Monday, March 19, 2012

He Is Exalted

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." - Psalm 46:1, NIV

"Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'” - Psalm 46:8-10, NIV

I've always liked the "God is our refuge and strength" and "Be still and know that I am God" parts of this Psalm. The verses are calming, something I can focus on when I'm feeling overwhelmed. They're among the earliest verses I learned in Sunday school, and I've always held them in my heart. 

Tonight, though, I looked at verses 8-10. In verse 8, God has "done" these things. He has devastated areas, depopulating them, bringing desolation. What? This doesn't make sense! In verse 9 God seems to be on the right side of things again, ending wars all over the earth. But look at how he does it! There's nothing calming or peaceful about breaking bows, shattering spears, and burning shields (or possibly chariots)! This isn't the God I think of when I'm resting in the quiet of verse 10. 

I think the quiet of verse 10 isn't the God I like to envision, holding me and soothing me after a rough day at work. This is the sudden, tense quiet after a crash, a storm, or a battle. God has actively destroyed the tools of war! Hear the snaps as not just thin arrows but heavy bows are broken! See the flames devour the shields and chariots! Now...

...there is quiet. But God tells us in that anxious quiet that he's in charge here and that he will be exalted. Oh, yes, he will. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Erm, Day Something of Lent

Yeah, I fell off the Lent wagon. It happens. I also fell off the YouVersion wagon, where I was working through their Historical plan. I'm not terribly far behind, and I know I can catch up, but I'm not there just yet. However, tonight I was reading Joshua 1 and 2 and found something worth sharing, I hope. 

"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. ... Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."- Joshua 1:6-7, 9, NIV 

"Then they answered Joshua, 'Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses.Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.'" - Joshua 1:16-18, NIV

"Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roofand said to them, 'I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.' ... 'When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.'" - Joshua 2:8-9, 11, NIV

"They said to Joshua, 'The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.'" - Joshua 2:24, NIV

There's a catchy Michael W. Smith song called "Be Strong and Courageous" that comes from God's instruction to Joshua in the beginning of this book. (It gets stuck in my head whenever I see that phrase.) But until tonight I hadn't noticed how many times the topics of courage and it's flip-side, fear, come up. God tells Joshua three times to "be strong and courageous," adding in a "very" one of those times. Then the people of Israel, who have certainly not been very courageous during their 40-year journey out of Egypt, tell him again! 

Was Joshua that dense? Did he need to hear it three times from God and then again from his cousins before he got it? I don't think so. Joshua is first recognized by name back in Exodus when Moses sends him to choose men to fight the Amalekites. He's no coward. He's also one of the two scouts who checks out Canaan and thinks the Israelites can take it. In Numbers, God says that Joshua has a "spirit of leadership." 

In Deuteronomy 1 Moses tells the people that God has told him to encourage Joshua. Again in Deuteronomy 3, God commands Moses to "encourage and strengthen him." Time and time again God speaks directly to Joshua or uses others to do so just to remind him that he is strong and courageous. I don't think God does this because Joshua is a 'fraidy-cat. Not at all. I think God is telling the Israelites that he has given them a strong, courageous leader. God put Joshua in charge, and He wants that to be known by both Joshua and the people who need to follow him.

I also think these verses serve to remind those of us reading them thousands of years later that even people with God-given leadership abilities need to be told that we recognize and appreciate their gifts and talents. I think we need to lift them up with positive statements and prayer, and I think we need to let them know we see what they do.