The limitless I AM is present in His provision for us as sons of God rather than slaves. We are heirs to all the promises in heaven and earth, if we only draw near as His children.
Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:7)
I love how the Spirit so often takes us on the scenic route when illustrating the full measure of truth. As I pondered today’s verse and all the things we are heirs to as sons of God, I recalled Psalm 50: 10 – He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. For me, it’s a powerful metaphor. Life took the girl off the farm many years ago, but never managed to get the farm out the girl. I still respond to the simple but often powerfully vivid imagery of an early start in the wonderful, barefoot world of open spaces and God’s manifest perfection.
Sons of God and the cattle.
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. My instinctive response to this simple statement is to see herds of Nguni cattle grazing as far as the eye can see, their bold, dappled colouring manifesting the creative genius of a Creator who loves infusing even lowly beasts with astonishing beauty. In these often feisty and indomitable beasts – as if they somehow know their rare perfection – I see the ‘fun’ side of God emerge. I see the Father who rejoices over us – spins around in joyful abandon and exuberance – and celebrates our position in Christ as sons of God.
There are parallels to this simple but powerful metaphor for us as sons of God. Nguni cattle lie at the heart of Africa. This tough, pest resistant, fertile, and resilient breed has represented wealth, status, spirituality, and political power for the Nguni people – the collective name of the tribes which pushed southward and into southern Africa. It’s ironic that an earthly king desired also to possess the cattle on a thousand hills, though Shaka Zulu would never have considered himself one of the sons of God. Perhaps one of the greatest military geniuses the world has ever seen, this bloodthirsty despot established his rule with an iron hand, and his earthly kingdom included the beautiful Valley of a Thousand Hills between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. His impi regiments were distinguished by the particular colouring of their shields, all made from the hides of the beautiful Nguni cattle.
Sons of God are heirs to all.
I was a little startled by this comparison with Shaka until I realised that the Spirit was drawing out the contradictions along with the parallels. King Shaka was universally feared for his merciless and obsessive need to conquer and absorb everything in his path. Our King is one of love, mercy, and grace. As king, Shaka owned everything, including that which belonged to his subjects. As sons of God, we own everything that belongs to our King. Shaka’s rule was about taking and imposing his will. God’s rule is about giving and allowing us free will. Shaka Zulu took life with a passion and purpose that made all tremble at the mention of his name. We tremble at God’s name because our mighty King laid down His life for all. While Shaka had a paranoid obsession with never producing sons, God exists with the particular purpose of producing sons.
But what of the cattle? I kept coming back to them, because I sensed that there was something more in these stirringly beautiful animals that remain in the very fabric of which I am made as they do in the tapestry that is Africa. The truth is beautifully simple. No two are the same. It’s as if God, in the sheer joy and passion of creation, has splashed His exuberance with gay abandon into the hides. The seemingly random splotches and smears, dots and dapples and sprays and smudges blend every colour imaginable. Even the ‘plain’ black and whites capture every range of hue and shift. And no two are alike. Each is uniquely, breath-takingly beautiful and wholly individual. The message for the sons of God is simple. There is no limit and no duplication to the ‘all’ that God owns – the ‘all’ to which we are heirs in Christ.
Sons of God in heaven and on earth.
Earthly kingdoms are raised up in imitation of the kingdom of God, whether the king wills it or not. Whatever happens on earth is always a mirror of things spiritual. It’s a powerful message for us as sons of God. Every tyrant exalts himself in the visual image of God, misappropriating divine authority and setting himself up as an idol. Shaka was no different, though the analogies are powerful in the light of God’s Word. His kingdom was built on the innocent blood of the sons and daughters of others. He saw himself as invincible and all-powerful. Yet he started life as an outcast, tormented by his peers for the lack of size of his ‘unmentionables’ which left a lasting scar. This inevitably shaped both his obsessive drive to conquer and his unnatural paranoia that sons would only destroy him. It also shaped a lonely king who trusted no one.
In our perfect, eternal kingdom, our King became outcast to make us sons and heirs. He willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice so that we undeserving sinners could be raised up with Him. As a result, we reign with Him in heaven and on earth. All He has, both spiritual and natural, is ours. The most powerful message in the story of Shaka Zulu is that what God owns includes everything in heaven and on earth, too. Those herds of hundreds upon thousands of Nguni cattle – the very symbol of Shaka’s wealth and power – belonged first and foremost to God, the source and creator of all things. To those who usurp ownership, God ultimately takes away. What we build for ourselves has no eternal worth. As sons of God in Christ, we inherit things of eternal worth, both on earth and in heaven, because we look to God, not ourselves.
Not slaves but sons of God through blood.
In his reign of terror, Shaka put to death an estimated over a million people. His was a kingdom built on blood. The powers of darkness that rule through earthly despots know the binding power of blood in establishing both legitimate and illegitimate authority. The irony, of course, is that Shaka Zulu was a uniquely brilliant tactician and military strategist who single-handedly shaped a fighting force that was arguably the greatest Africa – and much of the world – has ever seen. But his was a kingdom empowered by the blood of innocents and produced slavery rather than citizens or sons. Ultimately, everything belonged to the king – including the lives of his people often taken on a mere whim or whisper of defiance or disobedience. The closest thing to sons – his impis and indunas – were simple carbon-copies of a king who fed, at least spiritually, on blood and fear.
Worldly kingdoms not submitted to the ultimate authority of God always produce slaves. Satan himself is the Prince of this World. His delight is to make slaves of those God intends should be sons. This was our condition before deliverance in Christ. While God’s kingdom is also built on innocent blood, it is the blood of His own Son, not that of others. The power of the blood can never be underestimated. Only the divine blood of the Son of God could overcome the bondage imposed on mankind. But for that we would still be slaves, bound by the will of our father the devil. Only the blood of the King of heaven and earth could break the chains and raise us up as sons of God – chains in place since the fall, when God gave animals to be slain as food and sacrifice and Cain killed Abel.
Sons of God and the all of God.
While Shaka’s kingdom was all about taking for himself, God’s kingdom is all about giving of Himself. Our illustration of those endless cattle, each with their unique and breath-stealing beauty, reminds us of the magnitude, depth, height, and breadth of all God has to give. As if freedom from slavery was not enough, our Father desires to share all things. Top of the list is our spiritual blessings. Eternal life, to reign with Christ, and to worship in the very presence of God without ceasing. The incredible blessing of freedom from judgement despite the fact that we deserve it. Forgiveness of sins and His mercy and faithfulness, and His constant, abundant grace. To be part of the bride of Christ, united with endless rejoicing for eternity in a relationship of intimate worship and fellowship. As sons of God rather than slaves, we share the full treasures of eternity with Jesus.
But kingdom treasures are available to sons of God on earth, too. His promises of provision, healing, deliverance, wisdom, revelation, strength, protection… The list, like the cattle, goes on. Each blessing is unique, tailor-made with the exuberance and joy that goes into patterning the Nguni hides. They might look the same from a distance, but up close, our blessings are different. My provision is specific to my individual need, time, place, and circumstance. His mercies are new every morning. We have no need to rely on yesterday’s provision to meet today’s need. With each new day, we can rise up to meet with our heavenly Father on our particular hillside as children rather than slaves, clothed in the righteousness, authority, and sonship of Jesus Himself. In Christ, submitted as loving, intimate children, we have the full power, glory, and limitless provision of I AM to look forward to.
Living as sons of God.
How sad it is that so many of us don’t seize this promise with faith, joy, and humble awe. It must sadden God to see His children living as slaves rather than in fullness available to us as sons of God. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we won’t encounter difficulty. That’s when we grow and learn to turn to Him in faith. I sometimes think we could avoid some of the difficulty if we learned the ‘easy way’ by taking hold of the truth. But we’re human, and so the course of our lives will never be perfect. But through it all, we have this unfailing promise. In Christ, we have access to the very heart of God. A Father’s heart that has already given all to enable us to come in joy and faith and receive our portion.
His provision is already made. It is there in the cattle on a thousand hills whose hides display the everlasting promises of a God who loves to give His children. Each blessing is uniquely made for the one for whom it is intended.
Father God, thank You for Your beautiful revelation this morning, and for the reminder of Your limitless love and faithful provision. Help us to remember this as we wake to each morning and go through each day. Stir our hearts to thankfulness and praise, despite our situations. Help us to rejoice in the truth that we belong to a kingdom of eternal abundance and saving grace. Thank You for the assurance that Your provision is both eternal and here-and-now. Above all, thank You for giving us Your son, by whose precious blood we can enter in and know Your Father-heart.