Robert J Morgan tells of missionaries Dick and Margaret Hillis and their experience during World War II in his story recorded in “On This Day.” The Hillis’ were caught in China during the Japanese invasion. The couple lived with their two children in the inland town of Shenkiu. The village was tense with fear, and every day brought terrifying reports of the Japanese advance. At the worst possible time, Dick developed appendicitis, and he knew his life depended on making the long journey by ricksha to the hospital. On January 15, 1941, with deep foreboding, Margaret watched him leave.
Soon the Chinese colonel came with news. The enemy was near, and townspeople must evacuate. Margaret shivered, knowing that one-year-old Johnny and two-month-old Margaret Anne would never survive as refugees. So, she stayed put. Early the next morning she tore the page from the wall calendar and read the new day’s Scripture. It was Psalm 56:3, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”
The town emptied during the day, and the next morning Margaret arose, feeling abandoned. The new verse on the calendar was Psalm 9:10, “Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”
The next morning, she arose to distant sounds of gunfire and worried about food for her children. The calendar verse was Genesis 50:21, “I will nourish you and your little ones.” An old woman suddenly came to their house with a pail of steaming goat’s milk, and another straggler arrived with a basket of eggs.
Throughout the day, sounds of warfare grew louder, and during the night Margaret prayed for deliverance. The next morning, she tore the page from the calendar to read Psalm 56:9, “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back.” The battle was looming closer, and Margaret didn’t go to bed that night. Invasion seemed imminent. But the next morning, all was quiet. Suddenly, villagers began returning to their homes, and the colonel knocked on her door. For some reason, he told her, the Japanese had withdrawn their troops. No one could understand it, but the danger had passed. They were safe.
When all seems lost, we can trust that God will be there with us and for us. He will not forsake us in our time of desperation. Yet, there was a moment on a hill just outside the city of Jerusalem when God stepped back and let the world have its way with a man. Though he was innocent, he would pay the steepest penalty for someone else’s crimes – ours. Jesus would find himself abandoned on the cross with his Father turning His favor from him, His own Son, for a moment in which all hell would let loose against him, claiming victory. But the victory was short-lived because God would not look away long and would once again look with favor upon His one and only Son and life would triumph.
This Sunday, please join us as we examine another word spoken from the cross of Christ. As we open up the Gospel of Mark, we will see this most extraordinary moment played out before us as we explore what it means to be forsaken by God.
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