Daily Update #234

Today’s Readings:  Ezekiel 47:1-9,12.   Psalm 46:1-11.    John 5:1-3, 5-16.

‘1 God is on our side: refuge and strength, help for us in adversity; exceedingly to be found! 2 Therefore we will not fear when the earth changes – when mountains shift into the heart of the seas. 3 Its waters boil up boisterously; mountains shake by its swelling- 4 a river! Its streams gladden the city of God, the holiest of the dwelling-places of the Most High. 5 God is at its centre; it will not be shifted. God will help it at the approach of morning. 6 Nations were boisterous; kingdoms shifted; he uttered his voice; the earth melts! 7 Yahweh of Hosts is with us; top-security for us is the God of Jacob. 8 Come, gaze at the deeds of Yahweh- how he has placed desolations in the earth: 9 making wars cease to the end of  the earth; the bow he shatters; and he cuts the spar in pieces; the wagons he burns with fire. 10 Relax, and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the earth. 11 Yahweh of Hosts is with us; top-security for us is the God of Jacob.’ (‘Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation’ by Alec Moyer, 2016).

Even if a bit ‘clunky’ at first reading, fresh translations of psalms such as Psalm 46 can open up new insights beyond the familiar language. I prefer the New International Version’s verse 10 but it is also good to know that ‘being still’ before God involves calmness and even being relaxed! I would now like to give out some homework so that you benefit fully from today’s Psalm. Please read it alongside the two following psalms because they really do go together. Psalms  46-48 reflect on God’s last minute deliverance of Jerusalem in around 701 BC from the invasion of the Assyrian King Sennacherib (see 2Kings 19:35-37). Firstly, Psalm 46 considers the clamour and threats of violence that are hushed by God’s ‘still small voice of calm’, and His authority over His creation. Then Psalm 47 reminds us of His all-powerful and ultimately victorious oversight of the nations. Psalm 48 celebrates God’s saving of His holy city on mount Zion. It ends with the lovely words “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end” (v14).

These three psalms speak reassuringly to us in our turbulent times. Today the nations continue to fight the pandemic, over 20 million people are starving in Yemen, Mount Etna on Sicily has been erupting again and Myanmar has had a military coup. We are trying to come to terms with the fragility of western democracy following the violent attack on the US Congress of 6th January. Once again, the nations are ‘in uproar’ and ‘kingdoms fall’. There is much fear and instability even where peaceful times have been enjoyed in recent years. However, we will be able to support each other, our families, friends and neighbours if our lives reflect the great truths in Psalm 46 (NIV):

verses 1-2a,7,11“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” (v1, 2a). God is Immanuel – ‘with us’, for us and for ever!

verse 10: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” We can step aside from all the noise of our world to rest in God’s presence. He will in time be recognised in all His glory over all the earth.

verse 11: “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” God is not only with us for ever. He is our ‘safe place’. Like a mighty fortress which is never breached and over-run, He protects His people for ever – in this life and beyond.

‘In Psalm 46 we are at rest in Yahweh’s care; in Psalm 47 we are at rest on His finished work; in Psalm 48 we are at rest in hope. God will guide us to our dying day – yes, and beyond that into eternal glory’ (Revd Dr JA Motyer).

Today’s Prayer (after a short time of reflection): Thank you Lord that we are eternally safe with you. Please help us to cease striving in our own strength. May we relax and rest in who you are and in what you have done for us through Jesus our Lord.  Amen.