Sunday, January 8, 2006

The Challenging Leader

Is Jesus a safe God?
Is it safe to obey Him 100%?
Is it safer in the boat or on the water?

Song of Songs 2:8-9a
Listen! My beloved!
Behold, he is coming,
Climbing on the mountains,
Leaping on the hills!
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
There is a time when the Holy Spirit reveals to us that the Lover of our Souls, the One who has placed His banner of love over us and fed us raisin cakes and apples, is also the sovereign King of the universe. In this passage, a new side of the Groom's personality is revealed: His ability to leap over the mountainous problems and hilly adversities found in life. The things that seem large, intimidating and unmovable are nothing under Him. He walks effortlessly over them with grace and authority.
Song of Songs 2:10, 11, 13
My beloved responded and said to me,
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along.
For behold, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The fig tree has ripened its figs,
And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.
Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
And come along!
Here the Groom comes to his Beloved and calls for her to join Him. There's a new season upon them and He wants her with Him. The cold winter rains are past. The hard work of summer and harvest of autumn are still ahead. But now, the flowers are blooming and there's preparation to be done for the work ahead; it's time to be started. The exhilarating dance of victory over difficulties is to begin.
Song of Songs 2:14
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret place of the steep pathway,
Let me see your form,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your form is lovely.
In the rocky cliffs, He has a secret cleft for her. He desires her presence. He wants to see her lovely form and hear her sweet voice as they leap and dance over the mountains and hills in her life.
Song of Songs 2:16, 17
My beloved is mine, and I am his;
...
Turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle
Or a young stag on the mountains of separation.
And in the first struggle in their relationship she declines the invitation. Fear stops her. She sees the mountains with their lions and tigers and bears and decides to stay in the comfortable place under the apple tree. But even in this denial, she recognizes that they still belong to each other. This isn't a case of rejection out of rebellion, but rather fear overcoming her in her immaturity. She's telling Him to go. She's unable to join Him, but she'll watch from afar with wonder and delight at His grace and majesty. Restoration will come later, but for now they'll be separated.

I think this serves as a prophetic background for the events found starting in Matthew 14:22. In this familiar story, the disciples are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night in a storm. They had left Jesus on shore many hours earlier and had been struggling all night against the wind. Suddenly, in the dark hours before dawn, the disciples see the figure of someone walking on the water and they're terrified. They cry out and Jesus answers that it's OK, it's Him and there's no reason to be afraid. Peter says if it's really Jesus, for Him to call for him to walk on the water with Him. Jesus calls him and Peter climbs out of the boat. He walks for a ways and then sees where he is, panics, and begins to sink. Jesus takes a hold of him and they walk together through the storm back to the boat.

I think this is a wonderful example of our Groom's sovereign authority. Here the real flesh and blood man, Jesus, is dancing on the waves of a lake in a storm. Walking on water is nothing to Him. The storm doesn't bother Him. And from this place of apparent uncertainty, He calls for His friend to join Him. The question for Peter was: is it safer in the comfortable place without Jesus or out in the middle of the storm on the water with him? I can't imagine what was going on in Peter's mind, the turmoil that must have been going through him, as he puts first one leg and then the other over the side of the boat. But he dared to and succeeds in walking on the water for a bit. But in his inexperience and immaturity, he sees the storm, is overwhelmed and begins to sink. Even though he lost his focus, Jesus was there. And that's the point. When the King calls us out of the comfortable place, we can presume upon His power and strength to save.