Written unto life

Written unto life

Do you every wonder how you’ll be remembered?

I admit I do.  More and more, as I get older.

There was a time in my career when I hungered to have a children’s book published.  Deep down inside, I suspect it was an effort to make something lasting, something that might outlive me.  After I achieved that goal, however, I realized how transient books are.  “Shelf life” is brief existence.  Even Caldecott winners are forgotten within a generation, excepting librarians.  And even they are a dying breed.

For the past few years, I have been keeping a hand-drawn journal.  I hope that it will be a more enduring way of passing on my thoughts and faith to following generations.  But who knows?  I joke that my grandkids will say about my journals, “They look so cool and read so boring!”  (Apparently, they won’t know about adverbs.)

The fact is, it’s rare for a book to last.

In Isaiah 4, we are given another vision of hope – a glimpse of blue sky through the heavy, dark canopy of coming judgment.  God’s rebelling people were soon to go through the cataclysm of a violent invasion.  But, for the survivors, there was still a future:

Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem.  (Isaiah 4:3)

That phrase, recorded among the living, is an interesting one.  On the surface, it could refer to their enduring the ordeal.  But commentators agree that it goes far beyond that.  The literal translation is “written unto life.”  It connects to a thread that runs through Scripture: being written in the Book of Life.

Moses refers to it (Ex. 32:32), as does Paul (Phil. 4:3).  We are told in Rev. 21:23 that “only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will enter heaven.  Hebrews 23:23 pictures an assembly of saints “enrolled in heaven.”

As I walk into our local bookstore to get a shot of shelves of books, I am pleased to find one about Jesus face out.  For Jesus, as he was wont to do, puts all this in perspective:

Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

I can’t think of more memorable acts one could do than the miracles that Jesus and his disciples were engaged in.  Freeing people from demonic oppression.  Healing the sick.  Raising the dead.  That is making a mark on a generation.  That is an impact on this temporal pond that should ripple in the ages to come.  (And, indeed, it did!)

But Jesus says the real thrill for our hearts should be that we already have a secure promise of eternal life.  We, right now, matter for all eternity.

For our names are written in the Lamb’s book.

Incredible.  In whatever way this works in the reality of heaven, God has put pen to paper and recorded the names of all those who trust in his Son.  My name.  Yours.  Not in pencil, mind you.  In permanent ink.  And because it’s there, we’ll be there.

I wonder if we’ll be allowed to see the book.  Wouldn’t that be exhilarating?

And I wonder if he needs someone to illustrate it.

Lord, we rejoice that our names are permanently recorded in your Book of Life.  It is a gift beyond imagining.  Priceless.  Let this truth anchor our perspective on all that we do in this transient world.

Reader:  Just curious – what’s the oldest book you have in your house?  And why have you kept it all these years?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.