The Suffering Soldier

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“Blessed are the meek:  for they shall inherit the earth.”  Matthew 5:5

So, here I am on the third beatitude.  First, Jesus, You take me to look deeply into what it really means to be poor in spirit.  We’re talking utter dependency and humility here.  Then I take one step farther and You lead me to try to understand what it is to be a mourner.  And that is humbling and dependent in itself upon You and Your way.  And now, You call me to meekness.  You call me to affliction, oppression, and humbleness under the hand of God, in this fallen world.  It’s like I’m a slow learner.  Because it just seems like different ways to continue to live in and learn the same lesson; how to be humble like You.

And today’s searching, just even the tip of it, already knock’s my socks off.  You’ve already got me in tears.  Because it just keeps getting harder and more personal.  But I see Your hand and I feel it even more as You draw me closer through Your truth.  And the harder it gets in my life, and the more You reveal Yourself in Your Word, the greater You become though my situations or circumstances may grind me into the ground.  Yet there You are, rising above the affliction, standing strong in the midst of the oppression, unchanging, and continuing in control.  And You are my God.  And You will always Be.  And You will never cease being Who You Are.  And a meek person knows that.  And a meek person clings to that.  Because a meek person clings to You no matter what.  And You never let go.  “My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.”  Those are the words of Jesus, of God.  And I can count on them.  Because I can always depend on Him.  Yes, I can ALWAYS depend on You, Lord.

This word meek is “praus” in Greek.  But Jesus is directly quoting Psalm 37:11 here.  “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”  Meek here is the word “anawim” or the root “anaw”.    David uses it again in Psalm 25:9 when he says,  “The meek will He guide in judgment:  and the meek will He teach His way.”  Actually, it’s used over 200 times in the Tanakh, or Old Testament.  So what does this Hebrew concept of “meek” mean?

This is a pretty deep word.  If it doesn’t well up some emotions today, I don’t know what will.  Because it’s basis isn’t really about any moral or spiritual condition.  That’s just an extension.  This is about life and the reality of life and what is inflicted upon us and how we are to look at it and respond to it.  This root, this word, “carries the sense of being forced into submission or being inflicted with pain for punishment.”  It’s always in scenes such as “conflict, oppression and war.”  You know what’s worse?  “It is even used as a description of what God does to His enemies and the ‘humbling’ of captured women.”  Not sounding good, is it?  Pretty sad stuff.

Yes, this is sad.  It seems that humble mourners just became humbled mourners.  I mean, it’s one thing to humble myself, but a whole other thing to be humbled by someone else.  This is painful stuff.  So what does it mean and who does it look like?  Well, Moses is an Old Testament example.  Numbers 12:3 states “(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)”  This is being stated in the midst of conflict, where Miriam and Aaron are not only opposing Moses, but opposing God’s authority in Moses itself.  But look back on his life.  I see lots of affliction and oppression.  But I also see a man, who though he couldn’t see himself being a leader, submitted to God’s authority anyway.  And he continued to submit no matter how tough it got.  And he was so submitted that the tougher it got to lead, the more he was willing to offer himself as a sacrifice in place of the people who were causing the conflict with him and against God in situation after situation.  Sounds like Someone Else I know.

Here’s the ultimate example–Jesus.  “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.”  Of all those who have ever been persecuted, oppressed, inflicted with pain, and forcefully humbled, Jesus rises above them all.  In the midst of being humbled by man, Jesus humbled himself before them.  “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  Why?  Because Jesus understood that our persecution, our troubles, our oppression, our battles, are testing grounds and are all under the control of our heavenly Father.  This wasn’t man’s battle.  This was God’s battle.  God has it all under control.  He did and He still does.  Am I meek enough to believe that just as Moses did and just as Jesus did?  They didn’t just believe it; they knew it.  And they lived it.  And they died it so they continue to live it forever.

So, all this terrible stuff going on in my life, or yours, or those in countries where women and children are being raped and boys and fathers are being shot, is that just because some evil men are in control?  Are earthquakes and tsunamis and typhoons in control?  Are they just blind catastrophes?  Or is God using affliction.  Is this a mark of His hand on our life?  Do I need affliction to learn what I must learn?  If I can’t surrender to God in affliction, am I truly surrendered to Him at all?

I must remember that I am not a victim.  God is in control.  No matter what, He is in control.  Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:8, “Don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor me His prisoner: but be a partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God.”  That’s strong stuff.  “Hey, Timothy, don’t be afraid of the life and example and death of Jesus.  Don’t be afraid of partnering in that life now.  It’s the same power of God that brought Jesus through.  It’s His power that brings me through.  And it’s His same power bringing You through every one of those similar afflictions.”  I don’t want to stop at verse 8 because I think the rest empowers us to trust amidst the most terrible of afflictions, to walk in that “meek” spirit of surrender to an almighty God “who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace [that’s made known through what we see as the terrible pressing of our oppressors but is really His working (my insight here)], which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but now is made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel…”  Yes, this Gospel is coming to life in my life and the life of every believer through our being brought through the deepest afflictions.  How else can we be partakers with Christ?  How else can we ever understand His sufferings?  How can we understand anyone’s sufferings?

But it’s not finished yet.  So, for the sake of Christ and for the sake of those yet to know Him, Paul suffered.  He submitted under the hand of God, to be hurt by sinful men, that someone might come to know God by the power of God shining through a suffering soldier.  “For which cause I also suffer these things:  nevertheless I am not ashamed:  for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”  What had Paul committed to Jesus?  What had Paul committed to God?  Everything.  All of Himself.  All of his hopes and dreams.  Everything he called religion.  All of his belief.  All of his trust.  All of his body.  All of his pride.  All of his shame.  His whole purpose.  His whole life.  His whole death.  His friends.  His enemies.  His circumstances.

Fate does not rule.  Chaos does not rule.  Circumstance and evil men do not rule.  There is One who is sovereign in the midst of all of this.  He is guiding it all to His purposes.  Will I trust Him?  Will I trust Him when it hurts?  Will I trust Him when I don’t understand?  Will I trust Him when the pain seems unbearable?  Because God is working in me.  He has not forsaken me.  He is busy molding me to be like His Son, like the suffering servant.  Yes, all this affliction and trouble in my life has purpose.  It’s not without meaning.  God is shaping me to be more like Him, will I submit to His shaping.  Will I start looking to Him and stop looking at the oppression.  Because if I start looking at You instead, Lord, I can start seeing and hearing what You want me to learn.  And I can walk like Joseph saying, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.”  I want to keep my eyes, and heart, and mind, and life on what You mean, Lord.  Keep me focused on You so I can walk like You in the midst of affliction and lead others to You in the midst of their affliction.

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