You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there. Psalm 68:18
Psalm 68 mentions this “host of captives in your train.” Have you ever thought about those folks? A train of captives might include people captured as spoils of war. These might be the the folks who were from the conquered nation, being led unwillingly to captivity in an unfamiliar land. These folks would understandably be grieving for the loss of their culture, homes, the men who died in battle. They’d be consumed with uncertainty – were they being led to a mass execution? Slavery? Would families be torn apart? Would women and girls be forced to marry or worse, into prostitution?
Think of the many times the Israelites were captured like this. They added to the common human experience of being captured the fear that they would be required to defile their bodies with forbidden foods and practices. They could no longer go to the temple for atonement of sin or thank offerings.Their hearts would be all the heavier for knowing they could not satisfy God’s requirements in this new place.
But another thought occurred to me recently: A train of captives might include the people who had been previously captured and were now being rescued by warriors from their homeland. Perhaps a train of captives consists of people being returned to their homes and families; rescued by the king who would not forsake his people.
Genesis 14 talks about one such “train of captives.” Abraham heard his kinsman Lot had been taken captive by an enemy king. So he mustered 318 trained men and pursued the captors. They defeated these kings and brought back all the people and possessions who had been taken from Sodom and Gomorrah, including Lot.
The people in this captive train would experience something completely different from the previous day when they were being taken away from their land. Hope replaced despair. Gratitude replaced fear. They were now victors, not victims. They were rescued. Their future was no longer shrouded in uncertainty and grief. There would, of course, be a rebuilding and grief. Their dead were still dead. Their homes were likely damaged during the battle. But they were willingly walking toward a rebuilding, not a forced relocation. Freedom, not slavery. Life, not death.
When we think of Jesus, who leads a host of captives in his train right into the throne room of God, which train do we join?
Sometimes I think we walk through our Christian experience living as if we have been defeated rather than delivered. We don’t live as if our King has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and is leading us to the heavenly places where our true home awaits. We cultivate fear instead of joy. We walk as unwilling captives being forced into an unfamiliar existence. And all too often we cling to our idols.
What would it look like to walk through whatever faces you today with a heart fiercely committed to joy?
What would it look like to “consider it all joy when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2) knowing that you are headed home?
The only way to be fiercely committed to joy is to leap into his grace with everything we’ve got. We only find fierce joy as we recognize Christ as our rescuer. Only the knowledge of his abundant grace transforms our hearts from victim to victor. We only understand his grace as we walk in repentance.
So, I guess what I’m asking is: In day-to-day (even moment-by moment) life, is Christ your rescuer or captor? Do you live redeemed or resigned? Are you willing to let your heart and mind be transformed by the truth of the gospel in such a way that your life changes? Will you leap into grace?
This post builds on the theme we’re talking about today over at Redeeming Easter: A Resurrection Day Study. If you’d like to join us you can subscribe to that Bible study with daily devotions here: http://eepurl.com/bPCVqn.