In preparing last Sunday's message I returned to this passage in Isaiah 25 about the mountain of the Lord:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)
The sheet and shroud are obvious references to death, familiar to anyone who remembers the morgue scene from any procedural cop show like “Law and Order.”
I overlooked the sheet when we covered this passage on Sunday morning about six months ago, but things have changed for us since then. Now the reference to the sheet takes me back to San Francisco to Monday afternoon, December 21st, literally the longest night and the second worst moment of my life. It was the funeral home rather than the morgue, but otherwise the experience was quite similar to that awful scene from so many movies and television shows with the heartbroken parents holding onto each other and trying not to fall apart in front of strangers.
The worst moment of my life was three days earlier on the phone with the medical examiner: "Mr. Deming, I have the most terrible news about your daughter . . ."
So now this prophecy from 600 years before Jesus has great significance for Gina and me. It says the Lord will destroy the shroud and sheet and swallow up death forever. We did not just learn this and start believing it, but now we need to know it. Just like in Revelation, this passage teaches that the Lord himself will wipe away our tears.
We will always be haunted by that Monday afternoon. Our last glimpse of our daughter comes to mind even when we sleep, but it is not the end of our story or hers. Death is a defeated enemy. The sheet that covers a loved one who has passed to glory will be destroyed, and we can look forward to a joyful reunion in God's presence.