October 11, 2023
Green trees. Dry trees. Strength. Weakness. Superheroes. We're talking about all of it this week at The Equipped. As always, we'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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When the Tree is Dry
The crucifixion of Jesus is an event that quite literally altered the course of human history. The telling and retelling of the story offer countless lessons by which we should live. But there is an often-omitted moment in Luke’s retelling of the story that is worthy of reflection.
As Jesus was being led to the place of His torture and death, many of those He loved were following and mourning. Luke tells of Jesus turning to some women who were weeping and saying, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children . . . for if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Even in His moment of great agony, Jesus was intent on bolstering the courage of those who believed in Him. He acknowledged that the world’s rejection of Him in human form was but a foreshadowing of the rejection of Him that was to come—a rejection that would be aimed at those He was leaving behind. It was a rejection you and I can see and feel today, and it is one that underscores so many of the world events we cover here at The Equipped.
So where are you and I to find the strength to stand in the face of such intense rejection? If the One we follow warned in His very weakest moment that the most challenging circumstances were yet to come, where are we to find hope?
In beautiful poetic fashion, God’s Word points back to weakness and vulnerability as the path to true strength. In 2 Cor. 12, Paul’s weakness is on full display, and rather than remove the weakness, the same Lord who entered into weakness in order to face the Cross responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9). It is as though God is whispering, “I know. I’ve been there. It’s ok. I walked in weakness in order that your weakness might be the very place I would conquer.”
This perspective shines a whole new light on Hebrews 12, which reminds us of the value of discipline and hardship, and how embracing these difficult experiences makes us legitimate sons and daughters of God. But here’s where it comes beautifully full circle. It’s an invitation into our own weakness, yes, but only because that is the place where the fullness of God’s strength can be revealed, and through which His great mercies can be offered to others! Listen to the battle cry in verses 12-13:
“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
Our Savior walked in weakness not because He wanted us to abide in weakness. Quite to the contrary, He knew we’d need strength for the rejection that was to come. He walked in weakness in order to offer His strength to our feeble arms and weak knees. He offered His strength not just for your limbs and mine, but so that others might also walk in His power!
Does it seem to you as though the tree is no longer green, but dry? Does it feel like rejection is on the rise?
If so, take heart, my friend! Your Redeemer is near, and He offers His strength and power into the very place of your weakness, pain, and rejection. His steps on Earth were ordered in a way that prepared for your weakness. His desire is to be strong in and through in the very place of that weakness! So let us gather His strength from the midst of our weakness, and let us do so in order to offer healing and redemption to those in need.
Terror in Israel
There is once again active war in the Middle East. Around dawn on Saturday morning, approximately 3,000 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel, followed by a widescale invasion into Israel by Hamas militants. These attackers engaged in unspeakable acts of terror against civilians, including hostage-taking, indiscriminate killing, and mutilation. One of the most devastating scenes was at a music festival in the Israeli desert near Gaza, where at least 260 concertgoers were killed, and a yet-to-be-determined number were taken hostage.
The Israeli Defense Forces mobilized in response to the attack, with targets including the Palestine Tower in Gaza being struck. Because the fighting rages on, and is now unlikely to subside in the near future, it is impossible to truly measure the human cost of the war. However, current estimates are that approximately 1,200 Israelis and 950 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting broke out. This number continues to climb rapidly. Thousands more are inured, and approximately 15 million now live in an active war zone.
Analysis and eternal perspective: It is difficult to know where to start, how far back to go, and how deep to dive on this one. This is a war with biblical origins dating back to Isaac and Ishmael, one that has surged and waned for millennia, and with layers so complex it can be hard to distinguish one from the next. As such, let’s together as The Equipped focus our time together on a handful of critical points:
1) The Jewish people are God’s chosen people (Deut. 7:6-9), have faced hatred and persecution for thousands of years (the book of Esther is one early account of an effort to exterminate the Jewish people, and Hitler’s Nazi regime is a modern example of the same), and followers of Jesus have a charge to recognize the special covenant God has made with them (Gen. 12:3).
2) Every person has eternal value, is made by the very hands of God, and is in fact a reflection of God’s very image (Gen. 1:26). This remains true across every nationality and ideology.
3) Authorities (be they over families, communities, or nations) have a sacred duty to protect those within their charge (Rom. 13:4).
4) The actions of other world powers, including the United states, have an impact on militant and terrorist organizations inclined to use violence to achieve political goals.
Each of those points could, and perhaps for some of us should, be explored in great depth. But every follower of Jesus should today reaffirm our commitment to revering the sacred bond God made with His chosen people, and to praising Him anew for extending a place in His story to those of us who are outside that initial covenant.
Each of us should also pray for the safety of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of war. We should pray for those taken hostage, and for the miraculous restoration of those so inhumanely violated. The horror is unspeakable. But God’s hand of healing is never too short, so we pray it be extended today.
As we pray for peace for all living in the region, let us do so mindful of the solemn governmental duty to defend those who reside within a nation’s borders. The days ahead will almost certainly contain escalating violence, and we should pray those responsible for attaining justice for the evil that was perpetrated would be guided by a wisdom that exceeds our understanding.
Finally, we should be clear-eyed about the impact of decisions made by the world’s superpowers. As we’ve recently discussed at The Equipped, even tactic support for known terrorist organizations increase the likelihood of hostilities. Hamas is a known terror proxy of Iran, and the U.S. should behave accordingly in its relations with Iran. Fortunately, the leaders of the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, and Germany released a statement condemning the attack by Hamas, supporting Israel’s obligation to defend itself, and reiterating every individual’s aspiration to live freely. The statement puts it aptly, “Hamas does not represent those aspirations.”
“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Ps. 29:11).
The U.S. House of Representatives remains without a Speaker. After the unprecedented ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week, House Republicans are in the process of trying to elect a new Speaker. Current Majority Leader Steve Scalise (LA) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (OH) are formally running for the position, but it remains unclear if either of them (or anyone else) can get the majority support of the full House required to take the gavel. In the meantime, the House is very limited on what it can do. Rep. Patrick McHenry (NC) is temporarily the Speaker Pro Tempore, making him the de facto leader of the chamber, but he lacks many of the authorities and privileges an elected Speaker would have (i.e., he is not in the presidential line of succession).
Analysis and eternal perspective: The absence of a Speaker has the U.S. House at a standstill at a time when a major ally is at war and we are now just a little more than five weeks from another spending deadline. Once again, it is not an ideal way to run a government. At the same time, the current Speaker debate has very little to do with the fundamental shortcomings of Congress and the White House in recent decades. The absence of a Speaker in this fashion is unprecedented, but the inability to control the annual deficit is now a functional norm.
As Jesus followers, we should continue to call for, and work toward, responsible stewardship of the vast blessings we have been given (Lk. 16:10). We should also live out the upside-down invitation of Matt. 5:43-48 by loving not just our neighbor, but our enemy as well. This posture will help us keep sound minds when we encounter the chaotic inertia of the current political climate.
Earthquakes in Afghanistan
Powerful earthquakes shook Afghanistan this week, with several locations registering tremors with a magnitude as high as 6.3 on the Richter scale. More than 2,400 people are reported dead, with thousands more displaced. The devastation is accentuated by the already-impoverished and war-torn condition of the country.
Analysis and eternal perspective: God’s Word is packed with commands and invitations to care for the poor (Pr. 19:17, Deut. 15:11, and Pr. 28:27 are just a few examples), and when combined with the litany of reminders to identify with and comfort those who are suffering (2 Cor. 1:3-4, Rom. 12:15, Gal. 6:2), it should be impossible for us to consider this story without also considering how we might be able to respond.
Afghanistan is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, and its people already suffer under the oppressive rule of the Taliban. Those underlying factors make an event like this all the more devastating. Let’s be in intentional and fervent prayer for these beloved Image-bearers, and also open to ways God may invite us to provide comfort to them during this particularly trying time.
What young boy doesn’t dream of possessing superhero strength?! As you turn now to interact with a world that often seeks to exploit your weakness, remember this beautiful truth: When you feel weak, your Savior’s strength is at superhero level!
Remember to check out the radio version of The Equipped on Faith Radio or wherever you get your podcasts! May you walk in His strength this week!
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