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… the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.
(Matthew 4:16 ESV)
Reading this today I paused to consider the horror of living in a place which is described as “the region and shadow of death” – my heart shrinks back from even the idea. Yet, in places such as Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Burma, Afghanistan – these could all be described as living under the shadow of death.
I suspect that if seen spiritually my own nation might be similarly described, with greater terror and horror because the death is eternal. Through the same sort of callous indifference which sends poor people to perish of hunger and disease and slaughters entire villages, I am unmoved as people I know plunge into an eternity of hell without making any attempt to warn them. Will I watch and take pictures as others perish?
Yet, there are differences between the soul-need of people around me and he starving people in the world – physically hungry people will generally eat food if it is offered to them. The spiritually starving are more like anorexics, they think they are fine and cannot see that they need to eat.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV)
I cannot open their eyes, but I can at least abide in Christ and act in love such that if their eyes are opened by God they will see some dim reflection of Christ in me and know that he is good (Psalm 34:8).
And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire;
(Jude 1:22-23 ESV)
In order to have something to give the spiritually hungry, soul-starving people all around me I must abide in Christ and bear fruit. That fruit may be in the very words I use, spoken or written. The Word of God created the world, used rightly, our words can change the world. The light which has dawned upon those living under the shadow of death is the Word, the One who with a word can say “live!“ and it will happen.