Thursday, February 23, 2017

She wears feathers - but she can teach us!


As we conclude this week's study, I want to refresh our memory of what we noted yesterday -- the raven looked for death, but the dove looked for life.

Let's dive in!
We can remember from our focus passage that the dove brought back a snippet of an olive branch in her beak, when she returned to the ark. Olive trees are one of the hardiest in the world, and that's why they were so important in ancient times. You didn't need "bottomland" or especially rich soil to grow them, and even in poor soil and in times of drought, they would produce olives to be pressed for oil and sold. No wonder so many families relied upon them for their livelihood. It was an unofficial symbol of life for the children of God . . . and it certainly was a sign of hope for those in the ark.

Sure, they were happy to have been spared, to still be alive and together with their loved ones. But day after day, week after week, they continued to float on the waters. They may have begun to wonder when it would all be over. Sure would be much easier if God would just tell them . . . kind of like when I'm asking for guidance and I wish that God would show me a sign -- neon or otherwise -- so that I would know for sure! (Can I get an "Amen!"?)

Scholars tell us that they would have been confined to their boat, floating along for almost a year.
So, that tiny bit of an olive tree was a sign of hope! God gave them a sign that said, "Hang in there, because things are getting better. Much better!"
Our Bible is filled with stories about courageous, Godly men and women who faced obstacles in their lives. They looked trials, hard times, and even death squarely in the eye. One message is repeated as we read their stories: God always was standing beside them.
Think about it -- Daniel, David, Moses, Esther, and Deborah. Each of their stories has the same message for us:
Do you not know?    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,    and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary    and increases the power of the weak. 
Even youths grow tired and weary,    and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;    they will run and not grow weary,    they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40: 28-31)

Our trials won't last forever. There will come a time when we, too, will walk out the door of our own "ark" and see a new world of hope. But we must wait for God's timing. The flood went away when God was ready for it to go. And He sent His people a sign of hope, from the little dove. She did her job!

Lastly, the dove can teach us about life in Christ. The raven flew away from the ark and never returned to Noah's hand. But when the dove was released, and she could not find a place to set her feet, she returned to Noah. He reached out his hand and took her back into the safety of the ark. She was safe from death.
We can learn from the dove . . . God didn't create us to die. He created us to live forever. That is why Jesus came and died on the cross in our place, and rose again.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Jesus conquered death. And here is what will happen when He comes again:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory?    Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:51-57)
Our lives are safe in God's hands, just as the dove was safe when she returned to Noah's hand, and was brought inside the ark.

The old hymn says "hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand" . . .  Praise God!

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