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Archive for October 29th, 2012

As we were chanting Psalm 46 yesterday on Reformation Sunday, I was struck by the timeliness of these verses from the 46th Psalm as the hurricane approaches our shores and a winter storm comes from the west:

1God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
   though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

So the first verse is about the dangers of nature but,

The danger with which the psalmist is really concerned comes from the nations, and he moves on to that one in the second and third stanzas. The nations in their raging and kingdoms in their instability produce a historical chaos more dangerous than the cosmic one. Indeed, historical insecurity seems to replace cosmic instability in Israel’s vision of reality; note that the same language is used about seas and nations: seas and nations “rage,” mountains and kingdoms “totter.” But the congregation knows that the LORD of hosts is also sovereign over national powers as well as cosmic. (Interpretation: Psalms by James Luther Mays)

The Lord’s Word shows us our own fears: it is the shaking of the nations that causes more fear.  Yes, this hurricane meeting a low-pressure cold front has been dubbed “Frankenstorm”, but one week from tomorrow is Election Day, another day of storm.  This presidential election has caused more fear than any I can remember in 50 years.  This election has been slow moving storm for at least a year, even more.  It is the result of two different storm systems, two different fronts, colliding. For so long now, with  the revolutions beginning in the ’60s and the incremental changes of immorality in the ascendancy of the acceptance of lust for both things and sexuality, it is true “…nations rage, the kingdoms totter…”

Luther chose Psalm 46 as the basis of “A Mighty Fortress is our God”.  He too saw kingdoms tottering as two fronts pressed in upon each other.  The clash of the Church struggle affected kingdoms and nations. “… if the foundations are destroyed,   what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11: 3).  In Luther’s day, they  saw the armies of Islam on the doors of Vienna, Austria.  He composed his hymn “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” as a prayer directed for the possibility of the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire.  Luther and the Reformers knew a greater shaking in the midst of the Church and the nations and  the “foundations are destroyed”.  It is what we built, created, managed and manipulated, in the foolishness of the denial of original sin and hubris, that we said would last…last even a 1,000 years.  See the tower of Babel: we will make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered. 

What can the righteous do?  

First: it is clear from Psalm 46, the tottering of kingdoms, signified by the tumult of nature, is the Lord’s doing!   See, “…how He has brought desolations on the earth.”  He is the Lord of history and is at work, as He fully entered into history.

Second:  so it follows, for all our much vaunted ascendancy to control nature and nations, we are finally not in control. Our pride states that we know it all and so we fear but we are fearing ourselves, but there is no fear of the Lord, and no love either.  The Lord is clear on our pride, “Pride goes before destruction,   and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16: 18)

Third:  The Psalmist points us not to our own self-invented possibilities, but to the Lord’s promises:

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.

He fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit. The war is not against flesh and blood but the powers and principalities, He alone has the streams of living water that makes glad the city of God…not us.

But the question is not answered: What is the righteous to do when the foundations are destroyed?  When “..the best laid plans of mice and men go oft astray/and leave us nought but grief and pain, For promis’d joy” (Robert Burns) WE thought our best laid plans would bring promised joy but they have not. What are we to do?  In church and nation, we cry out, we got to do something!!!

The Lord tells what we are to do:  nothing.  Actually He tells us to be active in doing nothing, “Be still…”:

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth!”

As Moses told the people of Israel screaming at him as the armies of darkness descended upon them in the rear and the sea was in front of them, You only have to be still and see the wonders of God. Be still as an infant nursing at his mother’s breast.  As still as that first day of the week dawned, and the stone was moved and a messenger declared, He is not here.  He is risen! Nothing is solved but all is saved and will be.  Be still…but, but, we got to take back our country, we got to do great things for God…be still and be stilled by His Word to you.  This stilling is called faith according to His Word of promise:

The LORD of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

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