The Shepherd In Pharoah’s Court

On the way to and from work the last few days I’ve listened to a song by Sara Groves, namely When The Saints. But I’ve been thinking about it from a very odd direction, not quite what the song is really about. Just for a baseline, these are the lyrics:

When The Saints
lord
i have a heavy burden of all I’ve seen and know
it’s more than i can handle
but your word is burning like a fire shut up in my bones
and i can’t let it go
and when I’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought
i think of paul and silas in the prison yard
i hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
and when the Saints go marching in
i want to be one of them
lord it’s all that i can’t carry and cannot leave behind
it all can overwhelm me
but when i think of all who’ve gone before and lived a faithful life
their courage compels me
and when i’m weary and overwrought
with so many battles left unfought
i think of paul and silas in the prison yard
i hear their song of freedom rising to the stars
i see the shepherd moses in the pharaohs court
i hear his call for freedom for the people of the Lord
and when the Saints go marching in
i want to be one of them
and when the Saints go marching in
i want to be one of them
i see the long quiet walk along the underground railroad
i see the slave awakening to the value of her soul
i see the young missionary and the angry spear
i see his family returning with no trace of fear
i see the long hard shadows of calcutta nights
i see the sister standing by the dying man’s side
i see the young girl huddled on the brothel floor
i see the man with a passion come kicking down that door
i see the man of sorrow and his long troubled road
i see the world on his shoulders and my easy load
and when the Saints go marching in
i want to be one of them

As I listen, though I hear the draw to think about compassion and justice and change, I find myself instead drawn to a couple different phrases and sections. The first section, though intended more towards what was seen around the world, reminds me of all my own experience, what I see happening in my local body, what is happening within me, the increasing call of God on my own life, my wish to both jump into God’s will loudly while at the same time shy away from the risk and responsibility.

I’ve tried to handle the stress on my own, and it can’t be done; not and maintain my relationship with others and God; not and meet my responsibiities at home and at work. We can’t offer God’s word on our own. We can’t stand up against sin if we do not have a strong relationship with the healer of sin. And we certainly can’t hope to continually offer godly wisdom if we forget to ask and listen to God’s wisdom.

At the words, “when I’m weary and overwrought…” I begin to get choked up; “with too many battles left unfought” would do me in but for the rising praise and hope found in the songs of the prison yard. And then the next phrase goes on to remind us that there are examples of people who have lived faithfully, offering God’s words despite the risk and cost. And the early mention of the songs of Silas and Paul are further strengthened by the example of Moses in Pharoah’s court. And that, by far, is the expression that sticks out to me most. The one that I can’t get out of my mind, that resonates with me.

That is what I feel like. I know that God has given me gifts and a calling to lead in his body. Note, I do not say “lead his body”, but “lead in his body”. I have somewhat infrequently considered myself a leader in any official sense. More often, I see myself as someone in the masses, with a vision and a voice to speak to those in authority, to bridge the gap between the people and the leaders. Time and circumstance have sometimes made this more important in my own life. Moses was nothing but a shepherd when he came to Pharaoh with the message of God. He had been raised in the court of the elite, but he was now nothing special. He had lived a life of anonymity. He was possessed of self-doubt and considered his skill to be nothing, if not an impediment, to service.

That is me. Nothing special. I’m not trying to be negative about myself, rather to honestly recognize that there is no reason for me to be proud of my abilities and circumstances. I am less than I would like to be. I’m less than I was created to be. But God still would use me, and for this I praise him night and day. He is the God who gives strength when none is available and hope when it is lost. And that is what I see in the end of the song.

Sara recounts mental impressions, images from the past and her recent memory, that show both the darkest moments and the hope that is still present. But it is the last phrase, “the world on his shoulders and my easy load…” that finishes the song for me, leaving me shaken. When I am overwrought I need only to look to my savior who bore all my sin and suffered humiliation on my account. His burden was worse. Recognizing our burden against Jesus’ burden gives us hope. We can press on. We can do the will of Him who sent us. We can live a life of faithfullness, holding up under the strain and pressure.

So that’s what I’ve been listening to and thinking. I only pray that the Lord continues to challenge me to step out of comfort; to speak up, letting the “fire in my bones” do its intended work.

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About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
This entry was posted in Doctrinal Topics, Life In General, Music and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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