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A Desperately Wicked Heart

by Scott Reeder

I could not help but think, in light of the events this past Friday (Dec. 14, 2012), where I find myself in my preaching at this point in time. As I preach through Hebrews we are at the precipice of the story of Moses and one of the most unspeakable and evil acts in human history: the order by Pharaoh to murder every male Hebrew child.

Then I thought, but we have taken this break to watch our children bring this very beautiful story of the birth of the Christ child, sent to bring hope to a hurting world and save men from this sinful existence. Yet the events of Friday caused me to re-analyze why Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt for a period of time after the miraculous birth of Christ. It was for the reason that the evil King Herod had ordered the murder of innocent children in Bethlehem in hopes of murdering the Christ child. And now last Friday, not by the evil hand of a horrible Pharaoh or a crazed King, but by the crazed act of a single deranged gunman, comes the senseless murder of his mother, some 20 children and 6 adults, and finally he turns the gun on himself, committing suicide.

First I feel we must acknowledge that every murder is against the wishes of a loving God. Yet the murder of helpless children brings the act to an altogether different level of evil which boggles the mind. It escapes understanding. One knows not what to do or even what to think. If you think about it much or begin to picture the scene in your mind there is a sorrow that wells up in the depth of your soul that is far too deep for words. These evil actions rip at the heart of every God loving, life loving, child loving, parent loving, teacher loving human being. These grotesquely evil actions only serve to solidify how dreadfully sinful the heart of man, particularly when unrestrained, is capable of sinking. As you try to make sense of or fully understand the evil in this man’s heart, I can only bring you to the words of the Prophet Jeremiah who confirms that the heart of humans at times is so desperately wicked it cannot be explained or understood.  Jeremiah 17:9

As Christians we painfully affirm that the sinfulness of sin and hearts of unspeakable evil is the real and present reality that we live in. And though some crimes are more heinous than others (none in my mind more awful than murdered children) all murder of human life is hatred toward God’s creation and the result of sin in the human heart. And yet thanks be to God he does provide a measure of moral restraint against evil in this world, both by force of human governments and by way of human conscience, if it were not so, things such as these would likely happen daily. God’s moral image (though for now seriously marred) is stamped on the human psyche. If that were not so, we would likely not be sickened by such evil actions, but we would hardly have any concern at all.

With that said, though we acknowledge that evil is a present reality, we must be mindful that it does not get the last word. The lowly stable and the cruel cross of Christ give a sufficient answer to evil. Christ’s atoning death is the once for all remedy for sin and death.

Sin, death, murder, evil, do not get the last word – God does.

He sent his son to do away with evil and to conquer it once for all. We presently live under it, but it cannot kill us, it cannot defeat us. It can bring blows such as this, but these children are now in heaven as a response to what evil thought was a victory. Christ is victorious.

The devil delights in such things as this tragedy in Newtown, but God has delivered his final blow. God overcame death (even that of precious innocent children) with the resurrection of Christ.  Christ gives us victory over every one of the devils schemes – no matter how awful and evil they may be. In the meantime we live in a world that is suffering from the presence of evil and so, not fully understanding, we must cling to the promise that our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to the Glory that is in Christ Jesus.

For the one who says I cannot believe in God – because such evil exists. Well if there is no God, then there would be no basis for calling anything good or evil. Yet this is not the time for a lesson in theodicy or theological posturing.

It is a time for mourning – as parents, as Americans, as Christians.

I feel we would be negligent today if we ignore or minimize the unspeakable grief and sorrow that this tragedy brings…we must understand that we will celebrate Christ’s birth as we watch our beloved children perform today. But we will also mourn with those who mourn. We shall not mourn as those who have no hope… for our hope is in the Lord. But mourn we will, and we shall pray, and we shall reach out, and we must learn. Learn to love what is good & to hate what is evil. We must learn to combat evil with good… to cling to our loved ones and love our enemies. We need to put aside petty differences, stop focusing on things that separate us, and start focusing on the things that draw our hearts together in Christian Love.

In Matthew 2:16-18 as we read the rest of the story of the birth of Christ, we admittedly don’t spend much time on this part of the story. Most of us prefer not to think about murdered children as part of the Christmas story… I agree it is not and should not be our main focus.

But today we read…   Matthew 2:16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 “A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.”

Matthew quotes the prophet Jeremiah…  Jeremiah 31:15 Thus says the LORD, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

Rachel – was mourning, weeping bitterly, for her murdered children, the children of God. And mourning hurts, mourning means remembering, and remembering is painful. That pain is meant to bring us to a place of sorrow, of hurt. But I want to say this also – remembering also begs us to look forward. Forward, to where we move from pain to promise, from weeping to reward, and from fear to a future hope.

Finally let us find comfort in the words that Jeremiah leaves us with after the description of Rachel’s mourning.   Jeremiah 31:16 Thus says the LORD, “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for your work will be rewarded,” declares the LORD, “And they will return from the land of the enemy. 17 “There is hope for your future,” declares the LORD, “And your children will return to their own territory.

May the God of all Grace fulfill his loving promise to comfort those who now mourn.

(from bordencc.wordpress.com, Author: Scott Reeder)

 




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4