The Scripture says, “Get up, O sleeper, arise from out of the dead, and jesus a gospel of love will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14). The context is the wonderful transformation that takes place at baptism, when someone spiritually dead suddenly receives spiritual life, the sinner becomes the saint, and an awesome, profoundly powerful light penetrates and conquers the deepest darkness. But what now happens in scriptural baptism has happened before.
Mountaintops often come with cliffs
Sometimes, the greatest woes fall upon people immediately after the happiest time of their lives. Job thought the blessings of his life would go on and on. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned a thousand sheep for each son, and a thousand camels for each daughter, not counting the oxen and the donkeys. He was the greatest man in the East, but in a day he had lost it all.
Just two weeks ago, the nephew of one of the Christians in our congregation was preparing for his wedding, set for December 15. Tony was 19 and his fiancée Kelcy was 21. Then, suddenly and without any warning, Kelcy died. That may be the risk of a mountaintop experience: many mountaintops come with cliffs. They buried Kelcy in her wedding dress.
During the reign of Jeroboam II, from 793 to 753 B.C.E., the northern nation of Israel was at the peak of its prosperity. This happened despite Jeroboam’s wickedness. The biblical text offers this explanation: “The LORD had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. And since the LORD had not said He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash” (2 Kings 14:26-27). Jeroboam even conquered Damascus and “restored the boundaries of Israel from the entrance to Hamath” (way north of Damascus) “to the Sea of the Arabah” (known to us as the Dead Sea), “in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher” (2 Kings 14:28, 25).
This is the same Jonah who preached in Nineveh. You may not be familiar with his hometown, a tiny village in Galilee, as a matter of fact very near to what would later be Nazareth. The land was so prosperous that a few years later, King Menahem was able to buy off Tiglath-Pileser and stop his invasion by paying the Assyrian king a thousand talents of silver-that’s 37 tons-an astounding sum that he was able to raise by extracting 50 shekels from every wealthy man in his realm. 50 shekels is 1-1/4 pounds, which means that the northern nation of Israel at that time had 59,200 wealthy men! Of course, this was a foolish thing to do, for it only convinced Tiglath-Pileser that he could extract more money from the prosperous kingdom.