Week of October 21
The Burden Bearer
"Praise be to the LORD, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens." I like that translation of Psalm 68:19 in the New International Version (NIV), which varies remarkably from the King James Version (KJV). The KJV (or Authorized Version of 1611) translates part of the verse as referring to God "who daily loadeth us with benefits."
My research, coupled with my nearly forgotten Hebrew, assures me that the literal translation refers to God as the one who "loads up for us." The idea is that of donkeys or other beasts of burden loaded with provisions. As I read the NIV, I think of God as our Burden-Bearer.
That immediately brings to mind the matter of sin. Almost anyone in the Church can talk about Jesus bearing our sins on the cross. It's certainly that - but I think it's more.
I think of Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy [i.e., easy fitting], and my burden is light."
Jesus spoke to people who desperately wanted to find God, perhaps who wanted to be good, even perfect.
I've translated Jesus' first words above as, "Come to me whoever is exhausted." The plea is for those of us who have tried hard and long to be the good people of God. He recognizes that we're carrying a heavy load as we try to climb upward. If we're not careful, we get entangled with rules and commandments that get mixed up with a kind of cultural Christianity that burdens us and keeps us low.
In Jesus' days, the Jews used the yoke as a symbol of submission. This verse tells us that if we take Jesus Christ's yoke, it fits us well; it doesn't become a heavy-duty, law-upon-law obligation. It's a way of saying he'll help us carry our burdens.
I like that thought. When the people read Psalm 68, they must have thought of their donkeys that carried heavy loads for them. And if they did, what kind of picture did that give them of God, the All-Powerful One?
As I read the psalm centuries later, it gives me hope. It helps me understand how God relates to us.
For instance, I think about Sam, a long-time friend that I care about deeply. More than nine years ago, his son left home after a violent argument. For nine years, Sam had no contact with his son. Whenever I asked, Sam would shake his head and say, "I don't know where he is or what he's doing." The pain showed on his face.
In April 1996, the son called. "Daddy, can I come and see you?" He was calling from a phone booth two minutes away. It was a tearful reunion, and the breach began to mend. Father's Day was one of the happiest days of Sam's life because his son came to spend the day, along with the rest of the family.
"Nobody will ever know the burden of what I went through for nine years," Sam said. "I cried and cried until no more tears came."
As I listened, I teared up as well. Then Sam said, "If it hadn't been for God, I don't know how I could have held up."
In that instant, I got it: God, the Burden-Bearer. God didn't take away the problem-at least not for nine years. No outward change, no thundering voice in the storm that promised answers. Sam had nothing to go on except the assurance that God cared.
In such situations, we realize we're following the Burden-Bearer of our lives. Today, I sat for a long time meditating on that concept. It gave me comfort to know that God not only understands our pains and hurts, but God intervenes.
Because God has done that, I'm learning not to carry around a lot of worry: that I've failed to live up to my potential; that my pastor (or insert a favorite name here) doesn't understand me; or, that I messed up a month ago by (fill in your own ending).
God doesn't always make things right, not even in nine years-at least not the way we want them to be. Some things in life never have a happy resolution. That's all the more reason we need our Burden-Bearer, who makes life's loads tolerable.
For instance, I once had a friend named Ben-a really close friend-and we had a serious rift between us. It doesn't matter who was right and who was wrong; it was simply that our viewpoints were totally different. He couldn't cross over into my way of thinking, and I couldn't go over to his.
For several days, I prayed for a reconciliation It didn't come about. That was four years ago. It may never happen. I wrote to Ben, asking him to forgive me. He never replied. Despite the sadness of a broken relationship, God has taken the burden off my back. I have no mind-reading talents, so I don't know how he feels; I know only that he has not replied. But I've been able to let it g God has been my Burden-Bearer.
Today, I recalled an artist's illustration I'd seen in a long-ago edition of John Bunyon's classic allegory, Pilgrim's Progress. The hero, Christian, is heading toward the Celestial City, but he has a heavy burden strapped to his back. Evangelist talks to him, but the burden remains. Finally, as he nears the cross, the burden falls from his back and rolls away. It's Christian's conversion experience, but I see it as an ongoing picture for me and many others.
Unfortunately, most of us get rid of the burdens and then take on new ones. Sometimes we stuff them inside, and deny even to ourselves that they exist.
The kind of burden doesn't matter. He is the Burden-Bearer, who's waiting for us to offer our heavy, exhausting loads to him.
Praise be to the LORD, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. --PSALMS 68:19, NIV
God, my Burden-Bearer,
take the load from me.
I'm too weary trying to do it all myself,
attempting to make everything come out perfect,
and I'm tired of failing in my attempts.
Take my burdens and fill me with your peace and joy. Amen.
For more from Cec, please visit www.cecilmurphey.com.
Cecil Murphey has written more than one hundred books on a variety of topics with an emphasis on Spiritual Growth, Christian Living, Caregiving, and Heaven. He enjoys preaching in churches and speaking and teaching at conferences around the world. To book Cec for your next event, please contact Twila Belk at 563-332-1622.