Life Life versus Death Death

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(Memorial stone from the Middletown, NJ, 9-1-1 memorial by the train station near where I grew up.)

The one breaking through went up before them; they broke through, passed the gate and went out. Their king passed on before them; ADONAI was leading them.” (Micah 2:13)

Micah 2 ends on a really good note, a note of great hope.  But it doesn’t start off with such good feelings.  He opens, “Woe to those who think up evil and plan wickedness as they lie in bed. When morning comes, they do it, since they have it in their power.” (Micah 2:1)  And this is the warning we must all heed.  Just because this is a specific warning to Israel, that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t benefit by understanding and applying these principles to our lives.  As a matter of fact, if one were to look at our country today, and the thought processes out there, and the actions of its people as a nation, we wouldn’t find it so different from Israel then. 

This is a message of woe.  Woe was a pretty strong word.  In Hebrew it is hoy.  Hoy was used as an interjection and the word expressed over the death of someone.  It is that strong a word.  Now, I’ve been thinking about the Hebrew thinking behind words and that image of a protective fence that God sets up is just such a strong one throughout His word.  And I can’t help but think of that fence here.  And if I go back to verse 13 I think of it more along with the idea of sheep.  Only here, in verse 1, it’s the idea of people breaking down the safety of that wall and rebelling against it. 

It reminds me of a story shared by a Yanamamo believer named Bautista, who once was a Shaman, but was changed by the Lord, and he was invited to speak at an Ivy League college.  One of the professors mentioned how she and her family were not believers but had come to America and were well off, implying that it had nothing to do with God, as they were not believers.  But Bautista related a story of being in the jungle and how someone had gone ahead and built a shelter.  Now someone else may come along and reap the benefits of that shelter but they are still reaping the benefits of the original builder.  It doesn’t negate the one who built it.  America, he said, is like that.  The original founders built it under the protective umbrella of God.  All who come under that umbrella reap its benefits.  But, if enough people chip away at the umbrella, at that shelter, and tear it down, the benefits will no longer be there.

It’s like satan saying, “You won’t surely die.”  And it’s not that he twisted these words.  He negated them.  God had said, “You will surely die.”  Actually, in the Hebrew He said, “You will die die.”  I’d say that’s a pretty sure thing.  But satan said, “You will not die die.”  The point is, God is true, or maybe I should say, God is true true.  But satan wants us to believe that God is not true true.  Who will we believe? 

Woe to them that think up evil.  That’s like saying it’s death to those who think up their own ways opposed to You, God.  That’s what that thinking up or devising is talking about.  It’s the Hebrew word chase. It’s all about weaving and fabricating, or plotting things out your own way.  It’s a mental effort to use Your own imagination or reckon life your own way.  And that word for sin or iniquity is interesting too.  It’s aven in Hebrew.  It’s root comes from a word meaning pant, like exerting oneself in vain.  It’s not just wickedness but trouble, and emptiness, or mischief.  It’s related with idols and mourning and sorrow and unrighteousness.  We are right back to the garden, aren’t we?  It sounds like determining my own way apart from God still leads to death.  No, it actually still leads to death death, which couldn’t be any surer.

It’s death death to us to devise our own way. it’s also death death to us to plan wickedness as I lie in bed.  It’s more than a shame to employ my efforts, to work at, to habitually practice and commit what goes against Your will and Your way, Lord.  It’s way outside Your boundaries for us to be deliberately  choosing to spend our energies and thoughts on afflicting others, doing what You say is not good, displeasing You, distressing those around us, causing grief, and doing what’s wrong.  Someone may ask, “Well, who gets to determine what’s wrong?  Isn’t that up to each us?”  Nope.  Not unless you created you or you created me.  It seems to me that the Potter gets to determine those things and not the pot.  I mean, that just makes sense.

When morning comes, they do it since they have it in their power.  That word, power, is the word el.  Imagine that, the word used so often in naming God is also used for idols and the strength in man’s hand.  And it just goes to show how any power outside of God’s power isn’t power at all.  To these devisers and workers, they perceive what they have in their ideas as real power.  But it’s only temporary and leads to death death.  The power that God alone has and wants to impart to us and to them leads to life life.  I suppose it’s the difference between power and power power.

Societies all over the world are beginning to implode upon themselves for this very reason.  They are usurping power and taking it into their own hands.  They are deciding truth based on their own thinking.  They are erasing and eroding away at God’s protective boundaries.  And the walls are crumbling.  And we are laying ourselves bare to destruction.  And all along we’ve been warned.  Biblical history and secular history are there to be our teachers but society chooses to rewrite both and suffer the consequences because they like holding power in their own hands instead of letting the One who knows how to use it, use it for our good.

But here’s the good news.  God is still gathering a remnant.  Just like in the time of Israel, there were some who held faithfully to Him and within His bounds, so today He is still holding on to those who will hold on to Him.  This is good stuff!  Actually, He tells Jacob and Israel, He will assemble assemble them!  And he doesn’t stop there.  He will gather gather.  How sure a deal is this!  He will be the One to put them together.  He will preserve and unite.  Like sheep in a pen or a herd in the pasture.  And it’s gonna hum with the sound of all the people He has gathered together that are His sheep, living in His protection, under His umbrella, within His boundaries, within His walls. 

The hope continues and gets even more exciting!  There is this one who breaks through and goes up before the sheep.  He breaks through, and they follow Him, breaking through with Him, and passing the gate.  This is the King and He passes on through the broken walls, through the gate, leading them and they are following Him.  This is the hope in Jesus Christ the Messiah who came and died for us for the glory of God and our well-being, so that we could be re-united with Him in our original purpose.  This is the hope of a risen Savior, of a King who is ALL POWERFUL.  This is the hope that one day, His boundaries will no longer surround us because He will have written them in our hearts and we won’t need external walls any more.  This is the beauty of trust and obedience and love. 

I don’t want to make my own walls.  They lead to death death.  I want to follow and obey and love the One who is able to one day, put His own will in the very depths of me so that my heart will rejoice in wanting what rejoices Him.  I can’t wait until that day that God will remove the struggle of wanting my own way versus His.  I don’t want to be god in my life or anyone else’s.  But I do want God in me.  And being a sheep is sufficient for me as this sheep intrinsically knows and understands Your heart, Lord, and lives it out in shear joy.  Imagine a sheep who didn’t need a pen to protect it because all the power and presence of it’s protector lived inside.  That’s what I see in this picture. 

I can be on either side of the sheep pen.  I can refuse its boundaries and choose my own.  But then, I need to prepare, because death death is coming.  But to choose to remain inside the boundaries until my Shepherd writes them inside me, is the far better choice, because with it comes life life.  See, the King has to go before.  John warned us, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.  Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 1:9)  I don’t want to fall into the trap of going ahead of my King. 

Life is a test.  Will I abide in God’s words and the words of Christ?  The proof is in the pudding.  If I abide in Christ and His words abide in me, the power of God will flow from me.  If I abide in the love of Christ, I will know the love of God.  I will keep Your boundaries just as Christ did because I will love them as I love You.  For the same covenant You made with Israel, You make with all those who are grafted in.  “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people…for they shall all know Me, from the least to the greatest.   (Hebrews 8:10,11)  Lord, be my King and lead me every moment.  Thank You for the warning.  May I live live in the continual protection and provision of You and Your boundaries.

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