The Galilean countryside is like a carelessly tossed blanket of hills and valleys. For the hiker, the view often switches abruptly from grand sweeping vistas of uninterrupted beauty to the immutability of a rocky outcrop, beyond which it is impossible to see, and around which it takes strenuous effort to navigate.
Jesus was familiar with these paths. This was His country, His playground and backyard, if you will. I find that fascinating.
Walking these trails was my opportunity to learn of Him in unexpected ways.
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Mat 11:29
As little rocks kicked by my feet went bouncing down steep slopes, I realized that such beauty was an integral part of His earthly life. It should not have surprised me, after all before time began, He was! He was the Creator of it all, whether it is the farthest reaches of the Arctic, or the depths of the marine underworld where man has yet to explore. Not even knowing that quelled my joy at discovering the beauty of His boyhood environment.
As my eyes
feasted on the stunning views of the trail that He walked bringing good
news, I marveled at how appropriate this glimpse of Jesus was to me as
an artist. I enjoy a sense of
connection with another when we respond in the same way to beauty, whether it
is viewing a work of art or something exquisite in nature. Mutual appreciation for beauty connects us intimately. Why else would Pinterest be so popular?
On my way to Capernaum, as I took a deep breath of delight for the lacy banks of wildflowers adrift against a golden backdrop of grasses, I sensed that surely He must have done the same! It was impossible to be unmoved. He, who gave us our universal appreciation for beauty, was intimately acquainted with it during His life upon this earth. Somehow stumbling on that fact surprised and thrilled me!
Valleys and hills are mentioned throughout the Bible. Strategic battles were fought using the advantage of both the hills and valleys. God once, when challenged, referred to Himself as the God of both the hills and the valleys.
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.' 1Ki 20:28 ...
But of all the references in the Bible to hills and valleys, the Valley of Decision is the most terrifying, especially in a world where there is now an absence of terror for the One whom we must revere the most!
"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." Joe 3:14
The day of the Lord will surely come, as prophesied, as a day of judgment. To discuss all of its implications is not my intent, since I am not a Bible scholar, nor is that the role that I am called to.
Instead, I am drawn to the multitudes that are today in a metaphorical Valley of Decision. Choices they make each day either draw them towards God, or away from Him. God offers each precious life in the Valley of Decision numerous opportunities to turn to Him. Such is His mercy and grace. Those opportunities are not always apparent, masquerading as the ordinary circumstances of modern life, or in the witness of countless people like you and me.
Those of us who have enjoyed the goodness of God, who understand His mercy and who also have a reverential awe of His justice, are witnesses presenting our lives as a colorful testimony to His ways. If we are not powerfully effective and compelling witnesses, then we ought to be. That is our mandate from God.
Ask Him in prayer how to be all that we have been called to be. Being the sort of witnesses that God expects is not impossible or complicated. Just drawing close to God and reflecting Him in our daily lives is all He asks of us. Closeness to Him allows us to adjust our ways to be pleasing and His blessing permits us to be a backdrop for His goodness. We complicate it when we try to make it any more challenging than that.
" Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake." Psa 115:1
As Christian artists, our tools are to be reflective instruments lifting the sights of those viewing the work, not to us, or even to the beauty of the art, but to Him who is truly worthy of praise. Becoming excellent in wielding those instruments for that purpose alone is neither effortless nor dull. Ah, but what more thrilling occupation is there – pursuing beauty to reflect His excellence! And conversely, what greater danger is there than to create art that is empty of Him, or that draws attention to us!
For such a time as this were we created - to prompt those in the Valley of Decision to make the climb to higher ground to enjoy the love, favor and mercy of a wonderfully good God.
See The Way: another oil painting inspired by the Galilee
Or read about Walking with Jesus on the Jesus Trail
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