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A Spacious Place

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.

This morning’s reading consists of a few verses from David’s great song of praise which he sang “when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul” (2 Samuel 22.1). It is a song that appears again in the Old Testament as Psalm 18. And the “he” that David refers to over and over again is, of course, the Lord. It was the Lord who had drawn him out of deep waters — and the picture there is of Pharaoh’s daughter drawing Moses out of the Nile to be a prince in the royal household: “When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him (Hebrew mashah) out of the water.'” (Exodus 2.10). It was the Lord who had rescued David from the hand of Saul and from all who would otherwise have surely defeated him. And it was the Lord who had brought him out into a “spacious place”.

The Hebrew word that is translated as “spacious place” is merchab and it is one that David is rather fond of. He uses it again in Psalm 31: “You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place” (Psalm 31.8) and in Psalm 118: “In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free” (Psalm 118.5 where the literal translation is “I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me — spacious place”).

You could, as they say, take David out of the broad upland meadows where he once pastured his sheep, but you could never take those meadows out of David. He clearly saw the freedom and deliverance he had from God in terms of being taken from the cramped, dark confines of a prison and placed on a wide undulating hillside under a cloudless sky. Indeed, Hosea uses this word merchab in just that way. He says that the Lord’s desire is to take Israel and “pasture them like lambs in a meadow” (Hosea 4.16 where “meadow” is again merchab). This meadow is, of course, David’s green pasture: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23.1-2).

I find it a lovely image of the freedom that Jesus wants me, like David, to enjoy because, like David, I too am a countryside person who has ended up living in a city. And, like him, I am at my happiest when I can get out of the city and be surrounded by the wide open spaces — for me, the meadows and river-sides and moorlands of the Yorkshire Dales.

So is that how it really is in my heart and soul this morning? Am I enjoying the green pastures that Jesus died to make me lie down in? Am I allowing his Spirit to lead me by quiet waters. Are my feet set in the spacious place that was bought for me on Calvary? Paul reminds me that “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5.1) … not for freedom from anything in particular but just for freedom itself, for the “spacious place” where I can grow into what God wants me to be without limitations and constraints.

Lord Jesus, help me, in my heart and soul, to live in your meadows of grace today, enjoying the sunshine of your love on my shoulders and the soft breeze of your Spirit in my face. Amen.

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