Thursday, 27 October 2016

A generous portion

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places... ~ Psalm 16:6

This morning I stood on the deck, over-looking this piece of earth that we have the privilege to live on. I never tire of the wide, free view. An open arc of mountain, forest, and valley in the distance. A gift each day to lift eyes up and fill me with gratitude. Our smallest son has vowed never to leave Inesi. He is in his element among the trees, finding friends (creepy crawlies) and imagining himself a brave hero on a swashbuckling conquest. There is part of me that wishes that it could be so. That we could just always be here. Together. Safe. Free. Content. That our precious sons could inherit this portion of land, and continue to thrive on the place we now call home. But even if it is not impossible, should that be God's will for our children, it is unlikely.

I'm sure most parents with small or not so small children have at some point looked around themselves, and experienced doubt or even fear about the future for this next generation. Even for themselves. I have. But then I consciously shrug it off. The Lord who has kept us together and remains the anchor of our family, provides and protects. What we have in Him, does not change.

A few days ago as I was checking the rambling roses that we planted along a section of our fence last summer, a verse in Psalm 16 came into my head: "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance." The KJV simply refers to "the lines" and a "goodly heritage". I imagined that David was probably speaking figuratively, but I cheated a bit and "Googled" it to gain clarity. As always when a verse in the bible becomes clear, it has been "living" in my heart and mind and given me much comfort and even a sense of elation.

The allusion is to the “measuring cords” (lines) by which allotments of land were measured, and they are said to “fall”, possibly because after the measurement the portions were distributed by “lot”.

But our interpretation of inheritance often pertains to physical property, whereas "heritage" speaks more of shared values or traditions in a given culture or family. I would imagine a heritage is an intangible inheritance. Not something someone can take away from you.

Like in Psalm 119:111—”Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” Testimonies aren’t an inheritance; they’re a heritage. I was not able to put falling lines together with goodly heritages. But boundary lines and inheritances—those fit well.

David - who in this psalm speaks so much about security that he may be writing from exile - views the Lord as his inheritance, even and especially when his own land is out of his grasp. “Lines” refers literally to boundary lines, but the whole verse is a metaphor: God Himself is David’s portion, lot, and heritage. What more beautiful and pleasant property could you get? It’s no wonder that David ends the psalm by saying,

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

David's inheritance came through "lines" of genealogy. From God's chosen people - Israel, Judah, the Jews, a line was drawn from the first man Adam to the man Christ Jesus. David had reason to speak in this language, for he had God as his portion, a worthy portion, a goodly heritage. What could he have better? What could he desire more? That is why David sings in verse 7: "Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you"

As M Basilea Schlink wrote: "Every Jew, by his very existence, points towards God, towards the election and calling of Abraham, towards the election of Israel as a people for God’s own possession, singled out from among all other nations, particularly loved by God, who gave them special graces and promises and who kept them from perishing, throughout their thousands of years of history. Every Jew is a reminder that God is the Holy God, the God of the ten commandments. Every Jew is a reminder that God lives, that He pronounces blessings and curses and fulfils them both."

It is the natural heritage of the Jews. But in Ephesians 3:6 there is this amazing verse: "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."

We have recently updated our "Last Will and Testament", to make sure that our children will receive/inherit what is due to them by birth. Jesus wrote a will and testament with His blood, so that I may share in the covenant/promise/inheritance of God's chosen people.

By birth, I have no right to this. But God so loved me and so loved you, that He sacrificed His Son, so that we may share in this "goodly heritage". It goes beyond a country gone crazy, a world at war with itself, a chosen people denying and being denied their God-given right. Beyond riots and protests, Christians being persecuted, the "last days" nearing at an alarming rate.

God's plan is unfolding. And I am in it. Just a "scion", shoot, bud - grafted onto the Tree of Life, by a grace too all-encompassing and complete for me to understand. But still, here I am, a royal heiress, made worthy, together with all Jesus' children, to sing: 

For my Maker is my husband – 
the Lord Almighty is His name –
the Holy One of Israel is my Redeemer;
He is called the God of all the earth.
~ Isaiah 54:5 NIV

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Re-store = Re-pent + Re-turn

He restores my soul ~ Psalm 23: 3

I woke up today, with light pouring through the curtains. There was no need to fumble for the bed-side light. Almost half way through October, summer announces itself earlier each day. It urges us to bolt into action, to attempt to do a-z before the end of the year is upon us. In the "garden", minute bunches of yello-green beads have appeared on the grape-vine - the first promise of fruit since it was planted four years ago. Small cupped flowers peek from under the leaves of the young tomato plants. The herbs that add so much flavour to our daily fare, have awakened boldly from their winter sleep, adding an earthy note to the floral jasmine and honeysuckle scent. There is change and activity everywhere. Life on Inesi has also been marked by much change recently. Mostly positive, but draining none the less. This morning, as I lay contemplating the day's agenda, I became aware of how many people I know personally (including myself, and our country at large) who seem to be in dire need of restoration.

I started reciting the familiar, comforting lines of Psalm 23 in my head. The Lord is my Shepherd... And then I came to the phrase: "...He restores my soul." There it was, so simple. We are tired, overwhelmed, fearful, confused, stressed, doubtful, whatever the situation may be - and God restores. But something made me question this...

We were recently pointed to a full teaching on Psalm 23, directly translated from the Hebrew text. It is quite long and it requires concentration. I have been wanting to listen to it, but the days have just flown past in a blurr of busyness (and absentmindedness sometimes). I took a deep breath, put my agenda aside, asked my boys for a bit of "space", found the relevant Youtube, and started listening. The hour and a half sped past. It is too rich and deep to summarise here, but I will leave a link at the bottom of the page if you'd like to listen.

What I would like to share is the meaning of  "being restored" in the context of this special Psalm of David, which has started taking root in my heart. Whenever I have recited this psalm to myself, (often in the dark of night when things go bump and your mind won't come to rest), I have pictured myself in an idyllic, peaceful setting. It is green, lush, the breezes caress, my hand trails in the water and my immediate cares and fears are stilled. Sometimes it took more than a few recitations to bring about the peace I sought. But in the image, I never knew how I got to this green place - I was just there.

David was a shepherd. He wrote from what was very familiar to him. The landscape around Bethlehem, in which he used to tend sheep was incredibly harsh. Arid, hot, rocky, inhospitable. Here, the shepherds had to carefully lead their stubborn sheep, covered in thick, lanolin rich wool, to places where they could escape dying from thirst and exposure. This semi-desert landscape is interspersed by wadi's or valleys, where the riverbeds fill up in the rainy season, but are often just a trickle. When the rivers do fill up, they are perilous places where sheep could easily be drowned. The shepherd had to carefully guide his flock up the river, to where the flow was calm, quiet, still, - where the over-eager sheep could drink without the danger of drowning. On the riverbank would be some trees and patches of  hardy grass where the sheep could graze and rest a while, away from the intensity of the sun.

I need my Shepherd. The world out there is hostile territory for Christians, and becoming increasingly so. I need to walk near to the Shepherd to let him guide me through the peril, submit to the prodding (rod) and hooking (staff), which are for my own good and to His glory. He turns me back from my errors and wanderings.

The original Hebrew word for "restore" in this context is yeshoveiv, which is derived from shuv, which means to turn or return, and is the root of the word teshuvah, meaning: turning back to God through repentance. There was my answer. God restores my soul, when I, turn back to the Shepherd and repent of the things that are wrong in His sight. The things that I have not asked forgiveness for, the things I have or have not done, which have hurt Him or others, or not brought Him glory. First comes the cleansing, then the restoration and refreshing.

True restoration comes through turning back to God through repentance.

Anything else will just be a temporary respite or escape. A denial of the root, which sits just below the surface. Out of sight for the moment, but still there.

When God shows me my errors, gives me repentance, and brings me back to my place and duty again, He restores my soul. And if He did not do so, I would wander endlessly and be undone.

No creature is more ready to go astray than a sheep, or more at a loss to find its way back. But the sheep trust the shepherd, they know His voice, they follow Him. They need Him for protection, for guidance, for all that is necessary to stay alive. The prodding and hooking is not always so gentle. But the shepherd would rather submit the sheep to some heavy handling, than to let them fall into the jaws of a predator, or the many other potential dangers which a sheep out on it's own will encounter.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I am one of  His flock. He restores my soul - He turns me back to Him. For this is where I belong. Away from Him is deception, lies in a sugar coating, deep voids of emptiness.  A good shepherd lays down His life for his sheep. My Shepherd did. I do not follow Him haplessly, since I know no better. I follow Him for there is No better. He is my All in all.

He is my strength when I am weak
He is the treasure that I seek
He Is my all in all

Seeking Him as a precious jewel
To give Him up I'd be a fool
He is my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again, I bless Your name
You are my all in all

When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all
You're my everything
The beginning and the end
The first, the last, You are
The great I AM.

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name!

Link to Psalm 23 - Jacob Prasch teaching: