On Katniss, The Hanging Tree, and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus-- a manifesto for the new year

on katniss, the hanging tree, & fixing our eyes on jesus David and I went and saw Mockingjay Part 1 the weekend it came out. I can't really explain my love for Katniss-- the Hunger Games books aren't really my usual cup of tea. They're a bit dark, and definitely intense compared to what I usually enjoy. But there's something about them.

And there's something about her character-- brooding and bold, she's an unlikely leader thrown into the limelight--to heroine status-- by apparent circumstance, and it's there that her true calling comes alive, and we see her living out her purpose (hmm,that sounds like a book I'm reading), whether she likes it or not.

We both enjoyed the movie (but I'm a bit miffed that I have to wait a whole year for Part 2 though). There's one scene that, two months later, I can't stop thinking about. And It's not just because I love it when actors who aren't known for their singing voice sing in movies (See also: Keira in Begin Again).

It's the scene where Katniss sings The Hanging Tree and we see the rebel forces rising to fight the Capitol.

(this video isn't the whole song but I like this clip because it actually shows a bit of the scene it's from. You might have to click over from email to watch.)

A week later, one of our pastors taught on a somewhat obscure passage in 2 Chronicles 20. A story with a vaguely-familiar character and a story of which I had no real memory. You might want to go read it now (I'll wait here).

I know these are two very different battle scenes-- we've got the rebels storming a dam to take out the Capitol's power supply and God's people up against a great "horde" of the Lord's enemies-- but I read the passage with the image and the haunting beauty with which Katniss sang The Hanging Tree running through my mind.

That movie scene helped me visualize the battle scene where Jehoshaphat and his men are praising God before they've even won the battle, confident that the battle is His and that He will give them victory. It's an unlikely juxtaposition of singing and a fierce battle.

Of course for the Israelites it wasn't just "singing;" they were praising their God for His sovereignty in the midst of the battle.

The story starts with the enemy coming up against God's people for battle.

"Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord." (vs. 3-4)

Pushed to the edge, Jehoshaphat doesn't let despair overwhelm him, instead, he immediately goes to the Lord in prayer, gathering others to join him.

He pleads for God's intervention, recalling what God had done for His people in the past and how He was always present with them, and then as "all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children (v. 13)," the Spirit of the Lord answers through a prophet.

"You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” (v. 17, emphasis mine)

So what happens? Jehoshaphat (and his people) immediately worship God, and then they obey: they go out the next morning and enter the battle (still worshiping), and God, He gives them the victory just like He said He would. In verses 21-22, we see that salvation came when they went out to worship.

And through all of this scene we see this: it plays out in the context of community.

We see this in Katniss' song, too. She starts singing it and it's quiet, haunting, just her voice, and then gradually, the music builds powerfully and we hear the chorus join in and get stronger and stronger. The districts will never have victory until they come together with their various gifts, resources and skills and fight the enemy together.

The phrase that has stuck with me, engraving itself into my heart is from verse 12:

"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Before God had answered, Jehoshaphat and his people came together to fix their eyes on the Lord, remember His past work and provision, and seek His guidance.

When we walk through the trials and challenges of life, we need to surround ourselves with people who are helping us keep our eyes on Him.

This year, for 2015, I didn't choose a word like I did last year. Instead, I'm picking this verse and this phrase to guide me through the year.

Our eyes are on You

So often (okay, basically every day) I find myself at a loss, not knowing what to do. In motherhood, in community, in my calling, in marriage... in LIFE.

And herein lies the answer: I'm not in this alone, and my best weapon isn't the battering ram that knocks out the Capitol's power.

It's the God of the universe, who created everything, and stands boldly to fight all of my battles for me, giving me victory over sin and over my enemy... all while I worship Him right where I am. It's the gospel-- that's my greatest weapon, and my greatest comfort.


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