O Lord…for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things planned long ago. You have made the city a heap of rubble, the fortified town a ruin, the foreigners’ stronghold a city no more; it will never be rebuilt….You have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat……Surely this is our God; we trusted Him, and He saved us. ~~Isaiah 25: 1-2, 4, 9
The village was quaint. The cottages were aligned neatly in cursive rows with their thickly thatched roofs and colorful carved shutters. It was the kind of village that allowed for unlocked doors by night and cobblestone streets filled with carefree children by day. Clotheslines draped with fresh sun-kissed laundry. Fresh baked pies on windowsills. And the people seemed to always be happy. There was an air of joy that enveloped the tiny village, and the folks that lived there clung to it with a second-nature determination.
The village set serenely in a lush valley that provided every earth-born necessity the villagers could dream of. The rolling hills that surrounded the valley were lush, as well, but the villagers never had need of venturing out of their valley’s boundaries because they quite literally had everything that they could ever possibly need right in their own backyards. Perhaps the most beautiful part of the valley, though, was the gorgeous view that the village had of one hill in particular.
Atop that hill set a castle.
A beautiful castle. Complete with romantic spires and handsome walls. Lush ivy crept up the stonework, and the freshly polished armor of the attending guards always shone like diamonds in the sun. The castle was a sight to behold for anyone lucky enough to behold it, but to the villagers, in particular, the castle was a true gem. And each afternoon, all activity in the village would stop; all the villagers would come out to the middle of town; all eyes would turn to the castle; and someone in the crowd would call out: Come! And then they would wait.
For each afternoon, without fail, at the sound of the villager’s call, the gleaming polished soldiers would stand at attention on the castle walls, the drawbridge would lower, and the unmistakable sound of horse hoofs would clatter across the bridge and begin making their way down the road toward the village.
It was the Prince.
He had, for as long as any of the villagers could remember, made a habit of riding down into the village every afternoon, dismounting His fine horse, and spending several hours in the village. Some afternoons He would play street games with the children, laughing and playing and not worrying about getting His fine outfit dirty. Other times He would sit on a bench, sip coffee, and talk about the old times with the ole’timers. Still other times He would invite Himself into the kitchen of one fine village cook, eat a warm slice of pie, and sit and talk about nothing-at-all with the ladies of the town. Some days He would sing lullabies to the babies. Tell stories to the little girls. Climb trees with the boys. Go fishing with the menfolk. Whatever He chose to do each day, the villagers were always thrilled to see Him and always were certain of His true interest in each one of them. He was their Beloved Prince.
And so life went on in the village. Soon though, as if almost suddenly, because noone can even be sure of its beginning, the villagers stopped calling for the Prince to come and join their daily lives. They got caught up in their own affairs and would often times turn in for the night, only then to realize they had forgotten to call for the Prince that day. They would make promises and look to the castle and whisper in the moonlight: Tomorrow we will call. But it seemed that as the tomorrows would fall, the busyness of village life would creep in and empty whispers would be lifted each night on a continuous basis.
There were a very few villagers, however, that would call out to the Prince and ask Him to meet with them. The Prince would ride out to meet them, but would always meet for conversation and fellowship in a place away and secluded from the village, because, the Prince had explained, the whole village wasn’t asking to see Him. And so was the way life went on in the valley….
Until, however, one unsuspecting day, a simply dreadful mass of people made their way through the hills and down into the valley. These men and women were all dressed in a similar manner. Clothing so dark that it was hard to tell where one body stopped and the next started when all were standing so clumped together. The group seemed to almost float; making their way through the village peering eerily in open windows and stealing long stares with the villagers. Children were hurried into their homes and curtains were drawn as the stench of uncertainty began to pierce the air.
Leading the group was a very handsome gentleman dressed, too, in dark clothing, but unlike the members of the group, he was very distinct. He walked with a fierce posture, and his face seemed permanently attached to the smirk that took up so much of it. Under his arm he carried a large bundle of rolled up papers, which appeared to be blueprints of some kind. In his other hand, a large shovel. Upon closer look, the group members all were carrying tools and what seemed to be building materials.
When the dark mass arrived in the very center of the village, they stopped. The villagers that had dared to stay outside of their cottages followed and watched with complete curiosity. Their eyes were fixed.
Without hesitation, though, when the dark gentleman stopped, he immediately began unrolling his blueprints. After examining them for only a moment, he lifted his shovel high in the air, only to bring it crashing down onto the cobblestone. This is it. We shall build here. It was all he said. And with that, the crew who accompanied him set in right away on their project.
They worked quietly and, what seemed to be, effortlessly. Occasionally a worker would stop to consult with the gentleman, but then would get immediately back to work. The gentleman paced around the work site; keeping watch and wearing the silly smirk.
By now, the villagers were aghast. They had stood in shock and awe during the parade, but now were flabbergasted at the audacity of these dark strangers to waltz in and begin tearing up their cozy village with no rhyme or reason. A few villagers tried to object and put a stop to the building, but to no avail. Their objections were met only with a sickening throng of laughter and stiff shoves and pushes out-of-the-way. There was no question that these dark strangers were stronger than the villagers and had every intention of taking the village over for their own. All the villagers could do was sit back and watch.
As the morning hours ticked by, a strange sight began to take shape in the cobblestone streets. The helpless villagers watched as the form of a small city began to emerge. It was constructed out of what looked to be iron and steel, and the buildings that were built were immaculate. With a blink of an eye, another piece to the city appeared. And by noon, the entire village streets were filled to the brim with parts and pieces of this new, gleaming, cold fortress. The metal walls and streets pushed against the village’s small cottages, almost threatening to push them over and away. And the people had nowhere to go except into their homes to peer through their windows at the monstrosity.
Afternoon came and went, and evening fell. Construction on the hideous, beautiful city continued. And, in the midst of the shock, not one villager thought to recognize that the Prince had not made His way down the hill that day.
The next morning, though not much sleep was had on the part of the villagers that night, the valley awoke to a most obscene spectacle. The city had grown to ten times its size over night, and it now boasted ugly barred windows and doors and grotesque statues. It seemed cloaked in a dark shadow, and because of its huge expansion, had pushed the cottages out and away. Some of the cottages had been knocked over completely, and the neat rows were now replaced with a haphazard smattering all over the hillsides. The villagers stood in utter disbelief. They mumbled and grumbled amongst themselves as to how any of this was possible, yet none of them could come up with a solution to the huge mess that faced their tiny village.
It was about that time that a young villager who couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, spotted the castle setting high and untouched up on its majestic hillside. The Prince! The Prince! He’ll know what to do!
The whole lot of villagers, young and old, began running for the castle. Yes! The Prince will help us! But as they neared the hillside road, many villagers suddenly stopped and turned back.
We can’t go to the Prince. What would He think? That we can’t handle things on our own? Why, He’d think we were a bunch of helpless children. No. We won’t go to the Prince. We’ll figure this out on our own.
And just as they made their way back to the village, the iron gate was thrown open, and the smirking gentleman ushered the arrogant group into his leering city.
The remaining villagers, after watching what had happened, hurried all the more up the hill and had almost reached the drawbridge when the rest of the group (save a very few) stopped.
We can’t go to the Prince. Oh my goodness, we didn’t even notice that He didn’t come yesterday. Surely He was watching and waiting for us to call to Him, and we never did. How embarrassing. And, even worse, we haven’t been calling to Him in ages. No, we cannot face the Prince. It’s just too humiliating.
And with that, they turned back, made their way down to the village, only to be met almost immediately by the gentleman and his smirk. Into the city they went. The iron gates crashing behind them.
Only a small group of villagers remained, no more than can be counted on one hand. Although these had watched and pleaded with their friends and family to not be discouraged and turn back, they mustered up their courage and approached the castle walls.
The drawbridge lowered for them as if they had been expected. None of them had ever been near the castle before, so they entered cautiously and with great anticipation. And with a great shock, they were surprised to find the Prince himself waiting to greet them.
My dear people, why have you made the journey up the hill to see me? All you would have had to do was call me, and I would have been in your midst this very day.
Oh, great Prince, we are so confused and scared. A great and terrible thing has come to our village. We do not understand it. We are terribly frightened. Please, Prince, help us.
I have seen the terrible city take shape. I watched every second of its construction. It grieves me deeply to see such a horrid thing take over your precious valley, but you must understand that I am in control.
Then, Prince, put a stop to this right away! We long for things to return to the way that they were! Just say the word, and the city will flee. This is your valley, Prince, the man and his city will have to leave us alone.
My precious remnant of villagers, this is all too much for you to understand. Even if I explained My ways to you, you would not comprehend them. Do you love me and trust me enough to believe that I have our valley’s best in mind? That the plans I have for our valley are plans to prosper us, not to harm us?
Of course, Prince. We trust you.
Then, come, rest here. You will be safe from all that is happening in the village right now if you will just stay here.
And with that, the Prince led the remaining faithful villagers to a room plush with beds, couches, new clothes, and tables full of food. He stayed just long enough to make sure they were all comfortable, and then He left them with His finest attendants to watch over them.
The villagers took advantage of the room’s offerings, but before too long they made their way to the window that looked out over their village. What they saw did not so much amaze them as confirm to them the awesomeness of their Beloved Prince.
For down in the village, seated high on His majestic horse, was the Prince. He was just outside the iron city’s ugly blackened gates, and He was speaking with the gentleman with the smirk. Although, now, the villagers noticed, the man was hunched over; he had rid himself of his arrogant posture. His handsome face was now gnarled and scarred. And his smirk had turned to a grimace so sour and scornful. He looked as though he wanted to speak, but couldn’t. He had been silenced by the Prince.
The villagers craned their ears and could just make out the Prince’s words. This is my valley. This is my village. These are my people. Yes, it may appear as though they just let you come in here and take over and build up for yourself a fortress, but you are wrong. Because though you were able to lure many of the villagers into your lair, there are but a few that remained faithful to Me. They sought me out and believed that I, alone, could save their land. Because they have chosen to abide in Me, so shall I abide in them. And so, I command you to FALL!
With that, the most terrifying noise filled the valley. Popping iron and steel beams and bars echoed through the hills. The fortress began releasing itself wall by wall. Slowly at first. One wall would clang to the ground, and then another, until before long, the gigantic monstrosity had collapsed in entirety. Piercing screams filled the air as people ran; some caught in the rubble, others running for the hillsides without looking back. The men and women who worked for the gentleman fled for the hills, stumbling over their feet in an effort to get away. After the aftermath spoke of only total destruction, the Prince and the gentleman stood staring at each other; the only ones left in the village. The villagers in the castle now could barely make out the voice of the Prince as He spoke in almost a whisper.
You have tried to make a home here in this fine village. You did your best to tear it in two. But hope, faith, and love for Me trumped you today in this place. I command you to leave. This village will rebuild, and you are not welcome here.
Without so much as even the hint of an argument, the now-hunchedback gentleman turned and limped out of the village. He only stopped to pick up his blueprints, as if he had a thought to try his master plan in another village in another place.
After he was gone from sight, the Prince turned His horse and galloped back up the hill to see His precious faithful villagers. Upon seeing that He was returning, they dashed out of the room and ran to meet Him just inside the castle gates.
Oh, Prince! You have saved us! We praise You for being such a mighty and strong Prince! But what of our beautiful village?
My children, do not worry. Your village will be more beautiful than before. And I, myself, will help you rebuild.
It took awhile for the village to rebuild. The rubble from the city collapse had to be cleaned up and hauled away. Many cottages had to be completely torn down and rebuilt from scratch. The cobblestones had to be replaced. And many of the gardens and flowerbeds had to be retilled and planted. But everyday the villagers worked diligently on rebuilding and restoring their precious village. They kept a close eye on the hillsides to watch out for any looming danger or strangers that might be making their way into the valley. And they met together often to encourage each other in the hard rebuilding tasks.
The villagers made it a point to never miss a day of work on restoring their beautiful village.
And neither did the Prince.
He was always there. Always faithful. Just as He said He would.
I believe in beautiful. And I believe in hope. And in faith. And in the absolute sovereign ability of God to make beauty from ashes. I am clinging to the promises that my Beloved Prince has given me that He will be my refuge and my shelter, and that He will fight for me. I believe that He will cause the foreign cities in my marriage to fall, and that He will do marvelous things that He had planned long ago. I believe it. I just do.
I just do.