Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Warrior Poet

“In the year of our Lord, 1314, patriots of Scotland, starving and outnumbered, charged the fields of Bannockburn.  They fought like warrior poets.  They fought like Scotsmen.  And won their freedom.”  So the movie Braveheart ends.  The hero of the film, William Wallace has died.  He’s martyred for the cause of Scottish independence, but his legacy lives on through his fellow Scotsmen, and most importantly, in the heart of the flawed figure, Robert the Bruce, who leads his countrymen to victory over the English, and gains the Scottish crown.

But this one line stands out at the end of the film.  “They fought like warrior poets.”  Warrior poets.  What an evocative description, capturing ruggedness and tenderness all in one.  The mind and the body - art and practicality - coming together in a kaleidoscope of savage beauty.  For me personally, I can’t think of a way I would rather be described.  Whether I am much of either a poet or a warrior, I’m not sure, but at my best, I aspire to be both.

David was both.  In 1 Samuel 18, we’re told that after David had defeated Goliath, the women came out of all of the towns of Israel dancing and singing, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”  Later, to win the king’s daughter’s hand in marriage, David provided Saul with 100 foreskins of the Philistines.  Presumably, David was forced to kill these enemies.  It’s unlikely they would have parted with that particular part of their anatomy otherwise.  In fact, David was such a warrior and had shed so much blood, he was told by God, in 1 Chronicles 28:3, that he was not to build the temple. 

But David wasn’t just a fighter, he was a writer too.  A poet.  Many of the Psalms are attributed to David and they are some of the finest poetical writings in the history of the world.  Many of the psalms that we use in worship are attributed to David.  Just listen to some of these lines.  “You, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head…O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all of the earth…The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge…The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is my stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid...The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over the mighty waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.  The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon…Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit…I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God…As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” 

I could go on and on.  This only skims the surface of all the psalms attributed to David.  He was a poet, rivaled only by a few over the past 3,000 years.  And his poetry sprang from his deep and emotional relationship with God.  Like the time he danced with all of his might before the Lord and before any and all who were present.  Though his wife Michal was embarrassed by his lack of restraint, David was willing to make himself vulnerable before others out of his sheer jubilation at welcoming the Ark of the Covenant into his royal city.

I believe that both men and women would do well to embrace some of David’s raw emotion and vulnerability in our relationship with God and in our relationships with one another.  As both a warrior and a poet, what stands out in David’s life was his passion.  He gave 110% in everything he set his hand to – whether the sword or the pen.  David was one of the most passionate people to have ever lived.

But David was not the most passionate person to have ever breathed the breath of life.  That description is reserved for none other than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  It’s no wonder that we refer to his death upon the cross as The Passion.  It was Jesus’ passionate relationship with his Father that enabled him to go all the way in his life of obedient submission – all the way to death on a Roman execution instrument.  He held nothing back – he laid it all on the line.  Jesus never wrote a word that was preserved for posterity, yet his poetic life is written on our hearts.  And though his battles were fought without the weapons of war, there’s no greater warrior than the one whose death and resurrection brought victory.  

The passion of the ultimate warrior poet inspired the apostle Paul to write the following in his letter to the Philippians.  “…whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own…but one that comes through the faith of Christ…I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  May this be our passionate hope as well!  - Shay

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