I have written here before about my love of Handel’s musical masterpiece, Messiah. I have always taken time at both Christmas and Easter to immerse myself in this beautiful music setting of the life of Christ. Today, however, this classical piece of art took on new meaning as I turned to it in a time of distress for my family.
My wife’s father has been fighting cancer, and yesterday the doctors informed us that the end was quite near. The family is now gathering to say goodbyes and be together in this time of bittersweet sorrow.
Paul instructed the believers concerning death in I Thessalonians 4:13-18: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
As I was rejoicing in the fact that we “do not grieve as those without hope,” I was reminded of the words of Job 19:25-27: “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” This Scripture is what led me to bring up my Handel’s Messiah playlist this morning, as it is Messiah that first introduced me to this beautiful passage many years ago.
I went to the Messiah for “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth”, but found so much more to comfort and encourage. I have always found it to be a blessing when celebrating the two highest seasons of the Christian year – Christmas and Easter, but today I found it a great comfort to contemplate the Man of Sorrows in a time of personal sorrow. Consider these great passages of Scripture that Handel set so beautifully to music:
“’Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,’ saith your God. ‘Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.’” (Isaiah 40:1-2)
“He shall feed His flock like a shepherd, and He shall gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Come unto Him all ye that labor. Come unto Him ye that are heavy-ladened, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you and learn of Him. For He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your soul.” (Isaiah 40:11 & Matthew 11:28-29)
“Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
“I know that my redeemer liveth and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead – the firstfruits of them that sleep.” (Job 19:25-26 & I Corinthians 15:20)
“Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Corinthians 15:21-22)
“Behold, I tell you a mystery – we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (I Corinthians 15:51-52)
“O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55)
Once again, the Messiah has shown me the incredible power of great art to move us and, when dedicated to God’s purpose, give us a clearer view of Him. It’s enough to make one shout…
“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent raineth! The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ! And He shall reign forever and ever! King of kings and Lord of lords! Forever and ever! Hallelujah!” (Revelation 19:6, 11:15, & 19:16)
~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chairman