Jesus, of course, turns their own scriptures on them. His reference to the Hebrew scriptures doesn’t prove the resurrection of the dead; it merely points to the confidence he had in God’s intentions for his people.
The psalmist asks God for a deeper life in knowing God’s ways, for mercy, and forgiveness for past sins. The prayer assumes that God is listening and responding, ready and willing to grant the requests that resonate with God’s heart. The psalmist is confident in God’s attentiveness and willingness to act.
Certainty isn’t what we need; we need confidence.
Certainty in the unshakable rightness of our doctrines can easily replace our confidence in God—after all, when you’ve got all the answers, the mystery evaporates and maybe you don’t even need God any longer. When you’re certain that you’ve got plenty of money, you start forgetting about how God meets your daily needs. When you’ve got your life all figured out, it’s easy to quit looking for the surprises that God brings and you forget that very often, our preferences run counter to what God desires.
In the opening chapter of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead.” We have confidence in what God will do because we have confidence in Jesus, who once said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is our faithful witness to the character, nature, and intentions of God. We have confidence in our life with God now and in the life to come because Jesus has gone before us, the firstborn of the dead.
Our so-called certainties can box us in. It is confidence that we need.