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Wide Open Spaces

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. 2 Samuel 22.17-20.

As we are told at the start of the chapter from which this morning’s text comes: “David sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul”. Later, the song appears as Psalm 18 in the book of Psalms where this morning’s verses appear as Psalm 18.16-19.

The phrase that particularly strikes me as I read them is, “He brought me out into a spacious place”. The root of the Hebrew word for “spacious place” is rachab meaning “to be wide” as opposed to being narrow. Shakespeare’s Macbeth once felt himself “cabined, cribbed, confined” and it seems that David once felt the same. He felt trapped and imprisoned by his enemies, but the effect of the Lord’s deliverance was to put him in a “wide open field” (The Message).

When I read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, I realise that I am, of course, here in this phrase that caught my eye, being given a glimpse into the mind of the shepherd boy who is now king of Israel. Once his days were spent on the wide open hillsides with only his sheep for company (1 Samuel 16.11) but now he must live in Jerusalem, surrounded by people, by courtiers, by soldiers, by enemies. No wonder that, in the evenings, he would get up and “walk round on the roof of the palace” (2 Samuel 11.2). He longed for the “green pastures” (Psalm 23.2) that he once was able to enjoy in peace and solitude. But now, towards the end of his days, his testimony is this: that the wide open spaces were not lost to him even in the worst of times, for the Lord took him there, in spirit, as part of his deliverance and salvation. The testimony is repeated in another of David’s psalms. “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” (Psalm 31.7-8). A “spacious place” is David’s image of freedom. “In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free” (Psalm 118.5).

And that is always the purpose of God’s rescue operations in my life as it was in David’s. He comes to release me from the prison that the world, the flesh and the devil have me locked up in. At the start of his ministry, Jesus proclaimed that God had sent him “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners” (Luke 4.18) and later he promised: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8.36). Why does he set us free? For freedom! Paul says: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5.1). It is so that I might, this very day, enjoy the wide open spaces of God’s love … roam where I will in his green pastures, sit beside his quiet waters, have my soul restored (Psalm 23.2-3).

But will I? It is a fact that caged birds or animals will often no venture out even if the cage door is left open. Maybe I am like that and do not even realise it. Am I really as free in my spirit as I would say I am, or is there a wider freedom that I have yet to know?

Set my spirit free that I might worship You;
set my spirit free that I might praise Your name.
Let all bondage go and let deliverance flow;
set my spirit free to worship You.

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