THE BACKSTORY ON CITY OF GOLDEN REEDS
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME
RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVE
NAMES & FAME &
“And Yeshua/Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:14-19). The root of this entire song is built on the flow of The Ruach HaKodesh, The Holy Spirit. The beginning of this passage is to be underscored multiple times as it gives direction, meaning and purpose to the remainder of the Scriptures, the lyrics and the entailing literary devices used throughout this psalm.
When YHVH first gave me this song it, like most all the others, was The Father, my acoustic guitar and I. Painting a very mysterious picture in my mind. In an ancient time, or a place unassailable by the entropy of a corrupted modern world. It involved night, and long tall Tupelo Sweet Gum and Cherry bark Oaks draped in Old Man’s Beard; Clustered along the tidal water’s sedge banks and sequestered in deep-country coastal waters far from the racket of interstate tire traffic or the diffusing glare of shopping mall parking-lot lights. In the shoals sprouted just out from the banks stands a clump of non-descript bruised reeds. Some bent over, others tilted and leaning away or even into the disheveled stand, every last one of them appears to have sustained a measure of damage, perhaps due to a hard flood or some traumatic weather event. Washed only in the pale yellow pallor of a New Moon’s crescent, reflected upon these curious rippling waters, the intermittent stridulating of Field Crickets and Katydids are hushed only by the uncertain echo of a hoot owl somewhere in the distance. A presence can be observed here, but only by the lanky gray beard lichen blowing in The Ruach, and only by the devoted seeker determined to listen; listening for the voice of The Almighty in this secret sanctum for weary war-torn saints.
The city identified in this psalm is a reference to the reeds, or bulrushes there in the picture I’ve laid out there for you. In the dark, their individual forms are hard to make out, but by the light of the moon we see shapes and trauma causing them to bend and lean. They are many, and they represent us. We are those reeds in the picture. In the gospel of Matthew chapter 12 we see Yeshua. We see people, namely the Pharisees attempting to argue with Him for doing good and healing on The Sabbath. In verses 17, 20 and 21 we read “his was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory. And in His Name the Gentiles will hope.” This is a reference from Isaiah chapter 42 verses 3 and 4 which reads “He will not snap off a broken reed or snuff out a smoldering wick. He will bring forth justice according to truth; He will not weaken or be crushed until He has established justice on the Earth, and the coastlands wait for His Torah.” I want to encourage anyone to read the 42nd chapter of Isaiah. It is prophetic and a clear reminder of the work Yeshua not only did on the cross, but His continuing work He’s doing in His people.
Simply put, He’s bringing truth back into our mind and restoring us to right living by way of right thinking. All my life I thought I understood how to live, but all my thinking ever did was leave me angry, and useless. Some folks are much further along than I am in this area, and I would imagine there are number of people across a wide spectrum of ages and walks who still remain imprisoned to their own way of thinking. The problem with most of us not living in victory today is we choose, that’s right—we choose, not to believe in the truth. We say we do, but if we we’re really honest with ourselves, we don’t even really know how to think, because much of our day is spent mimicking life, and not really living in Yeshua’s footsteps at all. The good news is, when Yeshua stood up on that fateful day in the synagogue and said “He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord”, He meant it!
As I write this songstory, I reckon it’s been several months since The Father gave me this song. So, if you’re a Bible reader, or more specifically a Torah reader, you understand that we progress through the Torah cycle each week. This Shabbat’s portion was Shemot—or Names, found in Exodus chapter one through chapter six verse one. I don’t believe my writing this songstory at the same time as the reading of this portion is a coincidence either. It ties into this songstory and you need to understand why.
Shemot, or Names is the title for this week’s portion. Beginning in the book of Shemot or Exodus we begin with verse one, “Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob…” Jacob experienced a change in name as well. For those who might be reading this, if you ever explore the life of Jacob who just so happens to be the patriarch for what became the 12 tribes, you’ll discover that he came to a point of crisis in his life, a rite of passage if you will where he wrestled with an angel. I won’t go into all of the details here but you can read it for yourself. Turn in your Bible to the book of Genesis and start reading in chapter 32. There you will find that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. Names mean things. They carry more than just a means of identifying a specific person in a crowd. They carry that person’s reputation, their fame—good or bad, and their character. My name is Will, and the older I get the more I find God bringing me to a place where He is confronting me with my will—will I turn it over to Him? Or do I just say I’m going to turn it over to Him and not place myself truly in His care, trusting that what He’s told me is true? You see, you can’t expect to be healed in your heart and mind until you’re willing to give up on any old ways of thinking and then trust God’s way of thinking.
"No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins" (Mark 2:22). This aligns with what we’re talking about here, and it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s where we have the choice to invite real change into our lives, or to continue living the same old story, where I talk about change and all God can do, but I’m too proud and therefore cut off from His Spirit. Do you ever find yourself in that place? The place where you wrestle because you know our God desires to transform us, but we’re too bitter because of something in our lives that we refuse to let go of? Or we feel we deserve to be angry because we felt life should have played out differently and went in a different direction instead. James says, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 3:13-14; 4:1-3).
This is what happens when you try to put fresh wine into old wineskins. They tear and burst apart. YHVH’s Holy Spirit cannot breathe into us unless we become willing to let Him trade us some new wine skins. I’m talking about the vessel, the container, the ability to be filled with His fresh wine—His Holy Spirit. The reason we fail at change isn’t God, it’s us. We keep trying to plug cracks in our broken heart with His word. But God doesn’t want to write upon your old heart—He wants to give us a new one. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:25-26). We all have a chance to get a new wineskin, so He can pour His fresh wine in us and experience the change we desperately want. The question is, are you desperate enough for change to give up your old wineskin?
Our hurts, our disappointments, our failures and pride have to die if we hope to ever experience His joy in our lives today. He promises it. Like bruised reeds we all have various hurts and regrets, but we don’t have to stay there. Each rosh chodesh (new moon) we stand in the presence of a new moon; The new moon, symbolic of that new life, new beginnings, of second chances, of new wineskins and fresh wine. When you and I choose to stop dwelling on those old ways of thinking and begin to trust God at His word, it does something supernatural to us. It brings in His Holy Spirit in such a powerful way, restoring our spiritual vision, healing us and giving us the courage to take responsibility for what we’ve done by making living amends to those we’ve wronged in our past as far as it depends upon us. We begin living each day fully present, seeing each moment as an opportunity to choose truth instead of our broken way of thinking. And when we do that together, something amazing happens. Like reeds blown through by His mighty rushing wind, we become a city, invigorated and full of His life-resurrecting Spirit, sounding out in harmonious praise like a joyous choir dressed in golden robes of righteousness. That’s the kind of change I’m looking for. I’m ready to trade in my old wineskins, how about you?