“Lord I do believe; help my unbelief.”
When I was very young I used to think, how great it would be if I knew that I would go to heaven because then I wouldn’t need to worry about anything that happens, be it being hurt or having no money or failing in things because none of that stuff would matter because it would all be so unimportant and trivial up and against living forever in heaven.
Maybe the silly musings of a child. But maybe the musings I should, maybe we could re-visit when caught up in our adult lives with so much going on. Old age, illness, western society seeming to impose the need for earthly success and all the stuff that can sneak in and consume our thinking and striving and even supposedly decide our peace and happiness score.
All these hurts and joys, losses and successes are part of life and if say someone becomes very fortunate in life it’s certainly not a sin, but a gift and so enjoy it.
Similar if we see a great miracle that can only be God given, we shouldn’t say we don’t want it but delight in such a gift.
Yet in all things we can take a lesson from Job who in gain and loss simply remarks “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” and we know following that, the Lord gaveth Job back his earthly riches.
Last week we talked about our peace within not being based on how we feel, but coming from outside us in knowing that irrespective of how we feel a particular day, that we are still forgiven and saved in Christ and likewise whether great in earthly riches or not, whether witnessing a great miracle from God or not, it is irrespective to how we stand before God the Father as forgiven, saved and redeemed before God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son.
To believe in this we don’t have to witness a great miracle like a burning bush in the desert or the parting of the Red sea because we know it in the greatest gift and miracle we’ve been given which is faith, and then in faith do the scriptures further enlighten us. This could all seem a little like the chicken and the egg but is far from it because only in faith can we then understand and believe in the other ways that God has shown us how he has done things. Things like in today’s text where God gives us some back up logic to help confirm things, yet logic that can only bring that peace I wished for as a child when seen through the eyes of faith.
It’s sought of a paradox that when in faith, the logical can be helpful when we associate with the man as recorded in Mark 9:24 where we hear “And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
And the logic that defies logic unless seen through faith that sees us accepting the words of Romans 8:17 for ourselves that “if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if so it be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”
Joint heirs with Christ. Us, the us that we know think bad thoughts and do messy things-we know in faith we’re saved in Christ, but joint heirs with Christ? Wow.
We know it’s true because the scriptures tell us but even in faith it does tend to be a little, yes “I do believe; (but) help my unbelief.”
So, God gives us a hand to understand through the gift of faith to understand the miracle of the virgin birth to yes, help answer our inquiring and logical mind.
Today’s text sees Jesus being taken to the temple after forty days and remarkably although the Jews were waiting for a warrior type king and saviour, Simeon and Anna blessed with the Holy Spirit saw and knew that this little baby is the Saviour and in that miracle itself could we talk.
But for the purposes of helping answer a little boy cry out “I do believe; help my unbelief” I would like to dig a little further.
Firstly why is Jesus being presented in the temple after forty days? Forty days that comes up so many times in other parts of scripture:
In the Old Testament, when God destroyed the earth with water, He caused it to rain 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:12). After Moses killed the Egyptian, he fled to Midian, where he spent 40 years in the desert tending flocks (Acts 7:30). Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18). Moses interceded on Israel’s behalf for 40 days and 40 nights (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25). The Law specified a maximum number of lashes a man could receive for a crime, setting the limit at 40 (Deuteronomy 25:3). The Israelite spies took 40 days to spy out Canaan (Numbers 13:25). The Israelites wandered for 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2-5). Before Samson’s deliverance, Israel served the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1). Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him (1 Samuel 17:16). When Elijah fled from Jezebel, he travelled 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).
The number 40 also appears in the prophecies of Ezekiel (4:6; 29:11-13) and Jonah (3:4) and
In the New Testament, Jesus was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:2) and there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).
But right here, the forty days that Mary and Joseph have followed in bringing the baby Jesus to the temple is straight from Leviticus chapter twelve where we hear that: “The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over.
6 “‘When the days of her purification for a son….are over, she is to bring him to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting, a year-old lamb for a burnt offering (and/or) a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.[a] 7
The thing is that while the bible nowhere specifically assigns any special meaning to the number 40 and that whether or not the number 40 really has any significance is still debated by scholars, it does seem that the Bible definitely use’s 40 to emphasize a spiritual truth.
And the spiritual truth here is a truth seem through the faith of “yes I believe” that answers the “but help me in my unbelief” together with bringing the shining light of Christ where we can know peace on earth no matter our situation through understanding the extraordinary claim by Paul in Romans that we are “joint heirs with Christ of God’s Glory.”
The truth of this little child being presented in His father’s house that is so simple yet so profound that we need never listen to those thoughts of “If, or of earthly hope” but of know and rejoice and live in the peace of our salvation no matter our circumstance.
This has been a little long winded but the answer to our peace here on earth is when seen clearly through the eyes of faith and of how God has brought our salvation about that cannot be attested.
It goes like this:
Back in the day, should two kingdoms be at war, sometimes in the desire to bring peace. One kingdom would give a Kings Son to be married to the other Kings daughter. Problem is that should things flare up, each is still tied by blood to their relevant family and kingdom. But when they had a child, that person could truly unite both kingdoms because he/she had the blood of both within them.
So too the virgin birth of Jesus. Born a human in a human body but not of human seed but of God Himself. Jesus born of both kingdoms of earth and heaven. Jesus 100% human yet 100% divine and Jesus the Son of God, of One with the Father and of one with us, that we are of one with Him.
For me the unfathomable made fathomable and I hope that has helped you as it has helped me to both understand and more importantly rest totally in the truth without second guessing that yes, we are joint heirs with Christ himself and in all things and situations that arise, that we can take peace in the comfort that of what is now, and of what certainly will be, that:
“…in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38).
And in that we thank you Lord and depart today with our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus understanding the peace of God, that surpasses all human understanding. Amen.