Lenten Devotional: Trust the Voice from Heaven

During Lent, the Center for Faith and Inquiry (CFI) shares weekly meditations penned by members of the Gordon community. Join CFI this Lenten season in prayer, in contemplation and in anticipation. Sign up to receive these devotions in your inbox weekly >

Second Sunday of Lent: Psalm 121 and Matthew 17:1-9

COVID-19 has come to disrupt normalcy, cut too many lives short and left far-reaching, unseen effects. Moreover, socio-political toxicity and racial animosity continue to plague America with countless casualties. Where can we find help? Some look to science and Dr. Fauci whereas others hope in “Q,” as in QAnon, or other conspiracy theories. The quest for a “messiah” is the loudest inaudible cry. Typically, people would look to the church for consolation, counsel and refuge, but not this time. Christians have no moral authority to be trusted (they say), even to offer sincere prayers. Words of an old-time song captures the sentiment in the corridors of faith and in the privacy of homes: “where could I go, where could I go, seeking a refuge for my soul?”

As despair paints troubling images in the mind and God seems so far away, may we ponder the words of the psalter: “I lift up my eyes to the hills . . . my help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121:1­–2). Help lies not in programs or ideology but in the Lord; he “watches over” his people, he assures security and preserves the vulnerable (Psalm 121). Fear is the dominant emotion of our time—fear of the other; fear of being exposed; fear of death from COVID-19—fear that unsettles troubled minds and heavy hearts. What if the antidote lies in a confident trust in the Lord?

It was the first century in Palestine. A time of political unrest and religious speculations. Hope seemed so far off, as the religious establishment looked for “a sign” of the coming messiah (Matthew 12:38; 16:1). Matthew recounts the hearsay that Jesus may be the Elijah to come or John the Baptist. Peter had a glimpse when he testified that Jesus is indeed the “messiah, son of the living one” (Matthew 16:13–19). That’s right! Jesus is the hope anticipated. He may not meet human expectations, but who does? The voice from heaven would put the final stamp on the issue at the transfiguration scene. Enveloped by the canopy of heaven’s glory, Moses and Elijah stood alongside Jesus as God declares, “this is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5 ESV). Let fear cease. Keep hope alive and endeavor to follow his lead. He would conquer death and rise victorious. As he said to his disciples, “do not fear, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”

A story about a little girl walking with her dad echoes how we may dispel fear and muster courage in our walk with Jesus. A gaze at the oncoming fellow with a huge dog aroused fear in the girl. Her fearful stare at the father’s face unleashed paternal instincts to protect. Looking at his daughter, the father asked her to be still. “The dog will not hurt you,” he said softly. Immediately, her countenance changed with a renewed confidence. In minutes, she would be allowed to pet the animal she later referred to as “the beautiful dog.” Note! Overcome by fear, she could not see a harmless dog. Seeing from dad’s eyes, she could get closer and find beauty in the animal she first thought was one scary beast. What blinds your vision in these desperate times? Remember, help can be found in no other but Jesus. Trust the voice from heaven; “This is my beloved son . . . listen to him.” Yes, he came that we might have life—even life eternal.

By Daniel K. Darko, Professor of New Testament