John T. Willis

Monday, January 02, 2012

Lift Up Your Head

The manner in which one holds one's head is a clue, an indicator. a sign, a token, a spiritual thermometer of what is going on in one's heart. A head lifted in just the right way portrays arrogance, self-conceit, cockiness, egotism. We have all seen that look. Immediately, this look makes all people think of the movers and shakers, people who think they have prestige, people who assume they are in control, the dominant bosses, the Herods and Hitlers and Mussolinis of the world. Some biblical texts use the expression "lift up the head" in this negative way.

But there is another positive sense of "lifting up the head." In this context, a person is oppressed, or feels dejected or rejected or abandoned, or is down on his or her luck or down in the mouth. We all have been in that situation. As we face the New Year 2012, God through Jesus Christ summons us to "lift up our heads," to be courageous, to be strenghtened by God, to have a purpose in life as God created all of us. Here are a few texts which emphasize this positive challenge and encouragement.

One of the most beautiful passages in scripture appears in Psalm 24:7-10. The background seems to be when the priests brought the ark of the covenant from the battlefield to lodge or house the ark in the Jerusalem temple. As the priests and the worshippers approached the Jerusalem temple, the call was:

and BE LIFTED UP, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
and BE LIFTED UP, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory."
Anytime we approach God in worship, God summons us to "lift up our heads," just as the gates of the Jerusalem temple were to lift up their heads symbolically. God is our king, God is mighty in battle, God is strong and mighty, God is the Lord of hosts, and these hosts are the angelic armies. In light of his GLORY, all of us must lift up our heads to hold our heads high to honor our king, our creator, our God.

Genesis 40:9-19 relates the account of the dreams of the Egyptian cupbearer and the Egyptian baker in prison when Joseph was there under the rule of Pharaoh. The outcome of each dream stands in bold contrast, each based on the expression "lift up the head."
*The dream of the cupbearer is that he saw a vine with three branches. The vine budded, blossoms, and in time produced grapes. Joseph explained that the three branches represent three days; Joseph tells the cupbearer, "within three days Pharaoh will LIFT UP YOUR HEAD and RESTORE YOU to your office." Whereas the cupbearer had been banished and in prison, in three days Pharaoh will "lift up his head," that is, restore him to his former position beside Pharaoh.
*The dream of the baker is that he saw three cake baskets on his head and the birds ate the bread in the baskets. Joseph explained that the three baskets are three days; Joseph tells the baker, "within three days Pharaoh will LIFT UP YOUR HEAD--from you!--and hang you on a pole." The contrast between the dream of the cupbearer and the dream of the baker is very clear. And it came to pass.
When we are dejected or downtrodden or sad, God has a way of lifting up our head and restore us to a much better condition or situation. This does not happen immediately, but God has mysterious ways to make this happen, because he loves us and because he supports those who love him.

One song we often sing is based on Psalm 3:3:

"But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory,
and the one who LIFTS UP MY HEAD."

The psalmist has experienced severe malicious enemies. He has struggled mightily with this. He has turned to God in prayer, and God has intervened and has delivered him from this conflictual situation. Now, he declares gladly that God is the one who "lifts up his head." He had been cast down, but now God has raised up his heart, his spirit, his life.

Luke 21:25-28 contains an intriguing, inspiring, encouraging passage. This has to do with the coming of the Son of Man.

"There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, the the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud and power and great glory.
Now when these things being to take place, stand up and LIFT UP YOUR HEADS, because your redemption is drawing near.

We will always face difficult opposition, losses, discouragements, fears, and anxiety. But by faith God calls us to LIFT UP OUR HEADS to receive God's intervention and delivery and encouragement and eternal salvation.

Share YOUR fears and anxieties and discouragements with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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