Sunday, May 20, 2018

LIVING WATERS


Living Waters

‘Pull! Pull! Catch and Drive! In, Away!’ shouted the arched bridge as it echoed its endorsement to the coxed-four gliding underneath it. The rhythmic sound of seats rolling up and down on runners soothes throbbing hearts as oarsmen draw collected breath. ‘In, Out!’ a gurgle of water, followed by the swish of feathered oars. The sight of four crisp puddles disappearing at rapid intervals in the water behind spurs the oarsmen on as fresh sweat drips off ends of noses. ‘Catch and Drive!’ as oars continuously punch holes in Glasgow’s River Clyde.

A five-kilometre ‘Head of the River’ race is the order of the day where obstacles to be avoided en-route include things visible and invisible. Visible: the usual sandbanks and all things floating – e.g., a mother duck with infant family in train. Invisible: patches of ‘dead water’ lurking around every bend. A good cox is he who skilfully negotiates obstacles and takes his crew where the river runs fastest – living waters.

As strong as their weakest man, weary oarsmen travelling backwards revive upon hearing the – at first very faint but growing ever louder – cries of support from the finish line. Calloused hands tighten their grip on blades that flash their club’s colours. Like iron-filings to a magnet the hair on the back of the neck begins to stand to attention as the finish line draws a deep breath, sucking the boat towards it. The adrenalin released at the start of the race begins to recirculate. ‘Pull! Pull!’ Lungs burn hot. Stop-clocks tick. Heart rates and rowing ratings rise. ‘C’mon Loch!’ The boys from Loch Lomond may yet win the day! ‘Lord, give them strength to glorify You in all they do!’ ‘Pull! Pull!’

Jehovah-Jesus says, ‘Come unto Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give You rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30.

‘Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them… He came to them, walking on the sea and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marvelled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.’ Mark 6:47-52.

The calloused heart does not understand the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and so continues to row hopelessly against the wind. But to welcome and to have Jesus on board is to be of good cheer, for He, by His Spirit, is at the helm of creation and everything in it. ‘Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah…’ He knows where the living waters are. For, Scripture says, ‘There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.’ Psalm 46:4. Jesus is the living water, for ‘the Word became flesh and tabernacled with us.’ John 1:14. And He says, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow living waters.’ John 7:37-38. Therefore the Christian sings, ‘Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow…’ (William Williams).

Dear reader, as you row down life’s river, how are you treating God and other people? Are you simply as it were rowing over the top of the mother duck and her young? Are you entangled in the dead branches of sin? Stuck on the sandbar of autonomy? Rowing against the wind? Then turn to God in Jesus Christ. Seek His forgiveness for all your sins. For, God is the ‘fountain of living waters.’ (Jeremiah 2:13). ‘How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.’ Psalm 36:7-9.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

COVENANT COMMUNITIES


COVENANT COMMUNITIES

“Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.” Douglas MacArthur. If we apply the “rules are made to be broken” approach to, let’s say, sports, then how would a soccer match look if it followed the rules of rugby? Or how would a game of cricket look if it followed tennis rules? I’m sure if ice hockey started playing by the rules of baseball, then it would no longer be hockey but baseball! Of course, when Douglas MacArthur made his quote he was referring to government red tape and not referring to sports. Indeed, in the height of battle Government over-regulation can be restrictive when one is trying to win a war. However, in the ordinary bump and grind of life, things run smother if everyone plays by the rules. But who makes the rules?

The Geneva Conventions are the laws of war. The rules for sports are made up by the various sports bodies. Sometimes rules or laws need to be tweaked, e.g., in the interests of players’ safety in sports or civilians and non-combatants in war. God’s covenant contains all the rules for humanity. However, just as there are different sports’ codes, so there are different rules for different groups of humanity. Let us call these groups of humanity “covenant communities.” There are three basic covenant communities to be found in any Western nation, viz., Family, Church, and State. Notice that the covenant rules for each of these communities, Family, Church, and State, are not the same. The Family is symbolised by a rod, the Church by keys, and the State by a sword. The rod is symbolic of family discipline, the keys of belonging to the Church are of God’s Kingdom, and the sword is, of course, justice as administered by the State. Just as the game of tennis works better with racquets than hockey sticks, so the State works better with the sword of justice than with the keys of the kingdom or the rod of discipline.

It has taken centuries and has cost lots of blood and treasure for the West to progress to the point where the demarcation of each of these covenant communities has become and remains distinct. In history families have ruled both Church and State, or the Church has ruled both the Family and the State, or the State has ruled both the Family and the Church. Any nation is at its healthiest when these covenant communities can easily be distinguished from each other. However, the covenants of each of these communities comes under and is kept in check by an overarching covenant, the Covenant of God. “One nation under God” states this principle simplest and best.

Interacting with the writing of Herman Bavinck, Cornelius Venema says,

"Whether in marriage, family, business, science, or art, human social relationships and interaction invariably take the form of covenants in which there is mutual obligation and intercommunion. This is no less true of the highest and all-embracing relationship between God as Creator and man as his creature. Indeed, there is no possible way human beings could enjoy blessedness in fellowship with God other than through a covenant relationship. In the first place, the “infinite distance” between God as Creator and man as creature confirms that there is no possibility of communion with God without covenant."[1]

The Triune God is eternally in covenant with Himself. Each of the three Persons in the Godhead eternally loves God and His Neighbour as Himself. Loving God and your neighbour as yourself is the summary of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, is the outward expression of the inward character of God. Thus, the Covenant rules for humanity are the Ten Commandments as they apply to every sphere of human social relationships and interaction. Thus, in order to function properly the covenant communities of the Family, the Church, and the State must each look to and adhere to the covenant rules as laid out by God. These covenant rules must be adhered to only as they apply to the respective communities with clear demarcation lines. Otherwise, like some out of control ice-hockey games, they will begin to look more like boxing matches!

The Bible is the Book of the Covenant. It is revelation of God from God, of how God interacts within Himself as Father and Son and Holy Spirit, of how He interacts with humanity, and of human social relationships and interactions. The Bible records a series of “case studies” in which the Old Testament nation of Israel, interacts with each of the Ten Commandments, as “one nation under God”. Though there were one or two positive and therefore hopeful moments, (e.g., the early days of Solomon), the lines of demarcation for the covenant communities (as in prophets, priests, and kings) remained blurry at best and non-existent at worst, resulting in national chaos throughout its history.

In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus spelled out how God’s Covenant Law (the Ten Commandments) properly applies to the individual, the family, the church, and the state, i.e., in all human social relationships and interaction. Love for God and neighbour is to be at the heart of each covenant community.

I fear that after having come so far, Western nations are beginning to blur the lines of covenant demarcation. The State is gaining too much control over the Family and the Church as it redefines gender and marriage. As the old bumper-stickers reminds us, it’s “God’s Law or Chaos!). The West looked so promising…    


[1] Cornelius P. Venema, Christ + Covenant Theology, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, pp. 163-4. 2017.

COMPETITION


Competition

When I was a lad there was only one winner in any competition, from soccer matches to spelling bees, or from playing marbles on the playground to school dux. Nowadays it seems that everyone is a winner. Where have all the losers gone? But what happens to competition if all are winners regardless?

Unlike Western society today, there will always be a clear winner in a competition between a spider and a fly, an anteater and an ant, a cat and a mouse, and God the Creator and man the creature. Charles Darwin’s observation was that only competitive creatures would survive – competition primarily being about food, habitat, and reproduction. By exchanging the magnifying glass for the electron microscope contemporary Darwinism now views all competition through the clouded lens of gene transference. Thus the propagation of the species is now all about the survival of genetic material from one generation to the next. Therefore to the neo-Darwinist every creature is a winner because every creature belongs to the collective gene pool that has, against the odds, survived. Hooray! Let’s pass out prizes to any piece of DNA or RNA willing to accept them – especially those that make mistakes and get it wrong!

The Christian sees things differently to the above albeit simplistic synopsis of the drift of a branch of contemporary Western thought. For the Christian the role of the passing on of codified genetic information from one generation to another is all very interesting. But the chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever – whether competing in soccer, spelling bees, playground marbles, or becoming school dux. From science to singing, at work, rest, and play the Christian glorifies God and will continue to enjoy Him forever. For Scripture says, ‘Therefore, whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ 1 Corinthians 10:31.

The 1981 movie ‘Chariots of Fire’ depicts the true story of Eric Liddell, the ‘Flying Scotsman.’ Specialising in the 100 metres Liddell sought to compete in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris – to the glory of God. To the consternation of many he refused to dishonour God by racing in the event he had trained for because it was scheduled to take place on the Christian Sabbath. In turn God honoured Liddell. Liddell, who was not expected to win, enjoyed taking out the gold prize from the Men’s 400 metres – a non-Sunday event. An American had slipped a piece of paper into Liddell’s hand while Liddell was in the starting blocks – a quote from 1 Samuel 2:30, ‘…them that honour Me I will honour…’ As sparks fly down the starter’s gun barrel so Liddell blazed toward the finish line as the whole Olympic Stadium exploded to the glory of God!

Every Christian is a winner. Not because of any mysterious Evolutionary ‘Survival of the Fittest’ gene pool, nor because we are stronger.  We are winners because our Champion has run the good race representing us. He has won it – for us! He has tied up our main competition, our adversary, even the strongman! ‘Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Hebrews 12:1-2.

The American theologian RC Sproul witnessed a major event in his life as a seventeen-year old, ‘I will never forget the last words my father spoke to me. We were seated together on the living room sofa. His body had been ravaged by three strokes. One side of his face was distorted by paralysis. His left eye and left lip drooped uncontrollably. He spoke to me with a heavy slur. His words were difficult to understand, but their meaning was crystal clear. He uttered these words: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” These were the last words he ever spoke to me. Hours later he suffered his fourth and final cerebral hemorrhage… My father finished the race. I was not even in the starting blocks. He ran the race for which God had called him. He ran until his legs crumbled. But somehow he kept going…’

Dear Christian, Jesus says, ‘Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.’ Revelation 3:11b.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

LOVE NEEDS A MIRROR


Love Needs a Mirror

Blue seas appear when the clouds disappear and the sky gives a parting kiss before vanishing over the horizon. Then moonlight strikes the ocean, turning it into molten lead, which, at the appointed time, is transmuted into gold by the rising sun. Yes, the night stays dark till the Creator gently retrieves the gold fob watch from His waistcoat-pocket come morning. The echo of the words, ‘Let there be light’ will not fade away for as long as day follows night. As the sea reflects the sky, so time reflects eternity, so earth reflects heaven, and so man reflects his Maker. Love is like a mirror.

But as choppy seas distort the image of the sky on the face of the waters, so the fountains of evil broke open to issue forth from the wellspring of man. Sin distorts man the image of God. But God is love, and on the Day of Pentecost God the Father and God the Son from heaven poured the good oil of God the Spirit on the troubled waters of mankind. The desert blooms into life when it receives the showers of God’s blessing. And nations cease to rage as the Son of Righteousness rises with healing in His wings. As the sea begins to reflect the glassy sea in heaven above, the peoples, along with cherubim and seraphim, fall down before the Lamb, for the good Shepherd leads us beside still waters and we lie down in green pastures. His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven when man truly reflects His Maker once more, for a soul restored is an image renewed.

Cultural activities on earth reflect heavenly activities. Man is to eat, drink, and do all things to the glory of God. Which is to say that man is to love the LORD our God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love our neighbour as ourself. In all our works, and in all our interactions with God and with our neighbour we are to mirror love, even the Father’s love for His Son. Thus the kingdom of the Son of His love manifests itself only to the eyes of man renewed by the Spirit, for spiritual things are spiritually discerned.

Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul – writing of Christians – says, ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.

Jesus rebuked the storm, stilling the wind and calming the sea. When we are rebuked by the message of His cross our spirits are stilled and our souls are calmed. Thus we stop our rage against the LORD and against His Anointed. Indeed, ‘Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?’ Psalm 2:1. Why are people like ‘raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame?’ Jude 1:13. It’s because we are cracked mirrors of God the lot of us, and cracked mirrors distort the image of true love. Our love at best is second best because we don’t love – as we ought – God who is love.

Because God loves His only begotten Son, so our first love ought to be Jesus Christ who is the express image of God. For He images the Father perfectly, while the rest of us fall short of His glory. This is because the heart of fallen man is a black hole full only of darkness when it comes to God and the things of God. ‘The heart is an idol factory,’ says Calvin. With it we form gods in our own distorted image, even gods we can ignore. But then there’s our conscience, of which the 17th century Puritan Richard Sibbes said, ‘is the soul reflecting upon itself.’ And then the 18th century poet Robert Burns said, ‘O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, to see oursels as others see us!’

As fallen men our image of ourself is as every bit as distorted as our image of the God who made us, and whose image we are and whose image we are to reflect in our everyday activities. But love looks beyond itself, for the Father loves the Son and the Spirit who both love the Father and each other.

By faith the Christian looks to the One who says, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father.’ John 14:9. – To the One who says, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments.’ John 14:15. Then out of love and gratitude to God for saving him, the Christian – in the power supplied by the Holy Spirit who has regenerated and sustains him – seeks to reflect God through obedience. Love needs a mirror because love’s object is others. Only in the Jesus revealed in Scripture do we see the clear and undistorted image of God.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

AUSTRALIA


Australia

The smell of gum trees, the noise of cicadas, the sight of the Glass House Mountains, the taste of mangoes, and the feel of hot sand squeaking under bare feet in a hurry. The roar of the Pacific drowning out the noise of Gold Coast traffic. Strips of golden strands opening wide to mouth words of greeting to the breakers bringing cooling to hissingly hot sand. A kite taking advantage of the sea breeze as an eagle mounts the thermals. Australia!

Dusty outback. The last of the dinosaurs in the form of a dead iguana by the roadside; or is he just sleeping? Slain perhaps by a horseless chariot – George and his dragon. The white plume of a distant bushfire rising up to heaven like incense. A big red kangaroo bouncing over the red earth like a stone skipping across a smooth inland lake. Heavy-laden clouds thundering their warnings to man and beast alike. Lightning, thinking God’s thoughts after Him, bridging the synapse gap between heaven and earth. Rain on a hot tin roof sounding far better than any cat. Oh the steamy aftermath! Oh the earthy smell! Warm wispy mists hugging and kissing the streets without dry ice or an old Hammer Film in sight. Splashing barefoot through warm roadside torrents in the aftermath of an afternoon thunderstorm. Australia!

Being awakened by topknot doves cooing to their lovers in the early morning stillness. A hidden gecko tutting disapproval. Morning-coffee outdoors. Observing a loose formation of screeching snow-white sulphur-crested cockatoos impersonating pterodactyls as they claw their way across the azure canvass. A stroll through the quiet coolness of a rainforest. A refreshing dip in a mountain creek. The smell of a neighbour’s barbecue wafting over your backyard fence. The high-pitched evening whistling of innumerable rainbow lorikeets jostling among the branches and leaves of gumtrees as they all brush their teeth and don their pyjamas. Endless streams of plump fruit bats clipping treetops like heavy-laden cargo-planes coming home to roost. Australia!

The night-sky diamonds being carefully brought out of their navy-blue velvet bag to be put on display at dusk. The man from Snowy River on horseback, dressed in a Driza-bone coat and akubra hat, lifting high the flag, the Australian flag, on the end of his lance. Draped in the same flag Australian eyes looking to the cross, the Southern Cross, to get their bearings. Contemplating where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going. Knowing of our convict past but hearing of the ‘Great Southland of the Holy Spirit.’ Acknowledging that the great Emancipator has visited and is in the process of setting free many bound in chains of darkness. Fetters falling at our feet like clanging church bells – even at the mere jingle of Christ’s keys. He called Lazarus forth from the tomb. His Gospel voice is calling Australia to come forth. God’s Providence is the Midwife who presided over our birth.  A newborn nation only 107 years old. An infant lisping ‘we are one, but we are many’ – reflecting the Triune nature of God our Maker. Australia!

After confusing the tongues at Babel (c.2233BC) and the great dispersion, God providentially brought some of the itchy human feet to walk upon Australia’s red earth. Then Christian missionaries heard ancient Aboriginal lore recounting events of the judgment Flood – Noah’s ark. See the white sails of Sydney Opera House illuminated by Arthur Stace’s copperplate ‘Eternity’ emblazoning Sydney Harbour Bridge on the eve of a new millennium. For years post-conversion Stace walked and chalked Sydney’s walls and roads with that word – as if the great Teacher had given him ‘lines’! A new nation in a new millennium looking at eternity. Australia!

The island continent of rugged beauty coast to coast, and from Tasmania to the Top End. Let’s appreciate beauty wherever we see it and eternity. O, and appreciate the good life God has given us. For speaking of God Solomon says, ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labour – it is the gift of God.’ Ecclesiastes 3:11-13. Give thanks to God: Australia.

Monday, May 7, 2018

THE CUTE & THE CRUEL


The Cute and the Cruel

It would be a cold heart indeed that doesn’t begin to gush at the sight of fluffy ducklings or a cuddly Christmas puppy. As I watched a wagtail chick in my yard cry out and flutter its wings while its mother fed it I thanked God for the ‘cute factor’ He has built into animal young. Think about how many bags of kittens and sacks of puppies that have been saved from drowning because of their built in ‘cute factor.’

I’m now at the age where I find babies and little toddlers cuter than ever. But what was with that king who wanted to put to death all male children two years old and under in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago? What kind of hardness of heart is this? It reminds us of that murderous pharaoh at the time of Moses! The ‘cute factor’ may or may not have played a small part in the infant Moses escaping certain death as he was ‘a beautiful child.’ Moses’ mother had a plan how to save her baby. That’s how come pharaoh’s daughter found the three-month old Moses in an ark among the bulrushes. ‘And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, saying, “This is one of the Hebrew’s children.”’ Exodus 2:6.

Cute as babies and toddlers are, we don’t find the ‘wise men’ lining up to take turns to hold Jesus and gush over Him when He was a young Child. Rather, we find the following, ‘And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.’ Matthew 2:11. Why the worship instead of hugs and kisses? The LORD through His prophet Isaiah some 700 years before the birth of Jesus answers this for us, ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Isaiah 9:6.

The wise men recognizing the type of baby Jesus was did the wise thing when they worshipped the One who carries the government of the world upon His shoulder. For Jesus is the eternal Son of God now also in the flesh. Indeed Scripture says, ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ John 1:3&14a. As Mighty God He built the ‘cute factor’ into bird chicks, animal young, and human babies.

But what’s with the murderous mind-set of pharaoh at the time of Moses’ birth and Herod at the time of Jesus’ birth? And, while we’re at it, what’s with the cruelty of some people toward other people and animals, and the cruelty of some animals towards people and other animals? While commenting on Isaiah 11:6 John Calvin was asking similar questions about the animals, ‘Whence comes the cruelty of brutes, which prompts the stronger to seize and rend and devour with dreadful violence the weaker animals? There would certainly have been no discord among the creatures of God, if they had remained in their first and original condition. When they exercise cruelty towards each other, and the weak need to be protected against the strong, it is an evidence of the disorder which has sprung from the sinfulness of man.’ Thus, the ‘cute factor’ is from God, but the ‘cruelty factor’ was introduced into creation when man rebelled against God and is fueled by that rebellion.

God had put the newly created Adam in His Garden, letting him name the animals that surrounded him. The newly born Jesus, no doubt surrounded by animals, was laid in an animal feed trough. Shepherds (animal keepers) came to see the Baby Jesus, the ‘Lamb of God,’ as He lay in a manger. Born in a stable, the One who is able, to take all our sins away. Infinite worth, yet so humble a birth! Thank God for the first Christmas Day. Who would lift the Baby Jesus out of the manger and nail Him to a cross? Yet Jesus was no less innocent when He underwent the cruelty of His mock trial and real crucifixion at the lawless hands of men. But it was God who sacrificed His Son as the Lamb of God. For He had Him nailed to that tree to take away the sins of the world. The Older Testament sacrificial system illustrated the fact that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no remission.’ Hebrews 9:22b. Death by drowning or being burned in the flames would never do for Jesus. He had to shed His blood. ‘For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.’ Colossians 1:19&20.

The new Adam came to fix what the old Adam had broken (i.e., our relationship with God, each other, animals etc.) The Prince of Peace has brought us peace with God. Thus the cruelty factor is removed, by, in, and through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

THE LOCUSTS OF AGING


The Locusts of Ageing

The Artificer created Adam mature from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). Then the Potter placed His clay-man in His garden to dry (Gen. 2:8; Job 33:6). The Anaesthetist put Adam to sleep and the Surgeon operated to remove one of his ribs to craft it into Eve (Gen. 2:21&22). The Marriage Celebrant performed the very first wedding between the couple of legal age (Gen. 2:22-24). Adam and Eve knew about ‘the birds and bees’ (2:19). Eve, like one of the Arboriculturist’s flowering trees, had been designed by the Geneticist to bear fruit of Adam’s pollination (Gen. 1:11,12; 2:9; 3:16; 4:1).

The Triune God, who, as such, is diversity in unity (and therefore ‘wears many hats’), formed all aspects of Adam and Eve perfect in the beginning (Gen. 1:26&27; 2 Cor. 13:14). Blessing the perfect couple God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Genesis 1:28. Thus mankind (i.e., Adam and Eve and all subsequent descendants), like a bunch of grapes on the vine, was to mature with age. 

As ‘one bad apple spoils the whole bunch’ by spreading its decay, so Adam and Eve became over-ripe when they ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21). Maturity turned to ageing when they turned their naked backs on God (John 15:4&5). As leafless tree branches in summer often show root problem, so their relationship with God was severed. Frostbite to their extremities exposes how cold they had grown toward God, for the icicled fingers of death clutch at the throat of every son and daughter of Adam from conception onward – including you and me today. Sometimes before, but after maturation comes degeneration – the time when the locusts of ageing begin to eat away our years. 

Medical examination points out macula-degeneration in one of my eyes and x-rays reveal disc-degeneration in my lower back. Age is catching up with me! Why can’t I be like cheese and wine and simply improve with age? Yet even cheese and wine reach a point beyond maturity – a point where they go off. Am I (and the whole rest of creation) beyond the point of no return?

Where do decay and corruption come from? Scripture gives this answer with its attendant joyful promise: ‘For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfuits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.’ Romans 8:20-23.

Not only does the Triune God ‘wear the hat’ of creation’s Creator, He is also creation’s Redeemer, and Regenerator. The Father is usually designated Creator, the Son Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit Restorer. If Adam is the ‘bad apple’ whose rot spread through the whole bunch, then the Son of God (as the new Adam) is the ‘good apple’ by which God saves His people and His creation from the end of that rot which is to be cast into the cosmic dump (Hell). The Holy Spirit gathers the apples chosen by the Father and paid for by the Son. Belonging to the great restoration their branches are engrafted into Christ the tree of life.

The Spirit works in the core of the His people’s being, planting the seed of His Word. And with His Word He regenerates, renews or re-births them – as Peter says, ‘having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word by which the gospel was preached to you.’ 1 Peter 1:23-25.

Dear reader, perhaps you have noticed that your flower is falling away – that your maturation has now turned into ageing and is now eating away your years. Then turn to the Lord and hear what He says to His people, ‘So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied., and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame.’ Joel 2:25&26.