…”Deus pro nobis”: the tattoo I’ll never get…

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone… and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2, 6

When reading through Isaiah, as I stated yesterday, with the voice of Jesus as the narrator, the beauty of these texts that I’ve read many times before glow with a refreshed hue in my heart. If you’ve only read the few “Christmas” verses in Isaiah 9 then I encourage you to engage the chapters previous and see how differently this text feels once you get to it. There is a great deal of angst birthed out of spiritual and social despair in the prophet’s words leading up to this point. We get Christmas a scant 30 days after Thanksgiving, this text is predicting Christmas after several generations of darkness.

The phrase that entitles this post, Deus pro nobis, is Latin. In fact, this phrase is the tattoo that I will never get. At some point in my life I decided that I don’t hate tattoos, and I certainly don’t see any moral issue with them, but I’m too old and too satisfied with my skin as-is.  But, if I was to be forced to go under the vibrating needle this is the phrase that I would never want to forget. The expression translates into English very simply: “God is for us”.

God is for us. Despite all that seems to be true at times. Despite all of the darkness that we walk in through some dismal seasons of life. Above all of the things we see on the news and hear on the radio and read in the papers (if anyone still does)…over all of that destruction, decay, and decadence the truth stands firmly written into the DNA of Creation: God is for us.

Sometimes just remembering those four words is enough. Sometimes just clinging by faith to that stable branch is all that separates us from falling into the ravines of hopelessness and holding out one more day to the truth that all is not as it seems.

Israel found itself in a tremendous gutter. Not only were they in darkness but they legitimately belonged there. Everything in the history of the nation for several generations pointed to the fall that they were experiencing and further would experience. But despite sleeping in the bed that they had made with their own hands, there was light on the horizon. All was not lost. They were not abandoned, they were not completely cut off.

There was coming an epic Hero. One who was referred to here, in Isaiah, as a light that was brighter than all of the darkness stored up by an entire nation, even an entire world. Not only was this Hero a bright light but He was a focused light, and He was shining, intentionally, on those in darkness. This Hero was for them. He wasn’t coming to coddle or to stroke their face and say, “everything’s alright”. He was coming with power, surrounded by the fire of the Spirit of the Creator to rescue and reclaim His people.

It is always in the darkest night that we find heroes at their best. When things are going alright and life is smooth we have a tendency to question our heroes. We wonder what their motivations really are. Sometimes we even convince ourselves that we didn’t need them in the first place by deconstructing the past and sanitizing our own condition and situation. In those times we can begin to doubt, when the lights are bright we can all too easily forget…but in this life, in the fallen world we live in, the night always comes.

And maybe that’s why I would choose this to be permanently etched into my skin. Certainly it’s already etched into my soul. If there is one thing I would want to know in the blackest of nights, in the darkest of scenarios, in the coldest of places, and in the most hopeless of situations it is that there is One who is for me. One who loves me. One who cares about my present and has secured my future. Was it not the Father’s unexpected embrace and kiss that astounded the Prodigal and erased any notion of asking for employment? Was this graceful advocacy not the only hope of the woman caught in adultery as she knelt, naked and afraid with rocks behind her and Jesus in front of her? Wasn’t it Jesus who said that He’d come to earth to actually hunt down those who were lost? Those who were without? Those who had no idea if there was anyone left in the world that really cared for them?

We are never forsaken, We are never forgotten: Deus pro nobis.

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