Updated: Nov 16, 2021
A kopje (pronounced copy) is defined by Merriam-Websters as “a small usually rocky hill especially on the African veld.” Until last month while my family and I were vacationing, I had never read or heard this before, or at least I have no recollective memory of it.
On the particular day that I first became enlightened by this new word, I was walking through a zoo when a small sign that featured a paragraph definition of an "African rock kopje" caught my attention. My family members were quite a way ahead of me, yet I knew I had to pause to carefully read and consider the description, sensing immediately that the Lord was wanting me to make a spiritual connection with its words. I read and then snapped a few pictures, and a couple minutes later as I walked away to catch up to my people, I had already arrived at a settled conclusion that the Bible—God’s revealed Holy Word—is the believer’s kopje.
Let me explain.
In the world of geology, a kopje is known as the visible top part—the head—of a mountain that is underneath the ground. It’s a rock formation on the plains, similar to an island in the middle of an ocean. If you’re not familiar with this word like I wasn’t, think about Disney’s Lion King movie to visualize one. In the opening scene of the movie, newborn Simba is held up by Rafiki on Pride Rock—a rather large and magnificent kopje—and then, in the closing scene of the animation, Simba’s son is as well.
In real-life African geography, kopjes, ranging in varying sizes and formations, become a most beneficial resource for the wildlife that call the grasslands home. According to the zoo sign that caught my attention that afternoon, as a habitat for wildlife, a kopje serves multiple purposes for the creatures that utilize what it provides.
(photo credit: Heather Matos, co-worker and friend--from her travels to Africa in 2019)
On that recent June afternoon at the zoo, I couldn’t help but immediately see these functions as a most accurate metaphorical description of God’s precious Word.
First, a kopje serves as a stronghold. A solid place of fortification—a fortress, a position of defense—a kopje serves as a vantage point for not only defending but also attacking when confronted by the enemy. Undoubtedly, the Word of God functions like a kopje in this regard, as its truths become a powerful bastion for the preyed upon child of God. It’s when, by faith, we shield ourselves behind the truths of the Word, as well as proactively use the Word in our fight against our adversary, that the Word becomes our strong bulwark and our sure-proof ammunition against the roaring lion who walks about “seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).
When we do just as Ephesians 6 instructs us to do and “take up the sword of the Spirit” (6:17)—the invincible Word of God—to do battle against our enemy, when we use the Word—"sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12)—to combat the enemy’s threats and lies, just as our Savior did when tempted in the desert, it prepares us and protects us from becoming prey to Satan’s diabolical schemes.
The Psalmist declared, “I have thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin (Psalm 119:11). This is a life that understands its need to combat sin by the resources given in the Word. Truly, this is a life of dependent faith.
The Apostle Paul penned that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Any time we think or act or speak outside the truths of God’s Word then we’re functioning outside the realm of faith, outside the realm of the stronghold (the kopje) that God has so wisely and so graciously provided us.
Secondly, for the purpose of detecting prey, a kopje makes an ideal watchtower. This is another spot-on comparison to one of the functions of God’s Holy Word. It’s when we know the truth that makes us free (John 8:32) and when we daily “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) that we are most capable of perceiving the adversary’s schemes in our midst. It’s when we routinely submerge our minds in the knowledge of the Word, choosing to respond in obedience to it, that we’re able to see more clearly the ways in which Satan—the great deceiver—is attempting to upset our stability, peace, and purpose in Christ.
The Word is truth, the ultimate standard from which a believer is to live daily life. Therefore, when we make the deliberate effort to grow in our knowledge of that truth, the Holy Spirit sharpens our spiritual eyesight to clearly discern the ways in which the thief is attempting to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10), in order to hinder the abundant, impactful life that Christ’s death and resurrection makes possible, this side of Heaven.
Another vital purpose of a kopje is that it serves as a refuge. When I consider this function, I think immediately of the truths found in Psalm 119, the quintessential chapter in all of Scripture that showcases the overall value of the Word.
“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” (50)
“The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes.” (95)
“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” (114)
“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.” (147)
“Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.” (154)
“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” (165)
“Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.” (175)
When we make our dwelling within the security of Scripture's truths, we discover, come what may, that we have a sustaining haven—a place of security, peace and rest—that cannot be shaken. This is because when we live at home in the promised land of the Word, we realize more fully exactly who our great God is, exactly what His Son accomplished on the cross on our behalf, exactly how the Holy Spirit lives and works inside us; and in the knowing of these sustaining truths, we discover a rock-solid asylum that we would be foolish not to abide in.
Finally, for the worn and weary sojourner, a kopje is both a shaded sanctuary and much-needed respite. This broken, sinful, groaning world makes for an unsatisfying, withered plain. King David understood this as he penned, “You, God, are my God; earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). Physically in the desert when he recorded these words, David’s words are a visual representation of what this sinful, decaying world essentially is to the Christian pilgrim: a waterless, dry and parched land—a temporary dwelling where nothing truly satisfies, apart from a life that is hidden in Christ, which is fully and richly experienced by abiding in the oasis of God’s life-giving Word.
When we live in the pages of the Word, the Spirit always leads us to the only One who provides the living water that quenches our unceasing thirst. When we live in the pages of the Word, choosing to remain underneath the Most High’s shelter and the Almighty’s shadow (Psalm 91:1), we discover genuine rest and rejuvenation for the weariness we naturally experience as we journey through this world that was never intended to satisfy.
And we're able to declare with David, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5). Truly, David understood the significance of encouraging himself in the Lord (I Samuel 30:6). By recalling such truths as Psalm 18:30—”As for God, his way is perfect. The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.”—David knew how to recharge himself, in spite of his very real feelings and circumstances. He understood what the writer of Lamentations would pen many years later: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (3:21-23).
As I consider the word kopje in the aforementioned spiritual regard, another word that shares the same pronunciation—the familiar word copy—also stirs up some considerations within. Merriam-Websters defines copy as “an imitation, transcript, or reproduction of an original work.” Indeed, it’s our sweet Jesus, our Lord and Savior, that we should daily copy. It’s the Word made flesh (John 1:14) that we should emulate as we make a daily priority the declared truths of our great God—our gracious and oh so merciful, provisional Father. The Son lived and breathed and moved within the realm of oneness with his Father. As his chosen disciples, his imitators, this should be our earthly mindset, as well.
However, you and I cannot live in such a way, apart from our mind’s submersion in God’s sustaining and equipping Word. We must be serious about heeding Jesus' instructions to be intentional about remaining in him and allowing his words to remain in us (John 15:7).
It’s when we purposefully give the Word the honored place it should hold in our daily lives and then choose to align ourselves to its refreshing, life-giving truths, that we are not only copying Jesus but are securely and peacefully residing within the sacred kopje God so lovingly provided for his children's sojourn through this earthly, parched plain.