Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Kingdom of Peace

This work began as a study for a painting I had promised a friend, quite some time ago.  I have since decided that trying to paint detailed and surreal images like this would take more time than I have, so I've concluded that my digital composite art will have to do.  I am happy with this mode of expression now~ I have made my peace with it!

Her request was for a "lion and lamb" picture, and I know she likes gardens, so I began to create a spiritual garden mostly from photos of my own of the Cummer in Jacksonville.  The olive tree, of course, doesn't grow there in the natural world.  But I was envisioning a mountaintop garden, and since Jesus often prayed and rested with his disciples on the Mount of Olives, I thought it was fitting.  It represents here the Tree of Life.  I was concerned at first that it didn't seem to have olives on it, and I was going to try to clone them in, but I decided it wasn't necessary, as "the leaves are for the healing of the nations."

 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelations 22:2 

Now this picture doesn't match up with the Biblical description here, but then there's at least one in Genesis that's different.  What I'm thinking is that wherever Jesus is, there's the Tree of Life, since He is the Life.  I don't have clear revelation on "twelve fruits," so I am going to leave that alone right now.  I figure that He can bear fruit in His season, and that is His doing not mine.   I do know that in the natural world, olive leaf is a useful herb that promotes health and healing, and I occasionally use it myself if I'm fighting an infection!  Olive oil is also one of those really healthy things, and it stands for anointing in Scripture.  Sometimes I can't put every detail into a piece that there possibly could be, so we have to see the possibilities for understanding even in that which is "unspoken" but can be "read between the lines."

The main subject is Christ, and the Lion and the Lamb both represent Him:

But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals." Revelation 5:5

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  John 1:29

"for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17

In this picture, the lion and lamb are actually sitting on a rock that is in the middle of a stream!  That may seem uncomfortable, but this is a spiritual representation.  It's the river of God, which "proceeds from the throne of God"

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1

Since this is a symbolic representation of the Kingdom of God, we will assume the throne of God is present but unseen as is God Himself.  The rule of God is visible however, in its effects.  Here, one of the effects is peace.  Remember that one of the premises I go on in my artistic representations of spiritual things is this:

nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21

So, if the Kingdom is in you by the indwelling Christ (shown by the dove who symbolizes the Holy Spirit), then the outcome would be peace.  This of course is a process, but we should be having an increase of peace as the rule of Christ in our life increases:

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.  Isaiah 9:7

As much holy zeal as the Lord has, He is always at peace, which is why I have chosen to show the lion and lamb lying down.  He expects us to rest in Him as well, and be at peace.  He is the Prince of Peace!  There is no reason, no valid excuse really, to live in worry, stress and doubt if He is our King and Shepherd.  And what better Shepherd to have than one who knows what it's like to be a sheep?!  He knows how easy it is for us to fret and have care that takes away our health and well-being.  He knows our natural world does not often look like this artwork.  It often looks like devastation, as in Haiti.  However, for the Christian, even living in terrible circumstances and with incredible suffering does not have to steal our peace from us.  Indeed, we should endeavor to enter into His peace and rest, which will shelter us in times of difficulty. 

Hbr 4:10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. . . Hbr 4:11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. . . Hbr 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. . . Hbr 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4  [I suggest reading the whole chapter, and also Psalm 91].

Jesus words about the end times were about tribulation of all types, so we should not be dismayed at the happenings in the world. 

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

We are to expect trials, tribulations, and persecutions, but we have the Spirit if we belong to Christ, and one of the fruits of the Spirit is peace.  Tribulation also works to train our character and bring us into line with Christ's character, of which patient endurance is certainly part.  (Galatians 5:22;  Romans 5:3)  Small trials throughout our life help make us stronger and more able to deal with large problems later.  But if we do have to deal with something for which we are not ready, then His grace is sufficient:

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have had plenty of opportunities in my life to test the validity of this Scripture, and I testify that is it indeed true!  And yet, sometimes I worry that something will happen in life, some big disaster or something, that I won't be able to handle.  Then the Lord gently reminds me of how His grace carried me through things I thought would certainly destroy me, or at least my mental stability.

No matter what, we have the hope of Christ's return in glory to rule on the earth!  I am looking for that, praying that it will be soon.  When we think of the "millenial reign" we probably first think of peace!  I love the word picture that Isaiah "painted" about that:

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6 

We often get these words confused with the "lion and lamb" concept, but I think these pictures fit together, so I took advantage of the fact that seeing a lion and lamb lying down together would evoke a concept of the millenial reign as well.  We often don't think of the fact that as we mature, our picture of Christ matures as well.  We may know Him as the Lamb at first (He is easier to handle that way), and then the Lion of Judah later (which I see as a more warlike representation, one that has already defeated Satan).  Eventually we will be comfortable knowing Him as both the Lion and the Lamb together, understanding that He will manifest whatever facet of Himself that is necessary for the time.

These things were all in me as I "painted" but I received a "hidden manna" from it as I meditated on the picture and prayed for more understanding.  I saw it while I was listening to a Brenda Craig teaching on the Word.  Suddenly I saw that the garden here is divided into three parts.  I knew this when I did it but I didn't see what it really showed.  It is all about how we pursue (seek after) the Lord. 

This is what I saw:  on the left, He leads us into green pastures, a place of quiet and rest.  He does all the work, we just lean on Him and soak in His presence.  In the middle, there seems to be no way in, just something you can look into but not walk to.  The Lord showed me that there are two ways to go deeper, dive in or fly in!  This is spiritual, and it's takes seeking the Lord to understand.  But it takes a leap of faith and giving up your own control.  The third way of pursuing the Lord is climbing.  As on the right hand side of the picture, one has to climb up some steep stairs to venture out into more of who He is.  You might get to a mountain top and have a revelation of God.  You might go down into a valley then to serve, and discover more of His character and have it worked into you.  It's about action,  testing, and experience.  But it all takes us to a higher level with Him.  Each of these three modes requires faith, hope and love-- along with obedience and perseverance.  But they will all three lead to more intimacy with Christ and knowing God more.

I haven't explained the statue (from Middleton Place in South Carolina).  What do you think it means?  Comments?

Credit for images licensed  for use in this composite:
Grand old olive tree  © Manicblue
Hills & Swiss Alps © Ken Brown
Rotunda in Crimea  © Vladyslav Surnin  
Lamb © Mikael Damkier
Male Lion © Eric Gevaert
Beautiful stone urn with flowers © Douglas Freer
White Dove in Flight 6 © Christopher Ewing

"The Kingdom of Peace" is a composite artwork by Karen Gladys Henry © 2009. All rights reserved. For permission to use this image in any way other than copying to your computer as wallpaper, please email me at ArteZoe@gmail.com Thank you.

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