"God and my right"
August 21, 2013
One of my favourite scenes from The Chronicles of Narnia features Shasta (the boy in "The Horse and his Boy"), riding an awkwardly uncooperative horse (NOT the horse referred to in the title of the book, but another horse, which "had a very low opinion of Shasta"). That boy and that horse were riding through the mountain pass between Archenland and Narnia. The point in the scene is Shasta's alarming discovery "that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was the breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature."
In this, Shasta was right. His unintroduced walking companion, who waited to be spoken to before speaking himself, was none other than "Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-the-sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia." And with that great Lion at his side, this young boy (and that disappointed horse) walked through the mountain pass into Narnia without stumbling or falling or losing their way.
Last week's post featured Psalm 84:5-7, which says (ESV), "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion... They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion." And I wrote, "These are powerful words and I feel their effect. And I notice them raising a personal, practical question. How am I doing at `more-or-less travelling successfully' in the direction of Zion"?
While being the first to say that I "see through a glass darkly," it does seem to me that I am these days managing to walk the path that has been set before me "without stumbling or falling or losing my way." What I DO see clearly is that, for this, I have the Lord to thank. I feel like Shasta, managing to stay on "the highway to Zion" and managing to keep moving forward because Someone ("on a very large scale") is walking beside me.
This mental image is so helpful and encouraging, I've been working on picturing it as clearly as possible, and the picture that's developing is a surprise to me. The surprise has to do with the frequent emphasis in the Book of Psalms on "the right hand," both the Lord's right hand and "my own."
As I have mentioned a time or two previously, Psalm 16 has been on my mind this summer. Verse 8 says, "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." Here, the Lord is at MY right hand. (Curiously, Aslan was on Shasta's left. Hm.)
I've also been thinking a lot of Psalm 63, and there, verse 8 reads, "My soul clings to you; YOUR right hand upholds me." This is not a rarely mentioned idea. For example, Psalm 139:9,10 declares: "If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and YOUR right hand shall hold me."
But Psalm 73:23 says "… I am continually with you; you hold MY right hand."
So here's the picture. Here's how the Book of Psalms is teaching me to picture my journey. I'm travelling along "the highway to Zion," sometimes in the dark, sometimes unable to see even the ground beneath my feet. And the Lord is holding MY right hand in HIS right hand.
So this is not quite like the Lion and Shasta (and that horse) walking side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, both with eyes looking ahead although only the Lion sees the road clearly. Rather, "the boy" is walking this path with the Lord at his right hand. But the Lord is not facing the same direction as "the boy" but rather facing "the boy"; in fact, walking backwards along the path, not needing to be looking ahead but choosing to keep his eyes constantly fixed on my sometimes uncertain, sometimes confused face.
And here I must say that I am way too influenced by the Book of Revelation to picture Jesus, my walking companion, still dressed as a 1st-century Nazarene carpenter, but rather as we see him walking "in the midst of the lampstands, one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters." (Revelation 1:13-15 ESV) AND as he is pictured on the white cloud in Revelation 14 AND riding the white horse in Revelation 19 AND seated on the great white throne in Revelation 20.
This is our Lord Jesus, now glorified. And he walks with me, step by step, day by day, on my right, holding my right hand securely in his right hand and so never unaware of how I am really doing. For this Jesus, my constant walking companion, is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who does everything "on a very large scale." And he is watching me take every step and he is helping me to face every unknown and he is strengthening me to step forward into every new challenge that is mine on the highway to Zion.
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This is especially poignant to me, right now, as we are in the process of teaching our "baby" how to walk. Walking backwards in front of him, or holding both of his hands as I walk over and behind him so we can both see where we're going. The journey is together, as parent guides child in love, leading him in safety and a growing confidence in their protection. God as our perfect, loving, safe, protective Father.
i just opened my Bible to Psalm 84 and took my pen out and wrote "Mike Wilkins, August 2013" in the margin. Your name now will be synonymous with my understanding of the highway to Zion.
~ Thanks, Greg. I'm honoured and encouraged!
So blessed by seeing faith works in the tough times. It's the same faith I see in the persecuted I minister among. And it blesses, encourages and strengthens me - for this is MY God:). Rev 12 vs 11 comes to mind, praying that you continue to overcome and help others to overcome by the word of your testimony. You are in my prayers, dear, as you walk the road glorifying God on your way to glory.
~ Thanks, Kathy. And may the Lord be with you as you continue to serve him and his people.
Mike, It is perspective that so often gives meaning to the struggles in our lives. As I journey on a difficult road. your words give light and hope. The fact that they come from someone travelling confidently towards whatever our God has in store causes "words" of light and hope to take on flesh and blood. Thanks again, Joe O.
Thanks for this image of walking hand in hand with the Lord. I was reading an old journal this week and came across something that I had written 10 years ago about Isaiah 41:13 which says, "I am holding you by your right hand - I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, Do not be afraid. I am here to help you." It is quite a comforting thought to think of Him walking closely with us all the time. Thanks for confirming that again to me this week.
Like a child learning to walk, we face the child and walk backwards and the child learns to trust those hands that hold him dearly. It is a very loving father who makes and takes the time for each child individually.
~ By George, I think he's got it!
Thanks for continuing your pastoral ministry as you travel the "road to Zion." Feeling blessed to be part of your scattered "congregation" as I pray for you and you preach to me.
~ Thanks, Marv old friend!