Rest, God’s Mercy Is Towards Us

| Mon, Dec 26, 2011 | Set 1 Week 52

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Psalm 23:5–6,

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

One of the most striking elements of Frodo and Sam’s long quest in J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings is the detail and length with which the author reports their mundane activities. Tolkien repeatedly tells the reader about Frodo’s sleeping, his resting, and their eating all along the way from the Shire to Mordor. For such an epic story of the battle between good and evil, these continuous little bits of Frodo and Sam’s life seem at first to tell us more about the author’s love of minutæ than they add anything to “the story.”

At second glance, however, Tolkien is doing something profoundly biblical with his characters. Frodo and Sam exhibit distinctly Christian virtues in their travels and are contrasted against the sleepless, restless, self-manufacturing activities of the Enemy. The hobbits are often shown as sleeping or resting despite the danger that surrounds them, much like David in v. 2: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. . .”

When they eat a meal — which especially matters to hobbits! — they do so while encompassed by hunting orcs, while on a precipice above Minas Morgul, while in the barren wasteland of Gorgoroth avoiding the searching eye of Sauron. Frodo and Sam don’t do what we all naturally would do in the presence of our enemies: either flee or fight. No, they are assured enough of their quest and the superintending power that they eat meals when on the edge of destruction. Like David, like Frodo and Sam, and like our Lord Christ who ate the Passover meal in the midst of his enemies in Jerusalem, we too are to eat and drink and sleep everyday despite being surrounded by our great enemies: sin, Satan, and Death.

It is easy to feel unsettled by this “ought.” We ask: how can I feel that same confidence, that same lack of despair that these heroes felt? I have no reason not to despair of the enemies in my life when they are so many and so strong. More like Frodo than the mighty King David, our weakness is similar to the hobbit’s small stature. Thankfully, God through David gives us a solid ground to stand on in v. 6: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

“Mercy” here is no mere emotion or self-generated attitude. “Mercy” is translated from the Hebrew original hesed, the term used principally for God’s covenant faithfulness to keep his promises to his people. It is this “mercy” that rightly describes God’s unshakable promise to Abraham and this “mercy” is even an essential part of the being of God himself (Exodus 34:6).

What shape does God’s goodness and mercy take toward us?

It comes to us in the shape of promise-keeping covenant faithfulness: the person and work of God’s own Son Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who walks along with his sheep and provides for them, who guards them, and who lays down his life for them (John 10:11; Jeremiah 23:3–6). All God’s promises to us are Yes! and Amen! in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20), and his covenant of peace will not be shaken (Isaiah 54:10). In Christ alone by faith alone we will dwell in the house of the LORD forever, because Christ is the house of the LORD (Revelation 21:22; John 4).

So rest, Christian, and relish the small, mundane parts of life despite the presence of your enemies because in Christ God Almighty’s covenant promise to save you from those enemies can never depart from you.

 

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3 Responses to “Rest, God’s Mercy Is Towards Us”

  1. VJ Says:

    I love the work you guys are doing and the resources you are providing! This observation of the importance of rest is so potent, and i love it so much i am reposting it! Thanks!

    Reply

  2. Gretchen Says:

    Thank you for your wonderful resources. Does the 5 set cycle repeat or do the sets change? Thank you.

    Reply

    • Suzy P Says:

      Merry Christmas, Gretchen!
      You are welcome to cycle through the Fighter Verses (covering each set every 5 years) or switch to the Extended Set to memorize additional verses. Let us know if you have other questions.

      Reply

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