October 16, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8)
“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4.17-18)
Have you ever been troubled by a “growling stomach”? That gurgling, churning, internal gas combustion of acids seemingly turning on themselves is known to us all. No, I am not saying this is what Peter and Paul were talking about. I just wanted you to begin to capture an experience you yourself have had in order to grasp the truth which Peter and Paul were conveying. The lion’s roar, like a growling stomach, is an alert that a challenge is being extended. Both examples have to do with sating a hunger. For us personally, the challenge is a stomach empty of something for the natural acids to work upon instead of itself. (a simplified explanation, I admit.) But, for Peter and Paul, the challenge was a spiritual one as those who opposed the truth of the gospel made known their intent of consuming them, and not the word, so that it could no longer be preached. This was the similar intent of the Temple leadership when it came to Jesus and His disciples as they proclaimed the kingdom of righteousness which God was determined to establish in their midst. And, I would further illustrate, that same leadership roared like a male lion to put their prey on alert. But, they themselves did not do the hunting and gathering. Instead, that roar drove the prey into the snare of the “pride” to do the dirty work and heavy lifting. Pilate, representing the “pride” of Rome, actually succumbed to the pressure of the High Priest and executed Jesus. It did not, however, silence the gospel because it was derived from a kingdom not of this world. It is a question of “who works for whom.” In the case of Jesus, the Temple and the Empire worked for themselves and collaborated with each other in their own kingdoms. Jesus, however, worked for God. It was the will of God that Jesus served. It is the will of God that the body of Christ, the Church, serves with Jesus as the Head of all things. If Jesus is the Lion of Judah, then the Church is the PRIDE of Christ.
But, there are lions who are not of God’s kingdom. They have been exposed by their selfish intent and ousted from the ” true pride” to fend for themselves. Spiritually speaking, the Devil, later named Satan the Accuser, was the first. There were those who followed with him out into the world to “steal, kill and destroy.” In modern terms we may say they went into the world “to usurp, murder and consume.” All that stands against God and His Kingdom on earth stands aligned with the False Lion as members of his fallen pride. They believe they are true only to themselves and are free to do as they will. Nothing is actually further from the truth. They all answer to the head of this “false pride” who is Satan, the Devil, Lucifer- the cast out insurrectionist angel. The dynamic is established and Peter and Paul saw it at work in the world they were called to minister to in the name of Jesus, the Lion of Judah. Oh, and you think that the movie “Lion King” was just a good story? If only it was introduced as a Christian message then I wonder how good a story it may have been seen as? C.S. Lewis’s series, Chronicles of Narnia, shares a similar theme of “survival of the spiritually fittest.” It takes a bit of doing to interpret these “gospels,” but the truth is woven into the fabric of human history to teach a lesson of service, obedience and having faith in the one who has faith in you.
So, as Paul was urging Timothy and Peter was urging the eldership of the communities of faith in Asia Minor, the question is “Which lion do you answer to?” Another way of asking that question might be “What pride are you a part of?” Are you members of the “True” pride or of the “False” pride? The roar you fear may be from the “outside” as those who are signaling alert or luring you into capture to be devoured for their own survival. The roar you fear may be an internal one which is accomplishing the same goals. It requires discernment and a willingness to separate yourself from your own subjective desires and those objective desires which the Word of God declares. It is, after all, a spiritual discernment walked out by faith and not simply by sight. And the battle between prides is being waged even now as we breathe. I believe we need to think of it in these terms. They are biblical terms which provide insight to the understanding and implementation of the truth which sets us free. And not only should we be “thinking” about it but we need to implement these concepts into the accountability of the words we speak, the thoughts we think and the works we do in this world which is not our true home. Our true home comes, as Isaiah’s prophecy declares, “when the hunger of a predator for its prey is laid aside and they all feed not on each other but together from a common food.” (Isaiah 11 and 65) Of course, in the midst of the imagery we cannot lose sight of the most important image of all “and a little child will lead them.” It is a prophetic vision of when the peace of God meted out by the Prince of Peace will be accepted as the rule and guide of the day for all living things. It never does say “the lion will lay down with the lamb.” But, interestingly enough, we can see where a lion will lay down and even consume straw like an ox. I can’t help but envision that scene in Bethlehem where the expectant Mary near the time of her delivery was nestled in fresh straw. She and Joseph, and I believe many other sojourners to Bethlehem due to Caesar Augustus’ edict for a census to be conducted, were gathered in or near that stable. It may well have been a cave in which a certain outcrop of rock resembled a feeding trough. It would be in that trough that the baby born to Mary was laid on his own bed of straw. It was a bed of humble means and a simplicity that allowed nothing less than the glory and joy of the Lord to be seen and taken in. In the fields there were shepherds tasked for watching their flocks against predators such as wolves, bears awakening from their winter’s hibernation and prowling lions. They bathed themselves in the light so they would be seen and shared in vigilance to watch their flocks by night. But, when the angel of the Lord and the accompanying heavenly host appeared to announce the birth of Jesus, they left their flocks to go and see what had been done for them. They did not worry about their flocks, I believe, because of the realization (though unbeknownst to them) of the prophecy of Isaiah that night where all animals laid down together with no greater thought than to be as one without distinction. It was God who did this. No other power on earth, over the earth nor under the earth could do this. It was a wonder beyond wonders. It will happen again when Jesus returns for His thousand year reign. But, we are called to strive toward that goal now in today’s world. It has the opportunity to be realized when those who have received the word of God go and acknowledge this thing which has been done for them. It is the impetus of the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach this good news of a great joy. It is the declaration of “Jesus is the Lion of Judah and we, the Church, are the Pride of Christ.” We go into the world like lambs before wolves. But, we are not to go filled with fear. Instead, we are to go with faith knowing that the words of the shepherd boy David which he sang over his flocks by night are true. They say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” and you know the rest of that story. We will continue it in the days to come. Today, let us worship the Lord our God with the true pride of Christ who laid down His life for others that they might have life and have it abundantly by humbling themselves, confessing their sin and professing their need for life which can only come through Him to the glory of God His Father and ours on earth as it will be in Heaven.
Author of truth which sets us free from the burden of sin and the grave, speak to us in prophetic joy that Your will not ours be done. We are Yours, the people fashioned by Your hand and the sheep led to Your pastures. There is no other place we would rather be than Your presence being lead to dwell in the House of the Lord forever and ever. AMEN.