..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jesus Set His Face Like Flint: Learning Obedience in the Midst of Rejection and Opposition (Luke 9:51-62)

Obedience and not reaction. Jesus set His
face like flint to do the will of God.

That's what we must learn. There are a million
things out there that will press our buttons
and inflame our emotions so completely
that we won't know which way is up.

So often we are drawn away from obedience
because we are drawn into slippery,
stalwart, or stubborn reactions that
takes us away from obedience to God.

In the ninth chapter of Luke's gospel we
find Jesus "setting His face like flint"
to go toward Jerusalem, where He would
lay down His life for us. He was not going
to be turned aside from doing God's will.
No matter what the cost, no matter what
He felt, no matter what others said or did,
He was going to obey His Father (Luke 9:51ff).

Jesus encountered more rejection when
He went through Samaria toward Jerusalem.
If you have set your face to do the will
of God, you, too, will experience
rejection. If, however, you don't set your
face like flint, it will be very difficult
to do the will of God because you will
be swayed by others or the enemy of your
soul, or even your own desires and

It is almost as if you have to predetermine
that you will do and obey what God has
said to you. For in the heat of battle
things can look mighty different,
especially when unmet expectations and
desires or rejection and opposition
distort your vision. Then it is easy to
lose your bearings or your nerve!

You most certainly will be tossed about,
and lose your clear sense of what you
are called to do. This very thing
happened to the disciples. While Jesus
was setting His face as flint, the
disciples noticed that He was met with
rejection. In true Christian spirit (!),
they asked the Lord if He would like them
to cause His rejectors to be killed
with fire from heaven (vs. 54).

Jesus takes this opportunity, an
opportunity when most of us might
be despairing, for even His closest
comrades did not understand, to
say this: "You do not know what
manner of spirit you are of. I did
not come to destroy people but
to save them" (vs. 55). His was
a heart of love, but theirs was
a heart of something much less.

His disciples are of the spirit
of hate and death at this moment.
Love is not being shed abroad in
their hearts. Their focus is on
their new-found power, and they
are thinking that Jerusalem will
be for them a place of gaining
more power, not a place of the
death of their dreams and of
their soulish plans. How sadly
mistaken they are!

When we react, as the disciples
did, in self-righteous indignation
to those who oppose us, then we
are not working with the Lord: we
are destroying and not saving.

How often are our emotional buttons
pushed, our plans thwarted, our
hopes dashed, our path cut off,
our place diminished, our worldly
progress trumped! In these moments
we must learn obedience and not
the normal path of fleshly reaction.

After Jesus rebukes his disciples
there is more bragging on their part:
"Lord, I will follow you anywhere!"
Jesus knows better, He knows that
they will be sorely tempted and many,
if not most, will turn away. Families
will talk disciples out of following Him,
opportunities will take them elsewhere,
convenience will cause them to turn
to an easier path. Jesus is looking
for a complete and immediate obedience,
how does your reaction stack up against
that call?

God's will is a grand and good thing:
it is life to our spirits, but it will
cut across our expectations and will
produce a reaction that will require
a choice on our part: choosing Jesus,
or choosing our self. We have to go
down to go up. We have to go to
Jerusalem first to die, before we
can reign with Christ.

In the first part of our journeys
as Christians we are heady with
the power that we experience surging
through us. It is fun and easy to
call fire down, it is flamboyant,
it is showy, it is power, but it is
often not love.

How easy it is to pass something
off as "prophetic" when
it involves tearing something or
someone down. A prophet, however,
must have a heart of love formed
in him or her to earn the right
to speak a tough word.

Ezekiel, the great post-exhilic
prophet, was also told by God,
to set his face toward Jerusalem.
He was to deliver a word from
which Israel would not soon recover.
He is told, "sigh with a breaking
heart" (Eze. 21:6), for a time of
horror was about to come forth.

A sword (human power) had risen
up against the scepter of God's
Son (vs. 10) and, listen to
this, "that sword despises the
scepter of My Son as it does
ALL WOOD" (vs 10 NKJV). Note that the
scepter of the Son's power is
equated with the wood of the cross,
for what is the most important and
the most despised piece of
wood in history? The cross of Christ!

In Psalm 40: 6-8, and then explained
in Hebrews 10, there is a prophecy
of Jesus, "Then I said, Behold I come,
in the volume of the book it is
written of Me, I delight to do
your will, O God, Your law is written
in my heart." Like Jesus, we have
to delight to do God's will. When
we are tempted to react and not obey,
we must choose God above our own way.
His will must be our delight!

Reacting feels good: for a moment.
It does not produce love and it
does not produce life. It just
makes me feel like I am getting
somewhere. Animals react. If someone
tries to take what is their's, they
fight. We have the capacity to
rise above reaction and consciously
choose God and learn His ways. This
is what sets us apart from animals.

For Jesus to be obedient to God,
He had to both know God's will,
and also be willing to choose
God's will over every other thing.
If we are unsure of God's will,
then we need to seek Him until
we are clear. If we know God's
will and are unwilling to yield
to it, we need to wrestle with
our flesh until it is subjected to
God's plan.

What do we do with our reactions?

For surely our hurt and troubled feelings
shall pop up, and surely they will
demand attention! Here is the process
of learning obedience. Do you think
that it was easy for Jesus? Think
again. He felt the need to be often
in prayer with His Father. While
others retired to their homes and
their families, He retired to pray
on the mountain. Surely there were
loud cryings and much pouring out
of His soul to His Father. It is
here that relationship with and
trust in God is built. There is no

We must set our face like flint
to do the will of God. It is worth
the battle, and worth the tears, for
surely it will bring us beside the
peaceful waters of the Lord's Presence,
there to dwell with Him, in love,


Anonymous said...

Well said. Jesus learned obedience and set his face like a flint. Oh what a great mentality to have as a christian. If we constantly thought like this, we wont get so easily disturbed and distratced by the worlds folly so we can maintain an ear to hear God's voice so He can use us to make a difference in this world.


Read the Bible in Two Years said...

This is very good. Thanks.

Praise said...

Awesome! great advice. AGAPE!

firebynite said...

thank you! I discovered this blog post when studying the phrase "set your face like flint" from scripture. sensed Jesus instructing me to do this in a challenging situation... It surprised me, and I it was a change of course. You writing spoke succinctly into my situation.

Anonymous said...

I praise God for the spoken word. I sought to understand set your face like flint as my Pastor prayed that prayer on Sunday that God would do just that. I now get it. I am seeking to do God's will. Thank you!