The Bulls of BashanApr 30, 2017 03:18AM ● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
She came over to my house that afternoon trembling. Life had rocked her, and while she approached the finish line of a chapter of her life coming to an end, she was fearful. Who wouldn’t be? What if all the pieces God had helped her set into place suddenly were yanked away?
The fear was palpable. As I embraced her and held her hands, I could feel it. And so I prayed. There was no other peace I could offer than Jesus. My words were empty. I was rambling as usual, grasping at straws to bring comfort. But His words are always full, life-giving, and without end.
As I prayed, I reminded Christ of these words in His Holy Scripture:
2 Timothy 1:7, KJV
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
All I could do was remember His promise and speak it to her. I had no power of my own to take the spirit of fear away.
But I had the name of Jesus. And it was enough.
Initial news of a diagnosis had come in. It sucker-punched so many of us. I prayed for 24 hours before responding. I had no words. What do you say when fear sneaks in as a disease, slithering like a snake and hissing at everyone involved, trying to keep their eyes off the Storm Silencer, the Jesus who calms the seas?
My first message of response was brief. This was all I truly needed to say:
Psalm 27:13, KJV
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
The goodness of the LORD, really? In this world, where illness holds us hostage and reminds us of our frailty, we can find goodness? Where?
He bounced without stopping on the trampoline to regulate himself, his feelings a jumbled mess of confusion and hurt. He did not feel heard. “Adults are supposed to listen to kids and students, Mom, but they don't. They just really don’t.”
Anything I tried to say fell on deaf ears.
“No, it’s not about the fact he didn’t agree with me. I should be allowed to ask a question without being told not to ask it. It was a legitimate question.”
He had stood up for something he strongly believed in, and while it still had shades of unfiltered tween boy communication skills on it, he took a risk, and it was rebuffed. The response left him feeling singled-out.
I wasn’t with him when this happened. I can’t say for sure what did or did not take place. I simply know he felt misunderstood and alone.
John 16:33, ESV, Jesus speaking
"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
So, how about you? Where is fear, sadness, or sudden overwhelm surrounding you?
In this famous psalm, the messianic references are very clear: bulls (enemies) surrounding, bones out of joint, pierced hands and feet, dividing clothes, casting lots. A sense of isolation, entrapment, forsakenness.
One of my favorite references in this psalm is to the strong “bulls of Bashan” that metaphorically encircle the psalmist—and ultimately, Jesus. Fierce beasts of significant size in the pastures of Palestine, bulls were an image that would have conjured up a sense of fear to those living at the time. They were clearly a vicious threat.
Psalm 22:10-21, ESV
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[fn]—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen [emphasis mine]!
So, I ask you: Who or what are your bulls of Bashan right now? What has come growling and salivating with ill intention at your threshold? What surrounds you with threatening strength?
- Is it unrelenting or sudden, significant illness?
- A broken or toxic/abusive relationship?
- A rogue child?
- Unpaid bills?
- A lie you feel hemmed in by?
- Insecurity or uncertainty?
John 16:19-22, ESV
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Do you see what that last verse says? There is hope in the future that we once again will rejoice. Nobody can take our joy. Nobody and no-thing!
Not trauma, not disease, not misunderstanding.
Yes, for a little while we can be rocked by circumstances. We will surely grieve and mourn the brokenness of and in this world.
But when those bulls come breathing heavily, drooling with threats, there is one thing they cannot take:
The joy that is within you in Christ.
It conquers the spirit of fear, revives a faint heart, and offers peace in tribulation.
The Holy Son of God hung in front of those “bulls” of Bashan on Calvary so that we ultimately would not be harmed.
If they are baring their teeth at you right now, won’t you join me in reminding them that they are already conquered in the name of Jesus?
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.