It’s amazing how quickly things change. Last month, my daughter woke up to tremors and snow-like ash falling outside her window in the Philippines from a nearby volcano. Meanwhile, the coronavirus erupted too, spewing panic like poisonous ash on unsuspecting populations.
Masks have dawned overnight like sandbags amassed to keep back swollen rivers. Once-teeming cities of millions in China have become ghost towns. Young and old, rich and poor now huddle behind feeble defences, hoping the virus won’t ‘Pompeii’ its way towards them.
The ‘Be still and know’ verse in Ps 46:10 begins with a frightful description of waters roaring, mountains shaking and being carried into the seas. It reads like a modern-day newspaper, and yet breathes hope into these chaotic events.
I found myself yearning to enter a time machine, propelled back to the feet of David. I’ve a few questions I’d like to pepper at him: ‘How were you confident when a whole army was encamped around you?’ (Ps 27:2-3); ‘How could you sleep when 10,000 enemies were ready to attack you?’ (Ps 3:5-6); ‘Did you really worship the Lord when ‘the pangs of death surrounded you?’ (Ps 18:4); ‘What was it like when angels chased your persecutors?’ (Ps 35:5-6); ‘Did you actually hear God laugh when evil plots were being made against you?’ (Ps 2:4). May we, in times like these, re-encounter the God of David!
Psalm 46 provides us with some rich insights into David’s mindset. Verses 1-2 tell us there’s no need to fear because God is both our REFUGE and our STRENGTH, and a VERY present help in times of trouble.
As our refuge, God commits to harbouring us, which means sheltering us from harm and consoling us at the same time. As my refuge, I can run into Him and escape from impending danger and close the doors to stalking terrors. That He becomes our strength speaks of the work that He does not only for and around us, but deep inside – a work of grace that fortifies and dignifies the inner sanctum of heart and soul. He’s both the Architect and Interior Designer, making sure outside and inside reflect His might and glory. Beloved, let us press in to discover Him as both our refuge and our strength!
Then he says something that defies description. We know God is omnipresent. That means He’s always here, always present. But apparently, He’s more present at some times than He is at others! There are occasions when He’s not just here, He’s VERY here. Sometimes it’s referred to as the ‘manifest presence’ of God. Words frankly don’t do justice to this experience. The important thing to grasp is that when times get really messy and impossible, God just shows up in some really powerful and personal ways. Knowing this, you might find yourself praying something like this, “God, I know you’re present, but today I need you to be VERY present!” He won’t disappoint.
Then David shares another secret to his success. Anyone who has been there knows that, unlike many of the great cities of the world, Jerusalem has no Seine, Thames nor Yangtze running through it. And yet, it never lacks water because there’s a boundless supply bubbling up through springs from the ground.
The psalmist declares that, in the same way, underground streams run unseen in abundance to make the City of God joyful. Rivers of the Holy Spirit are surging through us as His people, enabling us to be full of joy, even in uncertain times. Take a moment to thank God for His Spirit, and ask Him to fill you afresh today.
The final key to overcoming paralysis in the face of catastrophe is found in the well-known verse, ‘Be still and know that I am God’. In confusing times, it can be a real struggle to get ‘still’. Quieting the voices of doubt and anxiety is hard work. Tuning out the loudspeakers of tension and trepidation is war. And yet the Lord bids us come to Him to find rest.
Although the forces of man, nature, or the Devil rage around us, we can be still, and in that quiet place know that God has us in His hands, and He’ll never forsake us. In stillness, we hear His voice above the clatter. In quietness and trust, we not only enter a fortress, we become a refuge of peace for those around us. In ways we cannot imagine, even in times like the coronavirus outbreak, our stillness will cause our God and King to be ‘exalted among the nations’.