6 – Lion of Judah

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals. ~Rev. 5:5

Just a little history: In Genesis we see the emergence of a family descending from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob who has 12 sons. Jacob favors Joseph out of all his sons such that the other brothers jealously conspire to rid themselves of him by selling him into slavery in Egypt. When famine comes on the land surrounding Egypt, Joseph’s brothers seek aid in Egypt before Joseph. Without recognizing him as their betrayed brother, they speak of their father and youngest brother Benjamin. Joseph demands that they bring Benjamin back in order to receive more of the food they desperately needed. They agreed, but when they present this idea to their father Jacob, he absolutely refuses to lose another son. However as the famine continues and more supplies are needed, Judah promises his father that Benjamin would be protected and pledged himself for his safety. As the brothers are leaving Joseph again with laden bags, Joseph sends his servants to search their bags for a missing silver cup. Benjamin’s bag holds the cup. His life now hanging in the balance, Benjamin cannot return to his father. Judah steps forward and offers his life in exchange for his brother’s, willing to die in his place that Benjamin may return to his father. At this act of sacrifice, Joseph reveals his true identity as their brother.

Following this reunion, Jacob gives a blessing to each son with prophetic messages for each. Judah is called a lion’s cub and a lion whose hand will never lose a scepter nor a ruler’s staff until One comes. Prophetically the ruling line of David and Solomon will descend through Judah, and ultimately the King of Kings Jesus Christ will be born of the line of Judah (Heb. 7:14), the line of David.

Judah is a type, an imperfect picture of Jesus Christ. In his actions regarding Benjamin, he readily stepped forward to offer his life as a substitute in order to allow Benjamin to return to his father. But the perfect substitution was Jesus Christ himself! He offered his life as the atonement for our sins that we may be truly, eternally saved and able to have relationship with our Father. For I am guilty of far more than stealing a cup and deserving of death, but He died for me.

And as the Lion of Judah, He is the ruler of all. His dominion is vast. His power never diminishes. He alone has the authority. The mighty conqueror who saves.

 

The idol of outcome

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. ~Psalm 62:1-2

As a woman I worship at the idol of outcome. This new year I have been spending a lot of time seeking the threshing that can only come through the Holy Spirit, looking inward to really pull apart different areas where I am struggling or where He would like to change me. And I would have to say that I defend outcome and maybe even protect this idol.

The idolatry of outcome – I don’t really know if this is the right term. But it pervades every aspect of my thinking. I confess I continuously assess and make adjustments based on whether the outcome is positive or negative. So when results are apparent or good in my opinion (which is SO limited, and yet what I am using as my barometer), then my perspective is that I am successful. When results are lacking or poor, then discouragement, doubt, and a desire to change course creep in.

As a mother, outcome has wrapped its tentacles around my heart, and I have to work feverishly to get free. Because outcome isn’t assured in motherhood. No matter what the studies or books tell you, you cannot ensure that your children walk with God or that they are happy, or successful or whatever you think is important. So today it seems like everything is going well, but then when tomorrow comes, it seems like everything is in a mess. And we worry that we need to change course or shift the method. I don’t have the long term perspective that God has, and I cannot see around the bend. So I wonder if this method of potty training or this way to teach obedience/respect/honor or this Bible lesson will actually result in a productive, loving person. And if it doesn’t because my child is showing that he or she also is a sinner in desperate need of God’s grace, I fault myself and look to see how to get a better result. God is so much more engaged and committed to the children in my home than I will ever be. That’s truth. And He is a faithful, pursuing, and patient sovereign God.

As a woman, outcome has captured me. We are surrounded with imagery, articles, and countless other social media contexts in which we can see where we don’t measure up to a standard or how we could improve our health, weight, beauty, aging process, the way our home looks, or anything else that needs improving.  So I chase the outcome with a fixation that declares that my success or failure will impact my attitude and sense of self. I have to work to shed outcome in these areas, knowing that my value does not come from my beauty. My value has already been determined by One who declares me his.

I also think I defend this idol as good or helpful for success. I think many would argue that without considering outcome, you cannot make progress. But idols are idols because of the place they occupy in our hearts, not because of what they are. And when outcome occupies a place of power in my heart where my thinking can be realigned without a submission to God’s plan first, then I am prostrate before a powerless god that will not lead me to the heart of God.

God has an outcome barometer as well. His outcome however is eternally measured, full of ripples, twists and turns I could never see as important or impactful. His call is for me to trust in Him, to be as Psalm 125:1 says, “like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” But abiding is often hard, and results can be slow to be seen, and my eyes can slide to how I can get the outcome God “needs.” Like Sarah with Abraham, I can seek outcome over abiding. But I will end up with heartache and need to repent.

So how is the idol taken down and destroyed? By the truth of the Gospel. I don’t need to be enslaved to outcomes, because I know the One who determines all outcomes for eternity. So in my moments of making my outcome equate with my value or worth, I need to remember my true value. I am his child (Rom. 8:16). He has made me a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and freed me from slavery to sin and death (Rom. 6:6-7,11). He is faithful to continue transforming me into His image, one degree at a time (2 Cor. 3:18).  So the shift of thinking in that moment with His divine power to destroy the stronghold that declares my value is linked to my work (2 Cor. 10:4-5) and to know that I am completely secure in His love for me (Rom. 8:38-39).  He alone is my salvation and my soul can rest quietly in Him.

5 – Living Water

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” ~John 7:38 

Living water – why would Jesus reference water in that way to the people at the temple and why is it important?

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.~John 4:14. Jesus begins a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well, purposed to draw her to himself by using a task central to her daily existence.

In Israel then and even now, water is a focused need, something that is required and sought. Israel has always had to work for water; today they are facing a water crisis with shortages due to drought and demand. We can shortchange the importance of obtaining water in our day to day because we have running water in our homes, but during Biblical times obtaining water was a daily task. And the adjective living is significant – I see this adjective through the lens of salvation almost immediately and think, “Of course, living for eternity” but that is not what the Jews thought. Living water then was vitally important because it was safe to consume and use. It brought healing. It was not tainted, dirtied, or stagnant.

In John 7, the Israelites were finishing up the Festival of Tabernacles in which every day the priest walked down to a spring and drew water and brought it up to the temple with the people celebrating, praising and praying as he walked. He then poured it out on the temple floor, signifying the living water that heals and replenishes, sates thirst, and satisfies a dry land so that new growth and a new season can happen. Into this Jesus stepped on the last day of the festival and announced that He is the one to whom anyone thirsty should come. Water would no longer have to be gathered; rather the Water would reside within.

Psalm 36:9 states, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”

In Israel a cistern or well would be dug in order to capture flowing water or runoff and store it for future use. This water never offered fresh, flowing streams, but it provided for times of drought.  Unless there was great maintenance, these cisterns would crack or wear down. God uses this picture to caution the Israelites in Jeremiah. My cisterns are the things I trust hold what I think I need for life other than trusting in the constant flow of Jesus Christ – His grace, mercy, faith, power, fullness. Anything that moves me away from gospel dependence and toward self reliance is a cistern I am trying to fill. Sometimes that may look like the goodness of my character or hitting the marks of Christianity (church attendance, etc). It may be the picture I want others to see of me, of my success as a wife or mother; it may be a cistern filled with money, organization, or time management. Hoping that these faulty cauldrons can give me life is the great deception.  Just like cisterns of old, I spend a lot of time maintaining, crafting, and shaping that which is already cracked. Life, “goodness,” and hope will all seep away when they are held by me, requiring my filling. I commit great amounts of energy hewing out my cisterns – working on their shape and construction when I could be trusting that the fountain of life will never run dry, that I will never be without Him and His work in me. He justifies. He sanctifies.

My cistern will always be broken, it will never hold water – I cannot DO enough for my salvation, but God doesn’t require my payments! Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come buy and eat! (Is. 55:1) He offers the exchange needed to taste, sip, and guzzle the living water of His salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. So am I hewing cisterns because I am more concerned with the disciplines of faith and less with my true position in Christ? Still seeking that which I can carve, shape, measure, or improve? or am I standing in the forceful blast of flowing, life giving water allowing the Spirit to fill me completely and flow through me? For He is Life.

 

4 – Intercessor and Advocate

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. ~Romans 8:34

My little children I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. ~1 John 2:1

Jesus Christ, Intercessor and Advocate. In the painful wrestling with sin and the doubt and condemnation that follows, we have Jesus. In the times of failure or accusation, we have Jesus. In the times of discouragement and suffering, we have Jesus. Jesus came with great purpose, and one of the many facets of His glorious personhood is Intercessor and Advocate.

To intercede in Romans 8 is a Greek word meaning to entreat, make a petition or application for. But the root of this word means “to strike, hit the bulls eye” and in classic Greek writing this word was used as the antonym of the word that meant “to miss the mark, sin.” Jesus Christ intercedes for us as one who has hit the bulls eye, who has not sinned. From that position, intercession is powerful before a holy God. Romans 8 declares that sin has been condemned by Christ, we have been justified and have become sons of God, and from this secure position, no more charges can come against us. Hebrews 7:25 proclaims, “Consequently he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Our Intercessor has saved you and me to the uttermost by completely hitting the mark we never could. He presents the truth of our salvation through His death and resurrection to the Father.

An advocate is a legal term, paraclete in the Greek, meaning one who appeals, gives evidence in a court, stands on one’s behalf. When the Greek word paraclete is broken down into its root words it truly means “one who is close beside who makes a call.” Jesus Christ comes before the Father appealing on my behalf, pointing not to my sin but to his actions. He is the propitiation for our sins, the sacrifice of atonement that paid in full my sin debt. His righteousness, represented eternally for me by Him, will ensure my redemption – that my sin has been covered by the sacrifice. Uniquely, this word for advocate also has been used by Jesus to describe the Holy Spirit in John chapters 14 – 16. Jesus Christ intercedes for us before the Father as the one who bore our sin. (Is. 53:12) The Holy Spirit has been sent by Christ to help us, indwelling and interceding for us before the Father. The One who is close beside and makes a call, an entreaty on my behalf because He has fully paid my sin debt.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 8:37-39