Friday, April 15, 2011

Name that Psalm

"And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air," are familiar words from our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Those words are especially significant as we continue to experience the absence of troops from our country as they engage in foreign conflicts. Where do we go for comfort in times of anxiety over world, national, and personal events?

Dr. Anthony Ash wrote, "It has been said that somewhere in the Psalms can be found a reflection of virtually every religious experience known to man, and the person familiar with the Psalter can find balm for every wound." Mr. Ash admits that this statement may not be strictly true, but it does reflect the high regard for the Psalms from those who have experienced camaraderie and good-fellowship with the authors.

In the Psalms we find a blending of theology, worship, and daily living. One of my favorite psalms begins with these words, "God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). Within the lyrics, this psalm addresses three common trouble-areas: natural disasters, political upheaval, and battle fatigue. During any of these events, it is easy to lose sight that God remains aware of circumstances and controls the outcome. Even when world leaders topple and some abdicate, God will never abandon his post as Lord of lords and King of kings.

The third stanza of Psalm 46 portrays war and battle fatigue, and the psalmist gives advice to armed forces, those who keep the home fires burning, and for our ordinary days, "Be still, and know that I am God." What does that imperative mean to those in the middle of a raging conflict? It may seem a daunting request at first, but those who take up the exercise will find calm and solace and a place to anchor their souls in times of turmoil. On real battlefields with mortar fire or at the home front with verbal attacks, God can quiet us as we draw near to him. Inviting God to step into our landmine area is better than pulling on a flak jacket. He protects our souls from all kinds of bombshells.

In 1529, Psalm 46 inspired Martin Luther to write the words and music to a well-known hymn. Do you recognize the first line? "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing." Through the Internet and television, color pictures and news stories arrive direct to our homes, covering wars, civil unrest, and rioting. If you need a refreshing break from warfare, turn off electronics this next week, and instead think about a week long ago -- the week between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Read an account in one of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Enclosed in that eight day period you will read a mixture of wholesome, depraved, and holy, the same mix that goes on day to day in this world. But you’ll gain hope as you read and remind yourself that “holy” always wins and always outweighs depravity. Jesus reminded his disciples during his last days, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

"Be still, and know I am God" isn't a take-or-leave-it instruction. It's a gentle invitation to bring a blessing into your life through participation with God. It’s a good phrase to pray over the unrest in the world, for all military personnel, President Obama, our country, and those who declare themselves our allies and enemies.

This fifteenth week, our index card scripture comes from the book of Psalms where the human experience is poetically displayed in songs of lament and praise. When you seek comfort, look through the collection of 150, you will most likely find one to guide you. Name your psalm, one will fit your circumstances. Perhaps our verse for this week will aid you in finding additional peace and assurance from the Psalter and our Father.

Index Card Scripture for Week 15: “‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him’” (Psalm 91:14).

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