April 26, 2015

Burdens and boundaries

Joshua 16:1–17:18, 2 Corinthians 11:24–33, Psalm 55

One school discovered that boundaries can be a good thing. The building was in the middle of a large lot without a fence. The children played close to the school, until a fence was installed around the perimeter of the lot. Immediately the youngsters moved out, playing right up to the fence. It made them feel safe.

This OT reading describes boundaries: “The territory of the people of Ephraim by their clans was as follows: the boundary of their inheritance on the east was Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon, and the boundary goes from there to the sea. On the north is Michmethath. Then on the east the boundary turns around toward Taanath-shiloh and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah, then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, and touches Jericho, ending at the Jordan.” (Joshua 16:5–7)

My first thought was that school, but I doubt that those boundaries made the Israelites feel safe because no fences were involved. Their borders did not confine them, but enemies could easily invade their territory. It took many battles before they felt safe within their boundaries.

Then I thought about my boundaries. What are they and do I try to overstep them? What about enemies? Certainly Satan can only do what God allows but I can put up a fence to stop Him. If I can remain yielded to God, then the devil has no power over me. That is my fence and my defense.

The Apostle Paul could do the same. He had a clear mandate from God and was busy with obedience. He also had no fences to keep out his enemies. He no doubt battled Satan, but also wrote about his trials and persecutions in serving God, and the pressure of answering antagonists who challenged his apostleship and teaching. After describing his defense, he says, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.” (2 Corinthians 11:28–31)

I’ll never be like Paul and yet God does give me a burden for the church, other Christians, and those who do not know Christ. However, along with that burden, I’ve also a tremendous sense of weakness. I cannot do anything about the needs that I see unless God gives me both the command and the grace to carry it out. Sometimes I feel fenced in, not by a hedge of protection but by my own ignorance. Many times I’m not sure how to be a blessing, or how to battle my enemies.

David seemed to feel the same way. He was restless, oppressed, and troubled. He expressed fear, even horror, and that he wanted to escape it. He asked God to deal with his enemies, and to keep him safe in all his battles. I can identify with those emotions. My enemies are not human yet the sense of opposition is real and strong. I know that I’m in a spiritual war and have no resources of my own. I have the same strong desire to “fly away and be at rest” (verse 6). However, David gives wise advice. He says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)

We do get ‘moved’ in our physical situation, in our emotions, but that is not what he means. This sustaining is spiritual. My position with God is firm, not because I am firm but because He firmly holds me, keeps me from totally falling apart, from being completely ruined by fear, doubt, and any other struggle of the Christian faith.

I don’t know what comes next, but I know God establishes boundaries and will keep me in His care. I can give all my burdens to Him and be certain that He cares about them even more than I do. 

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