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Circling Back

When I hear the phrase ‘Circle Back’ my mind races to the old westerns. A gang of bank robbers on horseback with a posse in hot pursuit might ‘circle back’ to ambush the posse. When Biden's Press Secretary Jen Psaki used that phrase in response to questions for which she had no immediate answer, it is clear she means: “I’ll get back to you with an answer to your question.” Whether she ever makes good on a ‘circle back’ pledge is anyone’s guess. 

The ‘circle back’ concept is a biblical one. Several times in scripture someone circled back or promised to circle back to make good on a promise. King Hezekiah is a perfect example (2 Kings 20:1-6). The king was sick unto death. The Lord sent Isaiah with this message: “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (20:1). Hezekiah poured out his heart to God in prayer (20:2-3). Before Isaiah cleared the building, the Lord said to his prophet: 

“Turn again (i.e., circle back), and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years” (20:5-6). 

How do you top a ‘circle back’ like that? Within the span of mere minutes, Isaiah’s circle back took Hezekiah from certain death to fifteen years of additional life—victorious life! Could you live with a circle back like that?  

There is one ‘circle back’ that tops what Hezekiah experienced. It’s the ‘circle back’ Jesus promised to those who believe. He said: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again (i.e., circle back), and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3). 

That promise of a ‘circle back’ from Jesus is the ‘blessed hope’ all believers await, which cannot come soon enough. The promise was reiterated at Jesus’ ascension by two men dressed in white apparel. They said: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come (i.e., circle back) in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). 

There were times, however, when no ‘circle back’ was necessary. In Mark 1:40-41, a leper came to Jesus and asked: “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” Can you imagine Jesus saying to the leper, “I’ll have to circle back with you on that one”? 

Jen Psaki is a ‘Johnny come lately’ to the concept of circle back. God’s been circling back to his people for thousands of years with grace for the grind. And the greatest ‘circle back’ in human history could take place at any moment.


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