The Great Reversal

Letters written by children to God are always amusing.

One letter from Hank, aged 7 said: “Dear Lord, thank you for the nice day today. You even fooled the TV weatherman.”

Another asks,” Dear Lord, do you ever get mad? My mother gets mad all the time, but she is only human.”

David, aged 7 asks, ”Dear Lord, I need to a raise in my allowance. Could you have one of your angels tell my father?”

And another,” Dear God, can you guess what is the biggest river of them all?  The Amazon. You ought to be able to guess because you made it.  Ha ha. Signed Guess Who.”

Children often have such an honest, open and refreshing way of speaking to the Lord.

This serves to remind us that often when God plans to do something very special in the Bible, it involves a child. To the childless Abraham and Sarah came the unexpected gift of Isaac. To Jacob’s wife Rachel came the unexpected gift of Joseph, plus 11 others. To Hannah, the gift of Samuel and so on.

Even naming your children was very important.  I am sure there were a range of names you looked at for your children, and it may be that you considered a few names the prophets chose for their children such as Isaiah who names his son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, meaning ‘Ahaz’s enemies will be plundered.’ Hosea had a son called Jezreel, and then a daughter, Lo-Ruhamah, meaning ‘for I will no longer have pity on the house ofIsraelor forgive them.’ I guess such names are not less cumbersome than modern constructs like Heavenly Harani Tiger Lily.

The names of two children in the New Testament were also important. You’ll remember that John the Baptist’s father Zechariah got into a bit of a scrap with the angel who said he and his pensioner wife Elizabeth would have a baby and call it John. As a result of the debate, Zechariah went on an involuntary vow of silence for nine months. I guess Elizabeth made all the conversation during Mary’s extended visit.

Again an angel had a clear role to play in telling Joseph that Mary’s baby was to be called Jesus (or Joshua in Hebrew, meaning ‘he will l save his people from their sins.’)

The Lord uses babies, powerless women and unconfident men to get across to people. That reminds us of the importance of The Great Reversal.

Just think how much conventional wisdom of our day is reversed in Scripture.

In Matthew 5, Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’

Our age says, ‘Blessed are the domineering, confident, assertive.’   

Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the meek.’

Where we say, ‘Blessed are the strong, for they will create their own inheritance.’

Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.’

While we say, ‘Blessed are those who want to have a good time.’

Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake.’

Our age says, ‘Blessed are you if you have everything you want.’

Most unlikely of all, Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’

When our age says, ‘Aim for happiness.’

Jesus is saying that it is in these moments you will know your need of the Lord, and that counts for more than anything else.

Those weighed down by depression, defeat, or a sense of failure, are blessed because they can turn to the Lord and find hope.

Again the great reversal applies geographically. In Jesus’ day, everyone was impressed with Rome and Athens, but Micah predicted that the Messiah would come from a tiny, obscure village called Bethlehem.

And broader again, how insignificant is little Israel compared to the great powers of the day.

In Luke 1:40-52, God uses two women, who were largely powerless, in a patriarchal culture and brings about his salvation and purposes through them. Our age is impressed with the wealthy, the Murdochs and Packers of the world, but the Lord is more interested in the Marys and Elizabeths.  Here are two unlikely friends and cousins, a woman probably in her eighties and a teenager, companions in the great reversal. God in verse 52, ‘has lifted up the humble,’ and this also means something for us.

It means for young people, that if you are going to be a Christian, that you will be largely out of step with the world around you. For adults, your career won’t be based on making as much money as possible, but will be built around the question of, ‘What does God want me to do with the gifts he has given me?’ You won’t be just getting, but giving will be important to you. You will have a heart for the disadvantaged, the broken, and the addicted. This is The Great Reversal.  We turn away from the ways of the world and turn to the Lord’s ways, giving you power and a purpose for your life.

We will not buy into the great cultural lie that living together best prepares people for marriage, or is a substitute for it.  The marriages I have taken which are most full of joy are those where the honeymoon commences on the day a couple is married, not some time before.

It is necessary to be out of step with the majority in our times. It is no psychological or spiritual credit to us, to be people who are well adjusted to a world of distorted values and beliefs. However like with Mary and Elizabeth, great joy comes from living in God’s ways through Jesus.

Baptism too is part of The Great Reversal, for few parents look beyond the clothing, education and health of their child. But in baptism we express a concern for the spiritual health as well. Through it we thank the Lord, but also we are saying that there is nothing more important for this child’s life, than their relationship with Jesus Christ. Baptism puts Christ first, the ultimate reversal. 

Browsing through a magazine this week there was an article on a whole cross section of Australian leaders being asked how they would spend Christmas day. Not one of these cultural dilettantes was doing anything to acknowledge the true significance of the day. 

Billy Graham wrote: ‘If God does not judge our nations, then he owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.’

Only The Great Reversal can bring healing to our land and hope to our people.  We see famous people like Heath Ledger and Michael Hutchence as a microcosm of our land. People with everything that most people would want: wealth, style, popularity and family, but it wasn’t enough for them. Not even family had the power to help them rise above suicidal tendencies.   Here we are in Australia, a land with everything, but with a lot of people with dead souls, parched spirits, and an emptiness only The Great Reversal can heal.

Christmas tells us that God took the initiative to make that change possible through Jesus. Through that even we too can share in the joy of Mary and Elisabeth.

By George Robert Iles