Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Awesome Restraint of God - Part One Restraint of Vision

In the next few posts I would like for readers to consider the uses of restraint that are found in scripture. Starting with the Restraint of Vision I will work through five types of restraint that I see used in the scripture. The other four are The Restraint of Darkness, The Restraint of Conviction, The Restraint of Grace, and The Restraint of the Church.

Shortly after Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women, Luke 24:10 had found the tomb miraculously empty on that first resurrection Sunday another amazing miracle occurred. It happened to the two travelling companions of the Lord as they made their way toward the nearby city of Emmaus; the Bible relates this way:

Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.
And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”
And He said to them, “What things?”
So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”
Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight. (Luke 14:13-31 NKJV)

In this story we literally see the power of restraint in action as Jesus walked with two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. They did not know it was the Lord who walked with them. But when they had reached their final destination, and the Lord had set down to eat with them, their eyes were finally opened. It shows us the Lord’s power in using restraint.

Blindness aside, Jesus uses the occasion as a teaching moment.  He goes back as far as the times of Moses to illuminate the things that were told of Him by the prophets. His statement “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”- is really, one of the most revealing passages in the New testament concerning the lack of scriptural knowledge and understanding the people had in those days. Not only were these two restrained in sight and mind (Cognitive restraint) not knowing who it was that spoke with them, they also were scripturally challenged.

But that should be of no surprise. We see the same today. Veritably, my heart laments with the  dullest of pain when I pause to think of how many are so spiritually famished.  My heart yearns inside to help them learn.  Oh ... how we need to know Jesus.

Our story above illustrates the power of God in using restraint.  But it is not the only way He uses it; there are many more examples of the Lord's restraining actions. For instance, the Restraint of Vision or Revelation as given in Proverbs 29:18 dictates, "Where there is no revelation (vision) the people cast off restraint (perish); but happy is he who keeps the law.” (NKJV)

This type of Restraint comes in the form of revelation, be it visionary or the written word. The Bible teaches that when we first received salvation, through the Lord Jesus Christ, we were immediately given a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). Our whole perspective on life was changed as we came to terms with the reality that God revealed to us through His Spirit. Namely, that we were dying and could not save ourselves. We started to see things completely different than we saw them before and as we grew in our faith to the Lord He continued to work in us what is good and right. Soon our lives began to no longer be dominated by the veil of self righteousness. This lifting of the veil on our hearts opened up a new vision of life and purpose. We cried out with gladness, “As far as the Lord will take us we will follow!” And as we continue with our sights fixed on Jesus we soon joyfully discover those things in life that are most important and of lasting value to us and God's kingdom. It’s only when we turn our eyes from the vision or revelation that first prompted our pilgrimage (John the revelator would call it our “first love”) that we begin to cast off restraint. When we lose our vision we begin to perish.

In this context, Restraint becomes a force that mobilizes our spirit to search and seek after the things that please the Lord. We become constrained by the Holy Spirit to seek the things that please God and at the same time, restrained by Him from loving the world. Through this Restraint of Vision God interfaces the hearts of His church together as one body uniquely working toward even greater accomplishments for the fullness of His kingdom.

The miracle here is the unity that comes when we truly cast our eyes upon the Lord and His purpose alone. So then, with the Restraint of Revelation let us fervently pray as we wait upon Him. And as we wait let us listen, that we may know for certain His holy will. As we listen, let us pray for the courage and determination to say yes!

God Bless