Monday, January 14, 2013

Mighty In Battle

"Come to me...and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

As a writer I am familiar with, and use often, various forms of poetic language.  Hyperbole, metaphors, similes; these are like colors to me on a painter's palette.  The writers of the Bible use them shamelessly.  And so does God.  Not only in the spoken word, but in the way He has designed us to know Him and live life to the full.

Of the ways God expresses Himself and functions, I think my favorite is His use of oxymorons. (Too bad it doesn't have a better name :)  An oxymoron is when words or actions are used in conjunction but do not seem to go together. It comes from the words oxus, meaning ‘sharp’ and mōros, meaning  ‘foolish.’  And that's what it literally means: Sharp foolishness.  Something so stunningly opposite it makes you say, 'Wait a minute; How can that be?'

God brought some things together for me this week that fall into this category.  I've been reading about God's people after their time of exile in Babylon.  They returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, and God made some grand statements about His plans for them.  He promised restoration and strength.  He told the prophets, "They will be like mighty warriors in battle, trampling their enemies in the mud under their feet.  Since the LORD is with them as they fight, they will overthrow even the horsemen of the enemy." (Zech. 10:5 NLT)

God is referring to the Messiah coming "to look after his flock" and "make them mighty in battle".  And when Jesus came, many were looking for Him to overthrow the Roman government.  However, He didn't do that.  He came preaching a message of love and peace, not one of political revolution.  This begs the question, "What was God talking about?"

When Jesus went around Israel teaching and preaching, He didn't talk about winning battles against the "powers that be" or evil nations.  He didn't talk about winning battles against enemies or troublesome neighbors or people with different views; He talked about winning battles of the heart.  To choose love instead of hate, peace instead of strife, true worship instead religious piety, generosity instead of greed, trust in God instead of worry, rest instead of weariness.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  He was ready to extend mercy, compassion, healing, forgiveness, and redemption.  He was looking for fellowship..."Love the Lord your God...Remain in My love."  He wasn't looking to lead anyone into battle against the government or religious leaders or whoever had wronged them.  He was leading them into a new way of life; abundant love and joy, perpetual peace and blessings.  He was leading them to overcome their greatest enemies: their inner demons of fear, hopelessness, pride, and unbelief.

Rest comes through surrender and trust.  It comes through a belief in His love; It comes through obedience; It comes with humility; It comes by hanging back.  Hanging out with Jesus.  Resting in His Presence. Abiding in His love.

Mighty warriors at rest?  Love trampling enemies?  Surrender overthrowing kingdoms?  

Sharp foolishness; But it's true.

Are you at rest?  It's possible to be busy and still at rest.  It's possible to be lazy and not at rest.  Jesus isn't talking about our activity-level, our schedule, or our calendar; He's talking about the heart.  Are you at peace?  Are you weary and burdened, or alive and free?  Is your heart filled with love and forgiveness, or anger and pride?  Is your life cluttered with a lot of meaningless, unsatisfying struggle, or rich with restful fullness?  Are you living the kind of life Jesus taught His disciples to live and enjoying it? 

The invitation is simple.  The promise of rest is real.  The choice is yours.  You can win the battles that plague you: "...not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6 NLT)

Let go...and let God.