Has anyone ever laughed at you?
Maybe you did something foolish–committed a social faux pas, like kissing someone the wrong way in a foreign country. Or perhaps you were trying out a new language and said something that ended up being acutely embarrassing. It could be that children made fun of you for your freckles or the size of your ears or your lack of skill at a certain activity. (In Canada we now have anti-bullying laws which, while they may be well-intentioned and may reflect our love for equity and justice, may also reduce our children’s ability to resist social bacteria.)
Whatever the cause, the sound of derisive laughter, directed at you, can be painful. Haunting. Unforgettable. But if it were coming from heaven–if the Most High God were laughing at you–it would be terrifying.
Two nights ago, my wife and I attended an excellent performance of Handel’s timeless oratorio, “MESSIAH,” at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre. I have a deep love for this magnificent work, and every time I hear it, I am struck anew with the power of the text. This concert was no different.
I had spent the day (several days, actually) looking forward to this performance–an oasis of truth in a desert of foolishness; a towering summit of majesty erupting from the flatlands of the banal; a blossom of exquisite beauty thriving in a vacant lot of mindlessness. It did not disappoint. Even though most of the performers probably don’t know the One of whom they sing and play, for us, MESSIAH is not simply art. It is worship.
Last night, the baritone aria in PART II resonated with me. The psalmist asks,
Why do the nations so furiously rage together, and why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed, saying:
(And the chorus responds with the scornful, presumptuous words of the people):
Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their yokes from us.
Then comes the response from heaven:
He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn: the Lord shall have them in derision.
Derisive laughter thundering down from heaven–what a frightening image of the futility of man’s thinking! God mocks the rich, the powerful, the arrogant, the highly esteemed with his laughter. He holds His enemies in contempt. He dismisses their strategies to make Him go away as absurd. He abhors the presumption of self-righteousness and the slavery of religion with a jealous fury.
This year ends in turmoil–perhaps more than most years do. Ideological and political skirmishes; the savagery of ruthless, lust-crazed thugs posing as religious zealots; natural disasters; the vicious murders of families and school children; the threat of economic collapse; the spread of disease and the reappearance of Bubonic plague; scandals in Parliaments and universities–and all of it ultimately caused by the refusal to believe in Immanuel, God With Us.
The words just before the Hallelujah Chorus are chilling:
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
A time is coming, and it may be soon, when God’s forbearance with sinful humanity will have run its course, and His wrath will be poured out on those who oppose Him. Despite their many chances to repent from their sin and accept His “marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,” they will be destroyed by the God they sought to destroy; judged by the Creator they mocked; and abandoned by the Lover of their souls. And then “every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (PHI 2.10,11) Having chosen to live apart from God, they will get their wish and spend eternity in hell.
This might not sound very cheery if Christmas to you is about sugar plums and elves and jingle bells. God came to earth. The Creator became part of His creation. He lived a sinless life, died a gruesome death, and rose again to conquer both sin and death once and for all. Simply trusting in Him guarantees not only eternity in the unimaginable glory of His heaven, but also an abundant, joyful, satisfying life on earth–life with purpose.
God will laugh. Count on it. Just make sure He doesn’t laugh at you.
Image from www.k12moms.com