Rachel Weeping for Her Children — The Massacre in Connecticut

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.” [Jeremiah 31:15]

It has happened again. This time tragedy came to Connecticut, where a lone gunman entered two classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire, killing at least twenty children and six adults, before turning his weapons of death upon himself. The young victims, still to be officially identified, ranged in age from five to ten years. The murderer was himself young, reported to be twenty years old. According to press reports, he murdered his mother, a teacher at Sandy Hook, in her home before the rampage at the school.

Apparently, matricide preceded mass murder. Some of the children were in kindergarten, not even able to tie their own shoes. The word kindergarten comes from the German, meaning a garden for children. Sandy Hook Elementary School was no garden today. It was a place of murder, mayhem, and undisguised evil.

The calculated and premeditated nature of this crime, combined with the horror of at least twenty murdered children, makes the news almost unspeakable and unbearable. The grief of parents and loved ones in Newtown is beyond words. Yet, even in the face of such a tragedy, Christians must speak. We will have to speak in public about this evil, and we will have to speak in private about this horrible crime. How should Christians think and pray in the aftermath of such a colossal crime?

We Affirm the Sinfulness of Sin, and the Full Reality of Human Evil

First, we must recognize that this tragedy is just as evil, horrible, and ugly as it appears. Christianity does not deny the reality and power of evil, but instead calls evil by its necessary names — murder, massacre, killing, homicide, slaughter. The closer we look at this tragedy, the more it will appear unfathomable and more grotesque than the human imagination can take in.

What else can we say about the murder of children and their teachers? How can we understand the evil of killing little children one by one, forcing them to watch their little friends die and realizing that they were to be next? How can we bear this?

Resisting our instinct toward a coping mechanism, we cannot accept the inevitable claims that this young murderer is to be understood as merely sick. His heinous acts will be dismissed and minimized by some as the result of psychiatric or psychological causation, or mitigated by cultural, economic, political, or emotional factors. His crimes were sick beyond words, and he was undoubtedly unbalanced, but he pulled off a cold, calculated, and premeditated crime, monstrous in its design and accomplishment.

Christians know that this is the result of sin and the horrifying effects of The Fall. Every answer for this evil must affirm the reality and power of sin. The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred he poured out on his little victims.

The twentieth century forced us to see the ovens of the Nazi death camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, the inhumanity of the Soviet gulags, and the failure of the world to stop such atrocities before they happened. We cannot talk of our times without reference to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, Pol Pot and Charles Manson, Idi Amin and Ted Bundy. More recently, we see evil in the impassive faces of Osama bin Laden and Anders Behring Brevik. We will now add yet another name to the roll call of mass murderers. His will not be the last.

The prophet Jeremiah knew the wickedness and deceit of the sinful human heart and asked the right question — who can understand it?

Beyond this, the Christian must affirm the grace of moral restraint, knowing that the real question is not why some isolated persons commit such crimes, but why such massacres are not more common. We must be thankful for the restraint of the law, operating on the human conscience. Such a crime serves to warn us that putting a curve in the law will inevitably produce a curve in the conscience. We must be thankful for the restraining grace of God that limits human evil and, rightly understood, keeps us all from killing each other.

Christians call evil what it is, never deny its horror and power, and remain ever thankful that evil will not have its full sway, or the last word.

We Affirm the Cross of Christ as the Only Adequate Remedy for Evil

There is one and only one reason that evil does not have the last word, and that is the fact that evil, sin, death, and the devil were defeated at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. There they were defeated conclusively, comprehensively, and publicly.

On the cross, Christ bore our sins, dying in our place, offering himself freely as the perfect sacrifice for sin. The devil delighted in Christ’s agony and death on the cross, realizing too late that Christ’s substitutionary atonement spelled the devil’s own defeat and utter destruction.

Christ’s victory over sin, evil, and death was declared by the Father in raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the ground of our hope and the assurance of the final and total victory of Christ over all powers, principalities, and perpetrators.

A tragedy like this cannot be answered with superficial and sentimental Christian emotivism, nor with glib dismissals of the enormity and transience of this crime. Such a tragedy calls for the most Gospel-centered Christian thinking, for the substance of biblical theology, and the solace that only the full wealth of Christian conviction can provide.

In the face of such horror, we are driven again and again to the cross and resurrection of Christ, knowing that the reconciling power of God in Christ is the only adequate answer to such a depraved and diabolical power.

We Acknowledge the Necessity of Justice, Knowing that Perfect Justice Awaits the Day of the Lord

Charles Manson sits in a California prison, even now — decades after his murderous crimes were committed. Ted Bundy was executed by the State of Florida for multiple murders, but escaped both conviction and punishment for others he is suspected of having committed. Anders Behring Brevik shot and killed scores of young people in Norway, but he was sentenced to less than thirty years in prison. Adolf Hitler took his own life, robbing human courts of their justice, and Vladimir Lenin died of natural causes.

The young murderer in Connecticut took his own life after murdering almost thirty people, most of them children. He will never face a human court, never have to face a human accuser, never stand convicted of his crimes, and never know the justice of a human sentence.

But, even as human society was robbed of the satisfaction of that justice, it would never be enough. Even if executed for his crimes, he could die only once. Even if sentenced to scores of life sentences to prison, he could forfeit only one human lifespan.

Human justice is necessary, but it is woefully incomplete. No human court can hand down an adequate sentence for such a crime, and no human judge can restore life to those who were murdered.

Crimes such as these remind us that we just yearn for the total satisfaction that will come only on the Day of the Lord, when all flesh will be judged by the only Judge who will rule with perfect righteousness and justice. On that day, the only escape will be refuge in Christ, for those who knew and confessed him as Savior and Lord. On that day, those who are in Christ will know the promise that full justice and restoration will mean that every eye is dry and tears are nevermore.

We Grieve with Those Who Grieve

For now, even as we yearn for the Day of the Lord, we grieve with those who grieve. We sit with them and pray for them and acknowledge that their loss is truly unspeakable and that their tears are unspeakably true. We pray and look for openings for grace and the hope of the gospel. We do our best to speak words of truth, love, grace, and comfort.

What of the eternal destiny of these sweet children? There is no specific text of Scripture that gives us a clear and direct answer. We must affirm with the Bible that we are conceived in sin and, as sons and daughters of Adam, will face eternal damnation unless we are found in Christ. So many of these little victims died before reaching any real knowledge of their own sinfulness and need for Christ. They, like those who die in infancy and those who suffer severe mental incapacitation, never really have the opportunity to know their need as sinners and the provision of Christ as Savior.

They are in a categorically different position than that of the person of adult consciousness who never responds in faith to the message of the Gospel. In the book of Deuteronomy, God tells the adults among the Children of Israel that, due to their sin and rebellion, they would not enter the land of promise. But the Lord then said this: “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” [Deuteronomy 1:39]

Many, if not all, of the little children who died in Newtown were so young that they certainly would be included among those who, like the little Israelites, “have no knowledge of good or evil.” God is sovereign, and he was not surprised that these little ones died so soon. There is biblical precedent for believing that the Lord made provision for them in the atonement accomplished by Christ, and that they are safe with Jesus.

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

The prophet Jeremiah’s reference to Rachel and her lost children is heart-breaking. “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.’” Like Rachel, many parents, grandparents, and loved ones are weeping inconsolably even now, refusing to be comforted for their children, because they are no more.

This tragedy is compounded in emotional force by the fact that it comes in such close proximity to Christmas, but let us never forget that there was the mass murder of children in the Christmas story as well. King Herod’s murderous decree that all baby boys under two years of age should be killed prompted Matthew to cite this very verse from Jeremiah. Rachel again was weeping for her children.

But this is not where either Jeremiah or Matthew leaves us. By God’s mercy, there is hope and the promise of full restoration in Christ.

The Lord continued to speak through Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country.” [Jeremiah 31:16-17]

God, not the murderer, has the last word. For those in Christ, there is the promise of full restoration. Even in the face of such unmitigated horror, there is hope. “There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to your own country.”


The Cross Reveals God’s Wrath and Love By Dan Delzell , Special to CP

Many people obviously have a hard time reconciling the God of the  Old Testament with the God of the New Testament….but it’s really not as  complicated as it appears. In actuality, it is the same God in both  places….the one true God. He is exactly the same today as He was 6000 years  ago when He created Adam and Eve. God has not changed one iota.

“But He endorsed so much violence in the Old Testament against the enemies of Israel….whereas Jesus was so  nonviolent. What’s up with that?” Here’s what is up with that as explained in  the New Testament: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all  the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their  wickedness.” (Romans 1:18) The “wrath of God” was being revealed in those New  Testament days, albeit in a different manner than in the Old Testament. So where  was the wrath of God being revealed when the apostle Paul penned these  words?

It was revealed in one place primarily….and that was on the cross where the  Son of God died. The Gospel was revealed from heaven as the New Testament church  began….and “the message of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18) was a revelation of God’s  wrath and love. If you want to know how much God hates sin….and how perfectly  He abides by His own holiness, just look at the cross and study what happened  there. It took the suffering and death of the sinless One in order to bear the  wrath of God for sinners like us. We deserved that sentence….but Jesus came  and hung in our place, and suffered and died for our sins and for our eternal  salvation.

This event was foretold by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before it happened.  “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the  punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:5) The future punishment which would be laid upon the Messiah was in  the works long before any of God’s people understood that this punishment on the  cross would provide our only means of forgiveness, spiritual healing, and  eternal peace.

The wrath of God delivers punishment to the evildoer. In the case of Christ,  a spotless and perfect sacrifice was given for sinners. “Christ was sacrificed  once to take away the sins of many people.” (Hebrews 9:28) “He is the atoning  sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole  world.” (1 John 2:2) As God’s Word tells us, “Without the shedding of blood,  there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)

The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament never took away sins. God’s Word  declares, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”  (Hebrews 10:4) Those sacrifices only pointed to the sacrifice of “the Lamb of  God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Everything in the Old  Testament was leading up to the cross. The Old Testament and the New Testament  are the unfolding of God’s plan of redemption over many centuries….and they  are perfectly consistent with one another. Both contain God’s wrath and love.

If God wasn’t perfect in holiness, perhaps He could stand to overlook man’s  sin. But if God was imperfect in holiness, He would then become progressively  more and more evil. An evil God would never love the world and want to save  sinners. The God of the universe does not have even a hint of evil within Him.  He is perfect in righteousness, truth, love, goodness, justice, and mercy.

In our day, it often appears that those who commit evil seem to get by  without God doing something about it….like striking them with a lightning  bolt. So where is God’s wrath today? Here are some more words from St. Paul  regarding those who reject God. “But because of your stubbornness and your  unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of  God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:5) While  Jesus bore the wrath which we deserve….those who reject Christ are actually  storing up God’s wrath. It will be unleashed against them on “the day of God’s  wrath” at the end of time.

Just think about that for a minute. People who don’t repent and believe the  good news are literally “storing up” God’s wrath. What a frightening reality! No  wonder the Bible tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  (Psalm 111:10) No wonder Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the  body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both  soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) Jesus loved us enough to tell us the  truth….and then to die in our place so we could live in eternal joy and escape  God’s wrath forever.

Do you honestly think that God will withhold His wrath from those who reject  Him when His own Son wasn’t spared that horrific punishment on the cross for our  sins? Just as Isaiah’s prophecy took 700 years but was eventually fulfilled at  the cross, so also will the punishment of evildoers be sure and consistent with  what God’s Word says about it. “It is impossible for God to lie,” (Hebrews 6:18)  and so He certainly isn’t lying about the future punishment of those who choose  a life of deliberate sin rather than a life with Christ as their Savior and  Lord.

If those who don’t know Christ truly believed that God didn’t spare His Son,  just like He said hundreds of years earlier through Isaiah….then they might  also believe that He will not spare them either if they continue to reject Jesus  as their Savior. It comes down to reading the history of the Bible, which is  really “His Story” of man’s fall into sin and God’s plan of redemption….and  then believing it….and relying upon Christ to save you. It’s not complicated  when you receive the good news of the Gospel with the faith of a child.

We are the ones who make the Bible complicated by refusing to see the common  thread throughout all of Scripture. There doesn’t seem to be a connection  between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament….unless  you understand the cross. This is where God’s wrath for sin and love for sinners  was satisfied. Punishment was needed in order to pay for the offenses committed  by sinners. Who could bear that punishment? An eternity of suffering on our part  could never fully pay for our sins against God. We would always remain debtors  to the One who made us.

And so God stepped in and did what only He could do to save us. Here again  are some prophetic words from Isaiah: “He saw that there was no one. He was  appalled that there was no one to intervene; so His own arm worked salvation for  Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him.” (Isaiah 59:16) Everything in the  Old Testament was leading up to Christ….and pointing to Christ….and  preparing the way for Christ to come to earth and save us.

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His  blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had  left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. He did it to demonstrate His  justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those  who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25,26) “For Christ died for sins once for  all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)  That took more love on God’s part than you or I can fathom.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever  believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “This is  love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning  sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) There is no question about it. As the  Scripture says, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

Don’t kid yourself into thinking that God has changed. God was the same  during the 4000 years or so of Old Testament history as He has been for the past  2000 years of New Testament history. The timeline has progressed….and the  genealogy from Adam to Christ has been completed (see Luke 3:23-38)….and God’s  plan of salvation has been revealed….but make no mistake about it….God is  the same today as when He created Adam and Eve. He is a God of love and justice.  The cross proves it. What you now do with Christ’s sacrifice for your sins is up  to you, as you listen to the Holy Spirit….or to those misguided voices in our  world who are busy storing up God’s wrath for themselves, rather than getting to  know the Father through the Son.

At the end of the day, many questions remain unanswered in our hearts  concerning time and eternity. But in the midst of our many questions, God made  sure to give us a clear description of the Gospel….because this message “is  the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) So  which will it be for you? An acceptance of God’s love for you in the punishment  which Jesus bore in your place on the cross….or an unleashing of God’s wrath  and punishment upon you as one who rejected Christ to your eternal shame and  misery? “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does  not have life.” (1 John 5:12)

Jesus told people in his first sermon, “Repent and believe the good news.”  (Mark 1:15) A few years later He allowed men to nail Him to a cross as part of  God’s divine plan of redemption. Is this narrative which has been playing out  for the past 6000 years too incredible for you to believe….or is it your  lifeline to forgiveness and eternal life in heaven? You don’t want to be wrong  about this one. Don’t take my word for it….take God’s Word for it.


What if Mary Had Known About Abortion? By Rev. Mark H. Creech , Christian Post Columnist

Recently I saw a t-shirt that said, “The Virgin Mary was an Unwed  Teenage Mother.” That’s true and it reminded me of an interruption that took  place at a Quebec pro-life conference back in October of this year.  LifeSiteNews.com says about a dozen pro-choice protestors descended upon an  evangelical church where the conference was being held, chanting blasphemous  slogans, one of which was a French pro-abortion sing-song against the Virgin  Mary: Ah si Marie avait connu l’avortment, on n’aurait pas tous ces  emmerdement.s. Translated this means, “Oh, If Mary had known about abortion, we wouldn’t have to deal with all this  nonsense.” [1]

Mary was surely a remarkable young woman. When the angel Gabriel came to her  and announced she would bear the Messiah as a virgin, Mary embraced the will of  God knowing the sacrifices it would likely bring (Luke 1:26-38). The plans for  her marriage would be scuttled. For when the news of her pregnancy reached her  espoused husband, Joseph, he would seek to put her away privately. It was only  after Joseph was confronted by an angel himself that he decided to follow  through on the marriage  (Matthew 1:18-20). Her pregnancy would also cast a shadow of scandal over her  and her family. This was seen in a skirmish Jesus had with the religious leaders  of his day, when he referred to them as children of the devil. They in turn  viciously shot-back at Him with the intimation that He was a bastard child, born  of fornication (John 8:41).

By today’s standards in a culture of death, this teenage mother would have  been urged to abort her child. But what if it had been possible for Mary to  abort Jesus?

In his book, What if Jesus Had Never Been Born, the late Dr. D.  James Kennedy writes at length about the immeasurable impact Christianity has  made on the world. Kennedy rightly argues that hospitals, universities, literacy  and education for the masses,  capitalism and free enterprise, representative government, the separation of  political powers, civil liberties, the abolition of slavery, modern science, the discovery of the new world by Columbus,  the elevation of women, benevolence and charity, higher standards of justice,  the elevation of the common man, the condemnation of adultery, homosexuality and other sexual perversions,  which has helped spare the human race, as well as save many from great  heartache, a high regard for human life, the civilizing of barbaric and  primitive cultures, the codifying and putting to print many of the world’s  languages, the inspiration for some of the world’s greatest pieces of art and music, the countless changed lives  from liabilities to assets in society – all have their roots in the  Judeo-Christian ethic. [1]

Indeed, if Jesus had never been born it would have created a huge black hole  bankrupting the world of the sweetest of treasures.

Of course, the birth of Jesus was unique in that God was taking upon Himself  the form of a man. That is much of the beauty of the incarnation of Christ. In  that act God dignified and imbued every human life with an inherent value. When  God robed himself with human flesh, he was communicating to every age this  dramatic declaration, “Everybody is somebody special.”

During this season of the year, millions of people across the country will  enjoy watching the 1946 Frank Capra film classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Jimmy  Stewart stars as George Bailey, whose life takes an unfortunate turn and he  wishes that he was never born. As George stands on a bridge contemplating  suicide, an angel sent from God comes to show him through a series of  experiences how the world would have been impoverished without him. Then the  angel says, “Strange, isn’t it? Every man’s life touches so many other lives,  and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole to fill, doesn’t he?…You see  what a mistake it would be to throw it away.”

Unfortunately, we often don’t see the real costs abortion precipitates. I’m  not one accustomed to quoting Joseph Stalin, but in this case I think it’s  appropriate. Stalin is reported to have said, “A single death is a tragedy, a  million deaths is a statistic.” Abortion in America is not just statistics, its  55 million tragedies – 55 million “awful holes” in society.

Today thousands of women are considering an abortion. Like Mary, the mother  of Jesus, they find themselves in the difficult circumstances of having a child  in unfavorable conditions. Surely it crossed Mary’s mind that when Joseph found  out that she was with child, he wouldn’t marry her. Then how would she and her  child receive proper support? Surely she thought of the possible humiliation and  shame she and her family might undergo. Yet, the Bible teaches this unwed  teenage mother accepted God’s will and trusted Him implicitly. This is what  every woman facing an unexpected and problematic pregnancy ought to do.

Make no mistake. I am not in any way suggesting Mary had been sexually  impure. But the situation she faced and its similarities to that of many women  who encounter the question of abortion each day is striking, nonetheless.

Si Marie avait connu l’avortment – if Mary had known about abortion – if it  had been available to her in her own time – if she had chosen an abortion – life  would be like Jack London‘s character, Wolf Larsen said in “Sea Wolf”: “Life?  Bah! It has no value. Of the cheap things it is the cheapest.” [3] It was  because of Jesus’ birth, the birth of the Son of God – Almighty God Himself  identifying with humanity by becoming flesh that every life is sanctified – every life is deemed special.

Abortion is throwaway life filling our world with dreadful and profound  holes.


Your Brilliance Factor

“For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” Proverbs 8:11

Adrian Grasselly was used to working with precious material. As an expert diamond cutter, he was akin to Michelangelo who could look at a slab of marble and see the statue that was trapped inside. And so, in 1944, when Grasselly began working on that one particular diamond, he studied it for two full months before touching it. Why? Because it was the Liberator diamond—a 155-carat rock worth millions. Because of the magnitude of the treasure, Grasselly spent time thinking through every move in his approach to refining the stone. One wrong move would have instantly ruined the potential of that great rock.

Your life and mine are a lot like that stone. We’re all “diamonds in the rough” with great potential. And just like Grasselly, who deliberated for 60 days before touching the diamond, we need to think long and hard about a strategy for the way we live our lives. One choice at a time, you and I determine our brilliance factor for Jesus.

Let’s think of our brilliance factor as the sum of the good decisions we make, minus the bad ones. The greater the number of wise choices, the greater our ability to radiate the spectacular facets of Christ’s wisdom and character. Let’s face it. We’re all just a few bad moves away from flawing the brilliance of His glory in us. Choices about what we say, how we respond to trouble, how we treat those who don’t treat us well, what we choose to watch, and how we spend our money are all the strokes of the chisel against the diamond in our hearts.

So, how do we know what the downstrokes look like—the strokes that chisel away the rough edges and move us toward brilliance? The transforming work of God in our lives begins when we are willing to live by His wisdom and not our own. Wisdom is seeing all of life from God’s point of view. Since He is perfect wisdom, aligning my choices with His perspective brings the brilliance of His glory to the surface of all my activities and attitudes. Loving my enemies, serving the needs of others, forgiving, being generous, and caring for the needy and the poor are among the transforming downstrokes of His wisdom.

A life lived to reveal the brilliance of His glory happens one choice at a time. And you’ll know that you are on the right track when at the verge of every choice, you check in with God to get His perspective and then proceed to chisel away the rough edges according to what is truly wise.

I love what the Bible says in the book of Proverbs: Wisdom “is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her” (Proverbs 3:15). When you start living by the precious wisdom of God, there is indeed nothing that can compare! His wisdom will chip away the grit and grime from your life and begin the process of changing you into a priceless gem that radiates His spectacular glory—which, by the way, is your brilliance factor.


  • Read one chapter in the book of Proverbs each day for the month of January. As you read, make a list of important facts about wisdom.
  • Write down your strategy for increasing your “brilliance factor” this year. Commit to reviewing and using this strategy before making life choices throughout the year.
  • Spend an hour in solitude and reflect on the choices you’ve made over the past year. Ask God to help you be honest before Him as you assess how many choices have been wise ones.
  • Is there a specific area in your life where you continually make unwise choices? Consider where these choices will lead you. Find an accountability partner to help you make wise choices in this area.


Redemption— Creating the Need it Satisfies

The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him . . . —1 Corinthians 2:14

The gospel of God creates the sense of need for the gospel. Is the gospel hidden to those who are servants already? No, Paul said, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe . . .” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The majority of people think of themselves as being completely moral, and have no sense of need for the gospel. It is God who creates this sense of need in a human being, but that person remains totally unaware of his need until God makes Himself evident. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you . . .” (Matthew 7:7). But God cannot give until a man asks. It is not that He wants to withhold something from us, but that is the plan He has established for the way of redemption. Through our asking, God puts His process in motion, creating something in us that was nonexistent until we asked. The inner reality of redemption is that it creates all the time. And as redemption creates the life of God in us, it also creates the things which belong to that life. The only thing that can possibly satisfy the need is what created the need. This is the meaning of redemption— it creates and it satisfies.

Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32). When we preach our own experiences, people may be interested, but it awakens no real sense of need. But once Jesus Christ is “lifted up,” the Spirit of God creates an awareness of the need for Him. The creative power of the redemption of God works in the souls of men only through the preaching of the gospel. It is never the sharing of personal experiences that saves people, but the truth of redemption. “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).


Close Encounters

“Then Judah went up to him and said: ‘Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself.’”—Genesis 44:18

This Torah portion for this week, Vayigash, is from Genesis 44:18–47:27 and Ezekiel 37:15–28.

Last week’s Torah reading ended on a cliffhanger. After pleading with Jacob to send his youngest son down to Egypt and promising to return him home safely, it appeared that Jacob’s sons had failed. The brothers had been framed, and Benjamin was set up. Joseph’s silver goblet was found in Benjamin’s bag and presumed stolen. Joseph declared his intention to keep Benjamin in Egypt as punishment, and the brothers were at a loss.

This week’s Torah portion begins with what happens next: “Then Judah went up to him . . .” Judah, who took responsibility for returning Benjamin home safely to Jacob, would not accept Joseph’s ruling. He approached Joseph to beg for mercy. And that’s how this selection gets its name: Vayigash, ‘and he approached.’

Beginning with this first confrontation between Judah and Joseph, the reading deals with several more encounters. Many loose ends are tied up as different people are brought together. Shortly after Judah defiantly stated his case before the man he believed to be Egyptian royalty, Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers. The 22-year saga came to an end as the brothers were reunited and made amends.

That reunion was followed by the equally dramatic meeting of Jacob and Joseph when Jacob himself traveled to Egypt. Toward the end of the selection, Pharaoh encountered Jacob and his sons. It was a meeting between two powerful leaders and laid the foundation for the lengthy stay that the children of Israel would have in Pharaoh’s land.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon teaches us that there is a time for everything. Among the ‘times’ that he lists, Solomon wrote that there is “a time to tear and a time to mend,a time to be silentand a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). While other Scriptures teach us about the importance of breaking away from others or holding back from speaking, this selection teaches that there is also a time to speak up and a time to come together. It was time for Judah to speak up on behalf of his brother, no matter what the consequences. It was time for Joseph to reveal his true identity. It was time to heal old rifts and mend broken hearts. It was time.

Confrontations are not always pleasant, so we tend to avoid them. But there is a time for everything, and sometimes, we need to do what we must. If there is a confrontation that you have been avoiding, you may want to take this week to think things over. Although difficult at first, speaking up and coming together – when the time is right – can lead to healing and peace.