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Untying the Gordian Knot

July 25, 2010

“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

As our world seemingly moves faster and becomes smaller the issues encountered by people and nations seemingly become more intricate and complex. In 2010, both nations and individuals are frequently encountering issues and situations that are being described as intractable. I am reminded of the occasion when Jeremiah (32:17) declared to God, “Nothing is too hard for you!”

In the ancient Phrygian city of Gordium a certain young conquer was said to have encountered an intricate, complex and heretofore intractable issue. This was of course the famous Gordian Knot that had secured and ox-cart to a pillar in the king’s palace for hundreds of  years. The knot had been tied with cornel (dogwood) bark and had no visible ends. Over the many years the bark had shrunk making the knot even more of a challenge for those seeking to untie the Gordian Knot.

By 400 BC the legend had developed that an oracle had revealed that anyone who could untie the knot would become ruler of the world. And so, our young conquer, while wintering his army in Gordium in 333 BC, decided that he would solve this intractable problem. However, after not being able to untie the knot, he drew his sword and struck the knot with one violent blow. The knot unraveled, exposing the hidden, and Alexander the Great went on to conquer the world.

We all encounter intricate and complex issues and occasionally there is the intractable problem that “looms overhead”, dominating our thinking…even challenging our faith. It could be a medical, relational, financial or other issue that, wrapped so tight, it appears intractable.

Looking back over the years I have encountered a Gordian Knot or two as most of us have. Cancer in 1994 was one of those. In recent days our family confronted “a knot” that had been looming for a while and we applied the “Alexander solution”. That is we struck this knot with one violent blow of The Sword…God’s Word. Though we could not possibly untie this knot, when struck we could see the ends and be free of it. God’s Word is the only element sharp enough to divide the soulish nature from the spirit, while judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Just as Alexander operated in authority to resolve an intractable issue, so should we as Christians. Most Christians would be familiar with Ephesians 6: 10-17 and know that the sword is an offensive weapon. A misunderstanding of our authority often precipitates ineffective and tepid responses and so there is often no actual application…no offense, no exercise of our authority.

As in all warfare, the battlefield never unfolds exactly like it was drawn up. My personal experience is that, in the chaos of war, the mind must remain stayed upon the tactical doctrine and the dear ones around us. That was also my experience in 1994 in a battle with cancer. God’s Word, the sword of the spirit, cut through “the knot” and the intractable problem was resolved.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:4 (NKJV)

John R. “Barney” Barnes, CDR  USN®

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