The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!(ESV)
| || |
A Freed Slave
St. Mary Magdalene
22 July 2015
As a young teen, I was enthralled by the novel, The Eagle of the Ninth, a historical adventure by Rosemary Sutcliff published in 1954. The novel was recently turned into a screen play for production as "The Eagle," starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, and Donald Sutherland. Released in spring 2011, it got mixed reviews. I enjoyed it just because it triggered memories of the novel that had captivated me as a teen. It is the story of the loyalty to his Roman master of a young Briton, who has been enslaved by the Roman occupiers of his country. After great trials, the two men become fast friends. The character Marcus Flavius Aquila, played by Channing Tatum, finds himself in attendance at a battle to the death between a professional gladiator and a young Briton, who refuses to fight the gladiator as a last act of defiance against his captors. This remarkable courage attracts the attention of the previously inattentive Marcus, who turns the tide of the crowd, which had been calling for his death, and after gaining the man's life, chooses to purchase him as his slave, against the sober judgment of his uncle, played by Donald Sutherland.
The Briton slave, Esca, played by Jamie Bell, is fiercely proud of his heritage and deeply outraged to be subjugated by the Romans and deprived of his freedom. Marcus has every reason to doubt the loyalty of this fierce young man, but trusts him with growing confidence. For his part, Esca is deeply grateful for the act of kindness shown him by Marcus when he rescued him from the contemptible little British arena returning to him his life. Esca demonstrates remarkable loyalty to Marcus as they team up in some close scrapes with death. Often, he could have betrayed the Roman to death, but the power of his kindness toward him made that impossible. In the end, Marcus and Esca became inseparable friends, Marcus giving Esca the choice of future travels in token of his freedom from slavery.
Christ has given us back our life. We were powerless against the gladiator of death. Christ turned the tide of the mob of yowling demons calling for our eternal demise. He bought us back from our subjugation to the kingdom of His enemy. He made us members of His household and servants to His church. He translated us from death to life. He freed us from the just claims of the law over us. We were slaves subject to death. Now we are His.
He makes bold boasts and claims far beyond what any human master would in regard to his servants. He promises an abundance of spiritual blessings to pour out upon us. These things are only part of the things He does for His servants, for whom all things in heaven and on earth are ordered, seasons sent, sun and moon rise and set, crops grow, harvests given, and civil tranquility granted to us. But these are small things in comparison to the freedom He gives when He buys us from bondage. Who could desert Him and defect back to the law when He is such a generous and gracious Master?
"'For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living' (Rm 14:9). Above Paul said, 'Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's' (Rm 14:8). See what a broadly extended mastery Christ exhibits! See what unconquerable might! See what exacting care He has for us! Do not tell me that He is only speaking about the living. For He even takes care of the departed. And if He cares for the departed, it is quite plain that He cares for the living also.
"He has not omitted any point in this mastery, making for Himself more claims than men do, and especially beyond all other things He does in order to take care of us. A man pays down money, and for this reason maintains a strong claim to the slave he owns. But Christ paid down His death. Given the salvation of one who was purchased at so great a price and the mastery He had gained with so much anxiety and trouble, He is not likely to consider it to be of no value. This he says to make the Judaizer ashamed, and to persuade him to recall to mind the greatness of the benefits: When dead he had come to be alive. There was nothing that he gained from the Law. It would be the highest degree of cold-heartedness, to desert Christ, who had shown so much care for him, and to run away back to the law."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 25
O God, protect the tempted, the distressed, and the erring, and gently guide them. By Your goodness bring them into the way of true freedom. Graciously regard all who are in trouble, danger, temptation, or bondage to sin, and those to whom death draws near. In Your mercy draw them to Yourself; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For all those who have been deployed to foreign combat zones, that the holy angels would watch over them
For good government, in thanksgiving to God for the gifts of freedom bounded by service and responsibility
For the radio ministry of Issues, Etc., that it would continue to be heard by those who need to know of God's abundant mercy
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015