A Devotion from Ps 46

To my knowledge, this is the first time in the life of our church where the doors of the Redeemer have not been opened on a Sunday. We’ve postponed services or combined them due to inclement weather. But never, in our 15 years of being a church, have we canceled worship services on a Sunday morning. Right now, the parking lot is empty, the doors are locked, there are no babies in the nursery, nor adults in the building, no music playing, no voices singing and no sermon being preached. Wow is an understatement.

The Illusion of Unchartered Territory

This all feels like uncharted territory. It feels unprecedented in the history of the world. If we slow down, we realize that it’s not. Adam and Eve were placed in a flourishing garden. When they were deceived by the serpent and sinned, their world was completely turned upside down. What about Noah and his family before and after the flood? What about Israel who enjoyed peace and blessing in Egypt only to be made slaves by a king who did not know Joseph or his God? Consider how the Jews felt when their temple was destroyed and they were sent into exile? They lost everything. They had to learn a new language and how to live in a new place. For some, life never returned to “normal.” In the early church, plagues and persecutions broke out killing many and causing thousands to flee to other countries.

The Coronavirus may very well feel like uncharted territory for us. But if we could interview the saints who have lived before us, they would comfort our hearts by telling us that they too have felt what we presently feel. They too have walked these paths before. They know what it’s like to be uncertain about tomorrow. They know what it’s like to be worried. They know what it’s like to have to rethink what worship looks like without a temple. They know what it’s like to be worried about the safety of our children, selves, and the elderly.

This is what the Psalmist says in our passage! Consider this excerpt from Psalm 46!

“We will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.”

The imagery used here is frightening. The earth “giving way” can mean the earth is being literally shaken or it can mean to be completely changed in state. Mountains, which signify strength and stability, being slung into the sea is a sight to behold. The boundaries of the sea crashing upon us is terrifying. The psalmist is reaching for language to communicate instability, vulnerability, a complete reorienting of the created order, chaos among nations, with a wake of kingdoms falling and people suffering.

We, like those before us, are having to learn as we go and rethink what life will be like moving forward. We will loose some earthly things in the process. Does this not sound like the sons of Korah know exactly what we are feeling right now? I think they do. Therefore, this is not uncharted territory. COVID-19 may be new. But, God’s people have walked these paths before.

The Promise that God is with us during These Times

Not only have God’s people walked these paths before. Somehow they thrived in them! Did you know we are actually reading a book written by them – the Bible! Numerous books in the Bible were written by people who found themselves in very difficult seasons of life. Job was written during suffering. Paul wrote numerous epistles from prison. John wrote Revelation when he was banished to the Island of Patmos as a means of persecution. He was cut off from family and friends. These are just a few. There are many more – trust me.

Consider this thought. We read their books not because those saints gave into panic and became completely consumed by the events around them. We read their words because in the midst of what they were going through they had help! They were able to crawl into their safe place – God’s arms. They were given a power not their own to enable them to endure. Someone went into the “fiery furnace” with them a la Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Little children, when you are scared of the dark, or an imaginary monster in the closet or bad weather outside, what makes you feel safe? Do you have a safe room in your home when we are under tornado threats? Do you like to go into your parents’ room when the weather gets bad? Does turning on the lights ease your mind?

Did you know that adults get afraid too? Where should we turn when we are afraid? Look at this excerpt from Psalm 46!

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

God invites us all to come to Him! He is our refuge. Refuge means a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. It also means a place of shelter. It can be a condition or a place. Jesus has promised us that no one can snatch us from His hands. One of my favorite passage in all of the Bible is found in Romans 8!

“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Do you realize that we are eternally safe because of the finished work of Christ and the faith that God has given to us? In the words of that precious hymn, “We are safe and secure from all alarms!”

Psalm 46 says that safety is just the beginning for the Christian. Look at verse 4! “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” It is possible to be glad during the most tumultuous seasons of life.

“Like a secret aqueduct to a besieged city, God’s grace convinces the psalmist that the church will not only survive any onslaught but will also thrive in joy! Jesus specifically revealed that the Holy Spirit is that means of grace who causes rivers of living water to flow from the heart of the believer (John 7:37-39)” Gospel Transformation Study Bible

As we experience a host of emotions during these times, let us cultivate and anticipate the joy of the Holy Spirit. There is a scene from Pilgrim’s Progress that is fitting. Here is an excerpt from it.

“Then I saw in my dream, that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a Fire burning against the wall, and one standing by it, always casting much water upon it, to quench it; yet did the Fire burn higher and hotter.

Then said Christian, What means this? The Interpreter answered, This Fire is the Work of Grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the Devil: But in that you see the Fire burn higher and hotter, you will also see the reason of that. So he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a Man with a Vessel of Oil in his hand, of which, he did also continually cast (but secretly) into the Fire.

Then said Christian, What means this? The Interpreter answered, This is Christ, who continually with the Oil of His Grace maintains the work already begun in the heart: By the means of which, notwithstanding what the Devil can do, the souls of His people prove gracious still.”

This is all ours in Christ!

How do we Experience These Things in Moments Like This?

How can we experience what this Psalm says is ours in Christ?

Look closely at verse 10. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Stillness before God is a means of grace. Many of us are wrestling with how to spend our time over these next several days and maybe weeks. It will be tempting to watch the news all day long, or binge through our favorite shows, or watch old NBA classics since the season is postponed. If you are like me, you may have sent a text to friends asking for good shows to watch.

Yet, the Psalmist tells us that stillness is of utmost importance in seasons like this. I don’t imagine that by stillness he means, “The absence of doing anything.” I imagine that stillness means coming humbly before our God. It means calming our souls. It could mean limiting the television. It could mean taking a walk and meditating on His goodness. It certainly means letting His word dwell richly in our hearts. It means going to the throne of grace in our time of need. It means setting our minds on Him and His kingdom that is coming. It means entrusting ourselves to our God who cares for us.

Will you spend some time praying for the following:

  • For those who have come in contact with COVID-19
  • For healthcare officials and a cure
  • For our leaders as we navigate how to best care for you in this season
  • For the elderly and the most vulnerable

Our anchor still holds,
Pastor Elbert