“A marked man.” Tonight at our weekly prayer fellowship, I heard these words take on life down deep. While others were offering up their petitions around me, these three little words were hatched in my spirit. I can’t say I heard them out loud but I can say with certainty that the “Still, Small Voice” found me yet again.
What could these tri-monosyllabic words mean? My mind did a google of its own and immediately snagged a couple of Scriptures burrowed in its vast storehouse of information. I believe the Spirit illuminated these texts and they hung there before my heart, flapping in the breezes of holy wind, awaiting my capitulation.
RORSCHACH AND ABEDNEGO?
First up was the reference that describes a holy man dressed in linen holding an inkhorn at his side. To this man, the Lord commanded he “go through the City and find those who cry and weep over the abominations of the land, and who seek Me, and put a mark on their foreheads.” The inkblot would stay the hand of judgment and let the wearer go free.
It is significant that the word “mark” in Hebrew is tav, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The man was told to “put a tav” on their foreheads. Literally, put a cross there (written as an ‘x’ or ‘t’). It is also telling that in the midst of judgment (the six men) is this interlude of grace. The foreheads of these faithful ones were God’s canvas on which to paint His mark of redemption. When judgment came near, it was asked, “What do you see in this inkspot?” and if it saw the mark of a crucified life, it would pass on.
It would be easy for us to say: everyone who has raised a hand and ‘accepted’ Jesus as Savior will have the mark of the Cross and will thereby be spared any and all judgment. But the Scripture is clear that saving grace is NOT mental assent and ‘happy-as-you-please’ until the ‘sweet-by-and-by’, but it is for those upon whom the cross has done its work. In short, those who “take up their cross”, who live in the grace of a crucified life, and who believe on Jesus and go on believing in Him by the grace of abiding, will stand. Those who pass the ‘Rorschach’ test are those whose lives have evidence of God’s very life in them.
Who can abide the Day of the Lord? Who indeed will stand? The pattern in the Old Covenant will be realized in the New: those who bear the mark of the Cross in their life. I long to be a ‘marked’ man…
HE SAYS ‘JUMP’, I SAY…
The next ‘mark’ I glimpsed was what Paul said of himself as one who bears the “brand-marks” of the Lord Christ. Behind Paul’s ministry that emphasized grace came some interlopers who preached that holiness was the way to Christ. Nuh-uh, Paul said. Holiness is not the way to Christ; the true Gospel is that Christ is the way to holiness! And, as such, Paul had cast off any and all restraints of the Judaism he once espoused and said “I am a willing slave of Christ! See His brand(s) here? I belong to Him! The word, of course, is plural. Slaves of the Roman Empire could be passed from owner to owner and each time branded with the new owner’s mark. Paul was saying, in essence, that every scar, wound and bruise on his body testified to his One and only Owner, Jesus Christ. “So don’t try to reclaim me,” he challenged the “dogs” who dis-graced the Gospel.
This ‘mark’ is found on the one who offers his or her life as a bond-slave of Christ and attracts all manner of negative attention. The pull is great; the sway of the world is super-charged. Family can quickly become a cross to bear. Close friends will abandon you. Only Timothy is here with me…You will be misunderstood, written off, maybe even crucified. At times, you will be lost on an ocean of despair. All alone. You will die daily.
Despite all this, Paul has the gumption to say, “I bear…” In the Greek text, it is an ongoing, repeated action. IOW, Paul is telling you, the reader, he will do it all over again. Again and again. And then again if necessary. For Jesus.
In the very next verse, he says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit…” and it doesn’t get lost on those with even a modicum of reason: he’s inviting us to share in the same adventure. Whew boyyyyyy….
The two marks I was shown tonight have distinctive characteristics. One mark repels judgment while the other repels the world, no matter the cost. In a tattooed world, each stain broadcasting its own value, treaty and treatise of the kingdom of darkness, there is the need of those who stand apart with a new mark, legibly designated as a True Son and Daughter of the Lord. But beware…
…That kind of thing’ll mark you, but good.