Perfect Peace

“Resting,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2015 Lynn Abbott

Like many canines, my 18 month Labradoodle believes it his sacred duty to guard his pack…that, of course, is composed of me and my family.   Thus, he guards, or, at the very least, alerts us to danger.

I am told that when I am not around to issue my reassuring command “Quiet,”  he especially delights in discovering unfamiliar noises and barking ferociously at those he fears most…

Our neighbor’s cat has been classified as pack enemy number one.

No surprise there. No matter how peaceful Bentley may appear, the mere mention of  “cat” is enough to rouse his fighting spirit.  There’s no rest for the fearful.

Actually, it’s a shame that my parents didn’t own a dog when I attended elementary school.  It would have saved my father a lot of trouble.

I particularly remember one weekend when my older brother had come for a visit.  Since it was a relaxing, Sunday football kind of afternoon, both he and my dad kicked back in our living room.  Suddenly, Dad leaped to his feet and dashed out the front door.

My brother looked perplexed. He’d been away from home for some time.  But I was used to Dad’s seemingly, inexplicable interruptions.  Peering through the front window, I confirmed my suspicions.   There, in the front courtyard, Dad stood… aiming a garden hose at a feral cat.

He harbored no ill will toward the cat.  He intended no harm.  He simply wished to persuade the hapless creature to find new territory.  I understood it perfectly. You see, my bedroom faced the courtyard’s fortification.

I had been privy to the midnight, cat squalls that regularly took place there.  And although a courtyard generally provides a safe buffer from street noise, the cats’ nightmarish hissing and screeching frequently disturbed my slumber.

On such occasions, after I’d been abruptly awakened, my heart raced until I regained my bearings–a happier state prompted by the familiar creak of the front door.

Indeed, the porch light would suddenly illuminate the courtyard; its brilliant comfort spilled through my window.

And I knew Dad had taken his position behind the garden hose, and peace would reign the night once more.  Forget things that go bump in the night… greater terror existed in the screaming, hissing and caterwauling of feral felines locked in territorial conflict.

Yup.  Bentley would have had a field day.  But since my parents’ dog had died years before, Dad wisely wielded his “weapon” of choice, and spritzed those wild creatures… putting an end to another night’s cacophony.

Undoubtedly, fear and anxiety thrive in darkness.  I suppose that’s because in darkness everything is obscure, and the enemy capitalizes on that.  Thus, a noisy racket parades prominently–front and center.

Certainly, while Satan has lost the battle,  he continues to peddle fear.

I think, perhaps, that in doing so he seeks to slow the advance of God’s people. If he persuades us that the obstacles are too great and that danger will certainly overtake us, we may stall.

Such was the case for God’s people when they first viewed God’s promised land.  Initially, fear drove the people back into the desert.

After the twelve Jewish spies reported to Moses, the fearful majority prevailed. Giant warriors occupied the land.  Anxiety screamed, “Israel doesn’t stand a chance.”

Joshua and Caleb alone urged faith over fear.  The majority, though, violently opposed them.

In a state of sheer panic, the people actually threatened to stone their leaders.  They succumbed to fear and wandered in the desert instead of entering “God’s rest,” (Hebrews 3:7-11).

However, despite their lack of faith, God gave grace.  The nation did not wander forever. Upon Moses’ death, Joshua assumed command and Israel crossed the Jordan once more.

Yet, their arrival certainly did not signify a walk in the park. I imagine that from the walls,  Jericho’s “giants” mocked Joshua and his men.  The men of Jericho sought to demoralize God’s people.

In light of this, I find God’s unusual plan extremely profound.  God instructed Joshua and company to remain silent as they marched around the city.

In other words, no barking.  The Master would defend them.

They were to avoid futile dispute with the enemy. In His divine wisdom, God knew that such debate would only foster fear.

Instead of exchanging the customary battle boasts with the enemy, Joshua and the Israeli army were to march around Jericho once each day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day.

Significantly, seven is God’s number of completion.  Thus, by marching seven times on the seventh day,  Joshua and his men acknowledged God’s victory as fait accompli.

Only after their march of faith did the Israeli army finally speak.  Surprisingly, even then, they did not answer their enemies but rather they praised God.

They left fear in the desert and brought faith to Jericho.

True, they blew it the first time ’round.

Quite honestly, I’m glad God included their failure in scripture.  I find tremendous hope in their broken history because although the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the desert, God did not forget His people or His promise.

And He doesn’t forget you and me when our faith fails.

Grace always returns God’s people to the land of promise.

Yet, with renewed opportunity,  God also gave the command: “Quiet.”  The enemy’s taunts should be met with complete silence.

No amount of human argument could beat back fear. For this reason, if they were to succeed, they had to listen to God rather than to the enemy.

Isaiah reminds us, “The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in Thee.  Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock,” (Isaiah 26:3-4).

It’s actually pretty simple.  The best way to resist the enemy’s lies is to avoid becoming entangled in argument.

Ensnared by anxious debate, we begin to doubt. The devil encourages double-minded thought and so deceives us. Eve learned this the hard way.

And we fall into the same trap. We hear the hissing and long to defend ourselves.  We wish to justify our walk with God, to offer explanation. But Satan uses such debate to gain a foothold,  to distract us with increasingly noisy terrors and to divert our eyes from the Savior.

Thus, God commands us to remain silent as we march around Jericho. In fact, 1 Peter commands us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”

Joshua’s warriors probably found it difficult to keep silent. Human pride demanded an answer to the enemy’s taunts.

But God asked His people to humbly place their trust in Him.  After all, the battle belonged to God.  It always does.

For this reason, you and I also ought to resist vain disputes with an enemy who simply wants to distract and waylay us, (Romans 16:17-19).

When the enemy screeches upon the wall,  you and I are commanded to take captive every thought and place it before Abba.

Although our adversary is cunning, God’s instructions are straight-forward:  “Submit therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” (James 4:7).

Scripture also reminds us, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:6, 7).

Of course, at times, our faith may falter.  Sometimes, feral giants terrorize us.  Anxiety fills our minds; fear blinds us.

Even so, God promises grace in time of need, (Hebrews 4:16).

We can count on our Father. We need not spin in anxious argument.  In quietude, we can wait upon God. After all, we may rest confidently in this: our defeated enemy can do little more than raise a ruckus.

No matter what today or tomorrow may hold, God’s victory is fait accompli.  The Master protects us.  His Word hoses the enemy’s lies.

Anxiety, in fact, dissipates as we obediently dwell on  “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute…” (Philippians 4:8).

Or as the beloved hymn assures us, when we turn our eyes upon Jesus, “the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

And that’s perfect peace.

“‘Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.'”~ Joshua 1:5, 9

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD,” ~Psalm 27:14

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trust in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him,” ~Psalm 28:7