I saw this video recently of a deer caught in a rope swing out in the woods. As a few men approach with the camera, you can see that the buck’s antlers are caught in the rope, and as he runs back and forth, reacting in fear, his whole body swings up into the air, his feet leaving solid ground to soar into the air, only for him to come crashing back to the ground and run the other direction. Like some frantic, doomed pendulum that could annoy moment prove to be a hangman’s noose, he kept running from his would be helpers.
I shared this video on Facebook, and my discerning mother immediately replied:
“Kind of like some people, insisting they don’t need any help, insisting they can do it all on their own…..” – Jean Edge Ballinger
Yep. Nailed it. Word received loud and clear.
And she didn’t say that as some passive aggressive attack aimed at me in a snide comment on my post. She looked at this living parable set before her eyes and saw something in the video, that reminded her of something in herself (and in our family of hard headed folks) that struck a chord.
The good news is that even though that buck tried hard to fight against these men — struggling out of fear, confusion, and lack of understanding of what was there to kill him and what was there to help him — the fear of the buck was not enough to overcome the persistence of the men to rescue him, to save him, to set him free. The buck probably thought they were there to capture him, to trap him, to use him for their own purposes. He probably thought that their kind words during his moment of vulnerability were just a trap so the mei’m could get their hands on him, so he resisted them, and with each wild swing up into the air, and with each crash back to the ground, it was him that was putting himself in greater danger.
I love my mother’s insight into this video. She didn’t just see some sweet men helping a deer and experience a heartfelt moment. She didn’t look at the situation, trying to find things to complain about and criticize that she thought should have been done better. She didn’t brag and tru to one up with a story about a circumstance she read in that put her in a similar proposition as these men. No, she saw herself as the helpless deer that found herself in need and fighting against the help right beside her.
We are like this many times, Christian. Refusing to share our struggles with others who could help us, who could encourage us, who could live u.s and pray for us — because out of fear and lack of trust, we expect that they are there to hurt us in our time of vulnerability and need — or even worse, we might think that we are fine and don’t need any help at all.
We see in James 5 that we are supposed to do both suffer and sing TOGETHER — not in isolation:
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James 5:13-20 ESV
And as we go out to share this Word of God with a lost and dying world, we mustn’t listen to fear that tells us that the trapped and dying addict or drug dealer or criminal might kill us, the fear that wants to keep us from bringing this Good News of Jesus Christ to them. Just like the men in this video, we must be calm, loving, patient and persistent — not rough with the animal, not demeaning, not angry with it for damaging our children’s swing, but eager to see it live and not die.
We must not get angry and impatient with the lost for the foolish things they are doing out of fear and confusion to seek vengeance on them because their foolish flailing about could have killed us.
Sometimes we can be zealous and lose sight of this and go out seeking to “drive out the evil amongst us”, thinking that we are doing “the work of God” just because we have worked up some idea in our own minds and gathered people around “a just cause”. Sometimes we can find ourselves going into battle under our own battle cry — not because God truly prompted us in that moment and time to say, “Go fight for me and take the land and I will give you victory.”
This is how Saul justified in his mind killing Christians, how the temple priests and guards justified in their minds arresting and torturing Jesus, and this is how Peter justified cutting off ther guard’s ear — but each time, Jesus showed the way of a humble, suffering servant who is president and gentle and brings healing.
Some of us have at times said to ourselves foolishly “God has done it before, He will do it again.” Some of us may have even prayed and inquired of the Lord, but because of our own selfish desires, and the answer we received of “who should go first into battle” wasn’t a humble attitude of following God’s spirit wherever He goes or stays — but a prideful telling God what we are going to do while “giving God the side action of choosing the order it will be done in”.
We see the result of such things in Joshua 20:18-25 when the children of Israel “inquired of the Lord” twice and saw defeat twice.
The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God, “Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up first.” Then the people of Israel rose in the morning and encamped against Gibeah. And the men of Israel went out to fight against Benjamin, and the men of Israel drew up the battle line against them at Gibeah. The people of Benjamin came out of Gibeah and destroyed on that day 22,000 men of the Israelites. But the people, the men of Israel, took courage, and again formed the battle line in the same place where they had formed it on the first day. And the people of Israel went up and wept before the Lord until the evening. And they inquired of the Lord , “Shall we again draw near to fight against our brothers, the people of Benjamin?” And the Lord said, “Go up against them.” So the people of Israel came near against the people of Benjamin the second day. And Benjamin went against them out of Gibeah the second day, and destroyed 18,000 men of the people of Israel. All these were men who drew the sword. Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord .
Judges 20:18-26 ESV
God’s will has been proven to be and time again to resist the proud — so when we are prideful people with our minds already made up to do it our own way, we may find, even when we “inquire of God”, that it is God’s will that we be defeated and humbled so that we can be set free.
The Good News for the children of Israel in Joshua 20, and for us today, is that God has preordained the victory for us who are children of God, He has won it all on Calvary, and just need to humble ourselves, understand that we deserve the correction and discipline for our sinful, prideful, self-seeking ways, but that victory with God is only a surrender away. It wasn’t the outward acts of fasting and prayer that the Israelites participated in that mattered — some might have been acting that way already beforehand — but the genuine worship, awe, reverence and reliance upon GOD ALONE TO BRING VICTORY, this is the story of Joshua 20, of the cross, of us as that helpless dear caught in a rope swing.
Lord, help us to humbly see our utter need and be willing to accept it from you, in whatever form it comes in this season, and through whatever vessels you use to bring it to us. Teach us to rest in you, too go where you go, to stay where you stay, to surrender wholly to your leadership, your lordship, your discipline and your blessing. Amen.