Thursday, February 03, 2011

First the victory, then comes the Fight

In Revelation 15, John hears and sees the new Israel standing on the sea of glass with harps singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty!” Notice that the new Israel is standing on the sea of glass. In the Old Covenant, God parted the sea so that Israel might walk on dry land, but in the New Covenant, our Greater Moses, the Lord Jesus walked on the sea as though it was dry land. And in Christ, the new Israel learns to walk on the sea as though it were covered in a sheet of glass. This new Israel is walking across the sea, over the tops of sea monsters, and the wind and waves cannot harm them. No storm can shake them because their eyes are fixed on Jesus.

But the story seems a little backwards in Revelation: this new Israel stands on the sea and sings the song of Moses and the Lamb, and after that, John sees seven angels going out with seven bowls full of seven plagues to pour out the wrath of God upon the earth. In other words, in this new exodus story in Revelation, the song of Moses comes first and then the plagues. First is the victory and then comes the fight.

But this is exactly right because the greatest and most marvelous work has already been done. There is nothing greater, no creative act more marvelous than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the cross of Jesus, every pharaoh was disarmed and all their chariots were thrown into the sea. In the cross of Christ, sinners were forgiven. In the cross of Christ, Jesus was exalted and proven to be the rightful king and heir of the world. In the cross of Christ, all the rival gods were triumphed over. In the cross of Jesus, a new and living way was opened for the world, a way back into the presence of God, a way to restore peace and justice, a way to put this world back together. In the cross of Jesus, God was revealed as a warrior, a man of war. And therefore, on this side of Easter, we celebrate the victory first and then comes the fight. We stand on the sea and sing our song of victory and then comes the battle.

And this has at least two implications for our celebration of baptism. First, this is one way to explain why we baptize babies. The objection that is frequently offered, that they are too young, that we do not know if they believe, that they may not be among the elect, -- these are all objections that would have made better sense in the Old Covenant in some ways, back when the victory was still shadowy and faint and ahead of us. But now the victory has been won. First is the victory then comes the fight. So first we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus for our children and mark them with His name and in His blood, and then we teach them to join the battle.

Finally, if Paul can point back to the crossing of the Red Sea as a baptism of the old Israel, as He does in 1 Corinthians 10, then it doesn’t seem odd to imagine this new Israel in Revelation standing on the sea as another picture of baptism. In the first instance, Yahweh displayed His rule over creation, bending the sea in two for His beloved saints to pass through, but in the new Covenant He invites us to share in that rule, in that dominion over creation. And so while we sprinkle a few drops of water on the forehead of a baby, we ought to see the power of God protecting and equipping another daughter of Eve to rule this world in wisdom. All the strength of Pharaoh, all the terrors of sin, all the might of Satan – it has all been disarmed and thrown down and rendered powerless and harmless. All the ragings of the sea are but a few drops of water on a baby’s forehead because Yahweh is a man of war. And Jesus is His name.

CJ and Lisa, teach your daughter these things. Teach her that the victory comes first and then comes the battle. Teach her that she was united to that victory in her baptism, and teach her to rule over the lusts and passions that war in her flesh and to subdue all of her fears and worries. Remind her that she is called to walk on top of the sea with her eyes fixed on Jesus.

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