On the Birth of Our Daughter
At 10:32 P.M., on Labor Day, September 1st, 2008, God interwove his covenant faithfulness and mercy with the miserable effects of the ancient curse on the woman (see Genesis 3:15-16), and miraculously changed the tortured cries of birthpangs into the joy and triumph of new life. This was both a shadow-reminder of what he had done through Christ Jesus our Lord, some two thousand years ago, when he worked the greatest mercy through the deepest anguish, bringing eternal salvation out of the tortured cries of our Savior, who was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), who became the curse that our rebellion deserved (Galatians 3:13), and who, through that unspeakable suffering, flooded the wicked world of darkness and despair with the joyful beams of light and life (cf. John 16:20-22); and it was also a sign and promise of what he will complete someday, turning the birthpangs of this cursed world into the eternal joy of redemption, in a new heavens and new earth, where righteousness dwells (Romans 8:18-25; 2 Peter 3:13-14). It is only fitting, as we pause to consider the mighty thing that God has done for us this day, that we take advantage of this opportunity to commemorate the mighty and merciful triumph of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ the Righteous.
â€œIn him was life,â€ the beloved disciple observes in the prologue to his gospel; â€œand the life was the light of menâ€ (John 1:4). In this rich and blessed proclamation, we may observe both the essence of the unique person of Jesus, and the effects that his unique person has upon the world of men that he humbly entered into. Jesus is very light, the radiance beaming out from the Father, the exact representation of his ineffable essence (Hebrews 1:1-4), the only one whom to see is to see God (John 14:9). Jesus is also very life: from his great power and almighty will the worlds sprang into being (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16), and continue to remain in existence even today (Colossians 1:17). Apart from him, there is no life.
But Jesus is not just these things within the unapproachable joy and wonder of the most blessed Godhead: he becomes these things to his people, raising them up and giving them life (John 11:25-26, 41-44; Ephesians 2:1-7), flooding them with the light of the knowledge of God (Isaiah 42:6-7; John 8:12). Jesus is the Light of God, who opens up our eyes to see God and know the truth. Jesus is eternal Life, who raises us up to share eternal life in his presence. In him is light, and the light is the life of men.
We must take care not to miss the wonder of this life that Jesus creates within us, through the light of the knowledge of God: at the end of the Gospel of John, when Jesus is offering up to the Father his prayers in our behalf, and revealing the true purpose of the bloody death he was about to die willingly, as our spotless substitute, he explained the meaning of his death's greatest benefit thus: â€œThis is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sentâ€ (John 17:3). When men know God, that is eternal life, and that is what Jesus died to accomplish. But how can men know God when they are blinded to his glory, and cannot even see him? How can they know him, when he is their enemy, because of sin, and is treasuring up wrath against them for the day of judgment (Romans 2:5-9; 5:10)? If men could truly see who God is right now, they would rather run in despair to the very pit of hell than stand before his holy presence; so the knowledge that Jesus bought for men through his sacrificial suffering was more than just an understanding of what he is like. That would not be eternal life, but eternal death and terror.
Jesus bought for his people the life of reconciliation with God (see Romans 5:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19). This is what he means by saying that eternal life is that they might know God. He means that they can now know him, not just as the righteous God who will justly judge them with eternal punishment for their sins, but as the fatherly God who loves them, is pleased with them, delights to satisfy them with the joy of his favorable presence. This is the knowledge of God that Jesus purchased on the cross for his followers: an intimate, personal relationship no longer broken by sin and offense. This is the life that he bought for them, taking all their sins upon his body, suffering the Father's wrath against those sins, and giving them all instead the perfect righteousness that he had won in a life of obedience upon the earth.
Jesus bought his followers peace with God. Peace with God is the true life, containing within itself eternal joy, unending delight, purpose and pleasure that will last forever. Knowing God as a father, experiencing the only true and lasting joy of reconciliation and fellowship with him, in the light of his presence, is life indeed. Jesus is the light of God, and the light of God is peace.
And so, we can think of no better name for our precious new daughter, given to us as a reminder of these truths, than Ariel Shalom. Ariel means the â€œlight of Godâ€. Shalom means â€œpeace,â€ but so much more than what we think of as peace, including in its connotation that perfect state of life, wholeness, and blessedness that attends a restored relationship with the mighty and merciful God. And so, with trembling joy we accept this gift of our daughter, Ariel Shalom, â€œThe light of God is peaceâ€. It is our only hope and prayer that God would remember his covenant, and bring her into the light of God, where all is peace because of Jesus Christ. May her life reflect in rays of true love and godliness the gospel light that beams from the fair face of Jesus our Savior, and be instrumental in bringing many into the wonder of the Kingdom of Life and Light, which is the Kingdom of God's dear Son.
Even so, let it be, Lord Jesus!