I shared this post last summer when I was in Israel, after visiting the historic site of Shiloh. Because I felt it fit nicely with my last post, I've decided to actually put it on the blog. I'm sorry to those of you for whom this is a repeat.
A Reflection on Shiloh: A little over a year ago my brother and sister-in-law miscarried. Amy was early in the pregnancy when she lost the baby that she and Caleb named Shiloh. They honored the baby by going up on the Parkway and having a memorial service.
Today, I visited the historic site of Shiloh, where the Tabernacle of the LORD once stood. I could not help but think about the unborn child throughout much of my time reflecting on God's sanctuary that inhabited this place over 3,000 years ago. Shiloh is a location where God caused His Name to dwell. It is a place that He made his sanctuary. It is a site that was very special to Him. In the Bible we only have a handful of places that God especially calls His own. Shiloh is one of them. I thought about how the Tabernacle would have likely stood on the plateau in front of me. I imagined the inner sanctum - the Holy of Holies - where only the High Priest could go (and that only once a year). I pondered how it is that in this very space God preserved for Himself a hidden room, that only His eyes saw on a continual basis. And, I thought about how only God ever saw baby Shiloh. He is the only One who ever knew this unborn person. And, I realized that just as God preserved for himself a secret place in Shiloh of Israel - that only He was allowed to see (with any sort of regularity) - so God preserved for Himself the same kind of place in the soul of Shiloh Johnson.
I have never known the pain of a miscarriage personally. But, I know from others that there is something about it that seems like Hell. It seems vain, and empty, and evil. It reminds us of brokenness, and a world that is not well. Today, however, I wondered if in some way there might also be something more of Heaven in it than we realize. Of course to us it feels like Hell. That is because we never have the privilege of knowing the child. We never get to see the person develop. We never get to see the baby grow up into a man or a woman. We never get to celebrate the birthdays, and the Christmases, and the high school graduation, and the marriage. And, in this, there is a complete and utter sense of loss.
But, today I thought about how God does see the child. Although He grieves our loss with us - He does not lose the soul in the same way that we do. He knits the soul together in the womb. He knows intimately the unborn baby, just as he knows the mother. And, with every child who is never brought into this world, there is a sense in which God preserves the soul exclusively for Himself.
I thought today about how this is just like God. I am told that humans have never seen most of the universe. No man has ever laid eyes upon the majority of the beauty in the cosmos. There are entire galaxies, with quasars, and suns, and planets, and moons, that not one person has ever experienced. So too, I am told that there are caves - in the arctic - that people will occasionally discover. They will find that inside of them are incredible ice crystal palaces, that are intensely beautiful. And, when these caves are discovered, the consensus is frequently that they have never before been seen by mankind's eye. Likewise, I've been told that in the very deep ocean, there are animals that most of us would never imagine. From time to time, some man or woman will go on an expedition and will find them. But, for the most part, these fantastic creatures are known to no-one but God. Yes - God is accustomed to keeping some things exclusively for Himself. Some things - and some people - He preserves only for His own enjoyment.
Today as I thought on all of these things at Shiloh, I composed this proverb: "There are three secret things that the LORD loves, even four in which His soul alone delights: the distant galaxy, in which He spreads His Heavenly tent; the crystal cave, which He makes into His private palace; the ocean floor, in which He hides His peculiar treasures; and the unborn child, whose soul He will not allow to be spotted by the world."
I know that we good protestants don't believe in praying on behalf of the dead. However, I know of no rule - protestant or otherwise - that forbids us to pray to God about His relationship with the dead. (And - after all - He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. For to Him, all are alive anyway.) So, this morning I prayed that God would delight Himself especially in this secret one: Shiloh. I prayed that God would find great pleasure today in this soul that He made entirely for Himself. And although my eyes have never seen the inner sanctum of Shiloh, I am encouraged today to remember the One who chose Shiloh for His own private sanctuary.