Monday, October 31, 2011

Be still; know God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 46:1-11
 

TO CHEW ON:"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble...
Be still and know that I am God..."
Psalm 46:1,10a


Someone from the Sons of Korah wrote Psalm 46 to encourage and give hope to people who were in trouble. By the things the psalmist mentions it seems the trouble was war with another nation. The writer begins with a declaration about who God is:

"God is our refuge  — shelter, protection, fortress, hope, place of trust — and our strength  — power, security — in trouble" 

He reminds the people about the security of the city (Psalm 46:4-5). It has an underground stream that provides water even if the city's main water supply is cut off by siege. (Though there is no actual river flowing through Jerusalem, "it is believed by many that there is a subterranean water supply that is the source of various fountains and pools in Jerusalem" New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 723.) God's presence in her makes her unshakeable in case of battering. He will help her at sunrise, which is a likely time for the enemy to attack.

He says more about the identity of God (Psalm 46:7-9). He calls Him Yahweh Sabaoth — the Lord of Hosts. Remember the story of Elisha in a city besieged by  Syria's army? In the morning, Elisha's servant saw the army and was afraid. But Elisha drew his attention to another army — an army of heavenly hosts: "Do not fear for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" - 2 Kings 6:8-17.

He also calls God the "God of Jacob." This reminds them of their history with God when, in the past, He preserved their forefather Jacob and his descendants. 

In the light of all this, God Himself steps to the mic, telling the readers/listeners: "Be still and know that I am God."

The comment writer of my Bible suggests this is "God addressing the wicked warring nations." That may be so. But I think God is also addressing the worried, wailing people. He tells them to still the fearful voices around them and in their own heads, perhaps even to shush their own ideas and suggestions to God about how He could help them.

We may not be living in a city surrounded by an enemy army but our lives can feel just as attacked. Circumstances, demands of home, family and church, sickness, sandwich pressures (simultaneously looking after kids and parents), the clamour around us (internet, TV, radio, the constant demands of social networking via the phone, Facebook, Twitter) can make a mighty din, causing us stress, anxiety and fear.

At such times, let's use the encouragements of Psalm 46. We can:
  • Know our God — a shelter, strength, the Lord of Hosts.
  • Remember our history with God. ("He is the God of ___" [insert your name here]).
  • Drink from the river that flows within — get strength from the Bible and the Holy Spirit's application of what we read.
  • Be still — turn off the noise in our environment, refuse to listen to the chatter in our heads, even silence our own suggestions to God while we wait for His solutions (Exodus 14:13-14).

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to take advantage of what is available in You when I'm feeling stressed, anxious, surrounded by demands, or trouble. Help me to be still and wait for You to work.  Amen.

MORE: All Saints Vigil or Halloween

Tonight is Halloween (hallowed or holy evening). It was first kept as a religious feast known as All Saints Vigil on the night before November 1st, All Saints Day, which is the celebration of dead saints and martyrs.

The Catholic site International Crusade for Holy Relics USA  describes its early celebration and the beginnings of what we know as Halloween today:

"In the first ages, during the night before every feast, a vigil was kept. In the evening the faithful assembled in the place or church where the feast was to be celebrated and prepared themselves by prayers, readings from Holy Writ (now the Offices of Vespers and Matins), and sometimes also by hearing a sermon. On such occasions, as on fast days in general, Mass also was celebrated in the evening, before the Vespers of the following day.

Towards morning the people dispersed to the streets and houses near the church, to wait for the solemn services of the forenoon. This vigil was a regular institution of Christian life and was defended and highly recommended by St. Augustine and St. Jerome (see Pleithner, "Aeltere Geschichte des Breviergebetes", pp. 223 sq.). The morning intermission gave rise to grave abuses; the people caroused and danced in the streets and halls around the church (Durandus, "Rat. Div. off.", VI, 7). St. Jerome speaks of these improprieties (Epist. ad Ripuarium)."
Read all of "All Saints Vigil."

(All but the "More" section re-posted from November 2, 2010)

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