December 2012

Just Passing Through

”Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7 NIV
These verses describe the spiritual journey each person who longs to wholeheartedly seek after God must take. They embody the essential elements of every epic tale or narrative.
The Bible, mythology, literature and cinematic productions all enthrall us with the story of the hero or heroine venturing forth on a quest to fully apprehend that for which they have been destined. Whether it is Abraham and Sarah, Bilbo Baggins, Indiana Jones or Dorothy, the script follows the same story line.
1. There is an inward beckoning or outward call to leave the security of home for a stouthearted journey into the unknown. (“set their hearts on pilgrimage”)
2. There is the fated passage through one or more deep valleys and trials. (“they pass through the Valley of Baca”)

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When the plowman overtakes the reaper

At first reading, this verse is hard to comprehend and even a bit confusing. It is like a brain teaser. It compares two different metaphors for fruitfulness, growing grain and growing grapes, while at the same time intermixing references to all four of the agricultural seasons: plowing, planting, reaping and treading/threshing.

Right away it is puzzling to consider the picture of a plowman overtaking a reaper. One tends to think it would be the other way around since the normal sequence of events has the reaper following the plowman.

The second analogy of the grape treader overtaking the planter seems more sequentially reasonable but one cannot help but wonder how that can be and what it could mean? Pause and think about it. And then to add even more confusion, the prophet Amos throws in one last sentence that seems to bypass the agricultural seasons altogether by stating simply that wine is going to flow directly from the hills. Are you confused yet? Good, now let’s look at this promise more carefully.

To begin with it needs to be said that this is one of the most remarkable promises ever given regarding God’s ability to release blessing and abundance. It forecasts an era of fruitfulness that can only be explained as miraculous because it overrides the natural law. If there is one promise to claim in the Bible and pray that it will come to pass in your lifetime this is it.

This amazing promise of fruitfulness has two aspects.

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Ready for something new?

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:18-19

There is nothing worse than being in a rut – stuck in a pattern of life that keeps taking you places you don’t want to go. It may be a negative attitude, a destructive habit pattern, a toxic relationship, a dead end job, you name it. Bottom line, you know what a rut is? It is a grave with the ends kicked out. Or at least that is how it can feel.

The promise of a “new thing” quoted above is one of the greatest rutbuster verses in the Bible. Originally it was spoken by God to a sinful and rut-bound Israel promising their deliverance through the coming of the Messiah. But it continues to shine forth as a beacon of hope to all those whose lives are rut bound. And the promised deliverer is still that self-same Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The challenge is that those to whom God seeks to reveal His “new thing” often fail to recognize it. Sadly it is no different today than when God first sent His son Jesus to earth. We read of Jesus that “He came to His own, but His own people did not receive Him.” (John 1:11) Is that perplexing and frustrating or what? There was God, His new thing springing up right under their noses and yet they failed to recognize it. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe, just maybe, it is happening to you right now.

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