He crouched, he lay down like a lion
and like a lioness; who will rouse him up?
Blessed are those who bless you,
and cursed are those who curse you. (Numbers 24:9)
As I first pulled together the ideas for this book, I came across this passage from Numbers, which is part of Balaam’s prophecy over the nation of Israel. (By the way, it’s also a reprise of the man Israel’s [Jacob’s] prophecy over Judah in Genesis 49:9.) It’s a curious phrase, and that’s part of the reason why I’ve held off digging into it until now. But now’s the time. O Lord, is it the time. . . . I am so wrestling alongside you all with this one. . . .
What does it mean to “lay down like a lion,” and how does that fit into this week’s exploration of walking in the Spirit? Let me come at this sideways and then work my way in, because God’s been spending this past week (and especially today) spelling it out for me. . . .
So far, we’ve considered not only taking our sin seriously, and taking God seriously, but also to take his promises about us seriously. So today, let’s enjoy a brief respite from self-denial, and focus instead on receiving what the Spirit has for us—and resting in it.
In his book of the same name, Watchman Nee speaks of “the normal Christian life.” Think about that phrase for a moment. What comes to your mind when you hear that? I’m betting it looks nothing like what came to Watchman’s. Sadly, what we usually consider a “normal Christian life” goes something like, “go to church, serve others when we can, try to be a good person, and attend a prayer vigil when we’re feeling really spiritual.”
However, and as anyone who truly takes Jesus’ words to heart should already know, the truly normal Christian is nothing like that. The truly normal Christian is the one who’s following Christ—who’s following the Spirit’s lead in everything. We are, as the King James Version puts it repeatedly, “a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, et al.). And much as it might pain some to admit, following where the Spirit leads will only make us more peculiar.
We will resemble the world’s definition of “normal” less and less. But we will resemble Jesus’ definition of “normal” more and more. Isn’t that what we want?
I think the idea of “laying down like a lion” is part of that. It captures what the normal Christian life should look like—to us.
The wicked flee when no one pursues,
but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1)
Look at the lion, and how he lays down. There’s intent. There’s vigilance. There isn’t hesitation. There’s confidence and boldness, and yet no arrogance—because there’s no fear.
Too often, we settle for something less than what God wants for us, and fill in the gaps with ambition, anxiety, uncertainty, and discontent. How can we become as “bold as a lion,” with the confidence and boldness God wants for us?
It will happen when God’s desires become our desires.
God wants us to remain in his will, but that’s not all he wants. He wants us to want his will. Ultimately, we can’t accomplish this on our own. We’re just too selfish. But as the Spirit trains us, guides us, rebukes us, consoles us—or more bluntly: kicks our butts, pulls us back up again, then gives us a shoulder hug for good measure—then our hearts become more conformed to his. We become more peculiar, and we also become more OK with that.
We are truly children of the King. For all the things we’ve dealt with—including all the things we’ve dealt with throughout these devotionals—we are still children of the King. As we walk in the guidance and confidence in the Spirit, we increasingly lose our fears. That’s certainly not to say it’s easy—again, think of all the things we’ve dealt with here—but that doesn’t make it any less true. As children of the King, we are becoming more and more like our Father—and like our “fellow-son” Jesus.
And remember: There will come a day when the lion will lay down with the lamb. Not only that, but the lion is The Lamb:
And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:2–13)
One day, it will all make sense. One day, all will be as it was meant to be. So take heart. Be strengthened. Learn to lay down like a lion, because it truly is the normal Christian life.
Lay It Down Today
Presumably you’re reading this at the end of the week. Good. Use a day this weekend to take a full sabbath. Don’t be concerned about which day it is; just use it to be still before God and honor him. Don’t work (or get ready for work). Use the day in a way that’s most conducive to relaxing in Christ. Spend the day in your favorite chair (and tell your spouse I said it’s OK). Spend the day in nature. But spend it intentionally with God.
While you’re doing that, spend some time meditating again on this question: What do you know God has called you to? Where have you felt the tug of the Spirit—and therefore, where is your obedience actually being requested? Pray over these things. Resolve to put all your energies into them, and beg God to give you the time and energy to do them with all your heart.