Friday, January 21, 2011


After thinking about the word "hem" in Psalm 139:5, I decided to look up the Hebrew and go deeper. And I was taken aback by what I found. Strong's definition of the word:
"to cramp, confine (in many applications, literally and figuratively, formative or hostile)"
I proceeded to look up the other Old Testament uses of the word and found that nearly every other instance was translated "besiege." The English word "besiege" means:
"beset or surround with armed forces for the purpose of compelling to surrender"
And Wikipedia had this to say about a siege:
"military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition [wearing down to the point of collapse due to loss of resources] or assault...Sieges involve surrounding the target and blocking the reinforcement or escape of troops or provision of supplies."
Well. That's a little different than a neatly sewn hem and my nice little thoughts about not unraveling...

I wondered: In what ways does God surround me and force me to give up, compel me to surrender? Not just in the beginning, when He captured my heart and redeemed me, but now?

I remembered a study on Hosea I did in college with some precious friends. We learned about how God, in His severe mercy, stripped Israel of all her resources, led her into the wilderness, naked and that He could allure her. Even, "Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall around her, so that she cannot find her paths" (Hosea 2:6). Ouch.

She was running after false gods, betraying Him with other lovers--so He simply, in a perfect, harmonious balance of justice and mercy, sped up the inevitable disillusionment and disappointment and loss that would result when those gods couldn't ultimately deliver. And then He showed her in that wilderness that He alone could deliver, provide, delight.

And so He besieges me. He sees me playing the whore, running everywhere but to Him, and He puts up the walls. He surrounds me. He blocks supplies from getting in when they would reinforce my trust in idols; He blocks me from escaping and seeking refuge elsewhere. He merely asks that I surrender.

Instead, to my shame, I often squirm and complain that I feel cramped and confined. I throw myself against the fence.

But the truth is that despite the word's range of definition, in this application, God cannot be "hostile"--because I am in Christ. Christ drank fully the cup of God's wrath; there is no wrath or hostility left for me, only love and grace. Therefore this siege must be "formative," an act of that same severe mercy that Hosea recorded. God wants to shape me into the image of His Son. So He hems me in, behind and before.

And when *I* am tempted to be hostile, or to accuse Him of hostility, I read the second half of the verse: "and lay your hand upon me." I trust that this is not a fist to crush me, but a hand of protection, of comfort and reassurance. It is the hand that was pierced by a nail on a cross. It tells me that He has confined me, besieged me, for my good and for His glory. It invites me to see this wall not as a fence that cramps my style, keeps me from better places, keeps good things out--but as a hem that keeps my life from unraveling and falling apart. His hand prompts me to declare again, to preach to my unbelieving self,

"The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance" (Psalm 16:6).

And so I thank Him. I thank Him that when I was dead in my sin and hostile to Him, He besieged me with His love and compelled me to surrender, conquered my wayward heart. I thank Him that I continue to be surrounded by Him, by His steadfast love and boundless grace. I thank Him for the hem, the wall, the fence that protects me from wandering off with idols and keeps me securely in His hand. I thank Him for ordaining the circumstances of my life, even when I think I would rather have different ones, in the way that He knows is the very best for me. I thank Him for His sovereignty, His power, His wisdom and His love.

"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it" (Psalm 139:6).

1 comment:

Anthony said...

Great thoughts. Thank you for sharing.