For the week of November 15, 2003 / 20 Heshvan 5764
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 18:1 - 22:24
Haftarah: 2 Melachim / 2 Kings 4:1-37
Originally published the week of
November 3, 2001 / 17 Heshvan 5762

The Defeat of Death

Death. When it comes right down to it, the human species has no greater enemy. There is just about nothing that we can do against it. How it comes about for each us may be different, but until the end of time, we must face it. I am sure that most people don't consciously think about death regularly. But I believe that it does lurk in our psyche and has a greater effect upon our lives than most of us will admit.

But if we believe the Bible, we do not have to fear this enemy, for God has conquered it. The resurrection of the Messiah is our guaranty of our own resurrection, if we trust in him. The good news of the New Covenant in Yeshua is that we can participate in his triumph over death.

While his resurrection is a climactic event in the Scriptures, it does not occur in isolation, detached from God's earlier actions in history. While it is unique in its nature, Yeshua was not the first man to come back to life after dying.

In this week's Haftarah, we see Elisha, the successor to Elijah bringing a boy back to life. But I think there is more to the meaning of this story than just the fact of this amazing miracle.

The boy's family had been very kind to Elisha by giving him a place to stay whenever he came to their town. He wanted to do something for them in return. Upon learning of their childless state, he prophesied that they would have a son, which they did about a year later. But one day the boy died.

The mother's response to this tragic turn of events was to go back to Elisha. It sounds as if she blamed him for the whole thing.

"Did I ask you for a son, my lord?" she said. "Didn't I tell you, `Don't raise my hopes'?" (4:28).

On one hand it makes sense that she would go to him, since he initiated this whole thing in the first place. He got her hopes up by promising her a child. Then the miracle baby is born, yet he dies. Her tragedy is worse than her original state - all because of Elisha.

Yet on the other hand, the boy is dead. What is she expecting Elisha to do? Bring him back to life? Maybe that is exactly what she expected. Could it be that somehow, since she understood God's hand in the provision of this child in the first place, she would not accept the boy's death.

This may be why this passage was chosen to be read alongside this week's Torah portion. Abraham was told to sacrifice his son Isaac (Bereshit / Genesis 22), even though God had previously told him that he would have descendants through him. Because Abraham believed God's promise, he knew that even death would not prevent its fulfillment.

God's victory over death in Yeshua was necessary because of his promises to his people. His intention when he created us was that we would live with him forever. Death is the consequence of our rebellion against him. But that is not the end of the story just like the boy's death was not his end. Just like his mother didn't accept her son's lifeless condition, so we don't have to accept the so-called certainty of death. And just like Abraham could trust God with his son's life, we can trust God fully with our lives no matter how death may threaten us.

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