Wednesday, January 18, 2006
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By Ramone - January 11, 2006
I was changing subway lines when I got a flash of a picture of blue banners. The feeling was of His love, and in a time of darkness. What ensued was a bit of a struggle with me and God. Or rather, a struggle between me and some things I've learned & felt in the last few years.
I'm not into the militant warfare movements in Christianity. I believe we are the redeemed, the ones purchased by His blood. But many people these days are fond of envisioning the church as the "army of the Lord" in the end times, and forget that when Scripture uses that expression it is usually not talking about God's people, but rather about angelic hosts or often about judgments God is bringing against His people (see Joel 2 for example).
It was difficult at one particular place where I craved time to adore Christ, to worship Him, to minister to Him and hear His heart, but the leadership of the church worshiped mainly for warfare. Okay, anyway, so you can see I've had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to war symbols!
Then He gives me this picture. So I need to see this from Your heart, Lord. Help me understand what this means, and the beauty with which You see us. The first verse I remembered was Song of Songs 6:4, which I put on the third picture:
I used NIV for the text, but just now in comparing I looked at the NKJV and noticed that the words "an army" are added by translators. So in Hebrew it would then say, "You are awesome as with banners".
I wondered how to draw this picture of blue banners, and how to make the people below look. Carrying crosses? No, too reminiscient of the Crusades. So often we carry a physical "cross" but are not carrying the Cross. It's easy to march "in His name" but much more difficult---and humbling---to march in His steps, in His agape love, in His grace.
Finally I realized that no matter how hard I would try, I could not see the people holding the banners. Why? Because it's not about us. It's about Him. He's calling us as a faceless people, a people who will be interested in carrying forth His glory---the glory of His humble agape love---instead of being seen as those on the "right side".
Tirzah? The Amplified Bible notes that Tirzah was the first capital of Israel (the Northern Kingdom). God raised up Jeroboam as an adversary to Solomon because of Solomon's unfaithfulness. It seems Jeroboam was a good person & hard worker for Solomon, but after the Lord said He would use Jeroboam to divide Solomon's kingdom, Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam and he fled to Egypt. When Solomon died and his son Rehoboam began his reign, the people of Israel called for Jeroboam to represent them and voice their pains of how they had suffered under Solomon's forced labor. Jeroboam still wanted to serve the king and was willing to, but asked that their heavy load be lightened. Rehoboam was given this advice by his father's advisors:
"If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants."
Unfortunately Rehoboam rejected their advice and threatened to make the Israelites' load heavier. He was proud and did not want to be a servant; instead he wanted to be served. He wanted control. At this point, however, Jeroboam represented the servants who wanted to want to serve the king. Jeroboam would later turn away from the Lord, but in this, the beginning of his kingdom, there was a beautiful thing, which I think is what the Lord means in the Song of Songs text: Here in Tirzah, servants gathered who wanted to honor their king, who wanted to serve a loving king. This was Jeroboam's first love (which he later left).
I think God is saying that our love & service for Him (and for our leaders) is something that can't be forced, something that can't be ordered. He wants us to be free, and He wants our love freely given to Him. He's not asking us to go out and make the world obedient to Him. He's asking us to love Him and know that He is not like Rehoboam, but that He is a loving King who is enraptured with us, and we will know this more and more as we hold onto Him, our first love.
My God! Do we even know half of what we're carrying? You're amazing, awesome! You melt me and floor me! Holding that banner, holding up You! You are our Banner! You are the one we hold up! You are our place of rest! Carrying Your loving grace, we're holding that banner of Your voice, the voice of rushing waters soothing & restoring us, the voice of Your love drowning our sins in the depths of the sea! And in this way, in this carrying of Your banner, Your loving word, the "earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14).
This is my favorite of the three pictures. I can't help but think that these banners are the "banners of the redeemed". I had a reflex-flinch reaction to the banners, but when I bring "His banner" in the light of His presence, His love, His cross, His word, above all His agape grace, it makes me smile. We're the redeemed, carrying that banner humbly. Not showing our righteousness to the world, but carrying instead His love. Not saying who's lost and who's saved, but saying instead "Look at Him! Look what He's done for us!"
Like an army it does require courage... courage to lift up the One, the Banner, His blue banner of Redemption, to party with the Father joyfully as He embraces the ones we would otherwise reject. It's His party for them and for us, the ocean of His love & forgiveness for us.
The night I saw the banners and was walking to a part-time job, I was still talking with the Lord and wrestling with the warlike messages we've put onto Christ's gospel. I felt like I should detour over to the park. I only had a few minutes before work, but I had time to see this beautiful new little waterfall-fountain in Utsubo park which reminded me of the picture of the banners...
It was just beautiful and peaceful. The flood-lights were even blue! I looked up and saw the moon just like I drew it in the above pictures. I wish this little picture could show the joy, peace & bubbling beauty of the water bouncing down the steps! It was then I thought of how in Revelation His voice is like the sound of rushing waters. All that soothing peace, all that joy---all of that is the "banner" we're to carry into the darkness.
Isn't the Lord calling us to put down our banners (what we think is Him but is not Him), and pick up His banner? Isn't He calling us in the Church back to our first love, back to proclaiming the gospel of His grace?
Pass through, pass through the gates!
Prepare the way for the people.
Build up, build up the highway!
Remove the stones.
Raise a banner for the nations.