With this news, strengthen those who have weak knees. Say to those with fearful hearts, Be strong & do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” Isaiah 35:3-4
When the stresses and strains of life happen, we often are either immobilised by panic or we go into fix-it mode as we try to sort out our problems by ourselves.
Where many other Psalms begin with a graphic description of the Psalmist’s crisis, Psalm 46 starts with God’s great provision.
As I read this, it reminds me that even though worst may happen – we might be hit by an earthquake and the very mountains might crumble to nothing and collapse into the sea – let them! How can I say that?
Because we, God’s people have something so precious; We have a God who is “a very present help.” He isn’t far off somewhere – he is close by, ready to help. All we need to do is to simply ‘be still’ and trust him.
The next verse says:
This is significant because there wasn’t actually a physical river in Jerusalem, although there were streams. The Psalmist is writing prophetically, concerning a vast spiritual river – an abundant flow of provision, peace, joy and refreshing through the heart of city of God. See also Ezekiel 47:1-12, Revelation 22:1.
We can know a calm confidence in our God.
We don’t need to devise and strategise to fix our problems. They may be very big, but our God is bigger! The peace and strength God brings to us, and the place of refuge he is to us, in the very midst of our troubles is all we need – and we will not be overwhelmed. We only need to rest in him, to drink deeply from that river of living water, to be still, and to know that he is indeed GOD.
My three grownup sons live and work abroad. As a mum, I miss them, every single day. People say things to me like “at least you can ‘FaceTime’ or ‘WhatsApp’ them.” True, and I am glad for those useful tools, but you can’t hug your son over WhatsApp, and the thousands of miles between us seem to multiply with each life event I miss – the birth of a grandchild, a graduation, a change of career, a house move.
One day recently, I was feeling that familiar pang of missing my sons and started thinking about the Father heart of God. I had been reading through Psalm 139 that week and I began to wonder to myself how God feels when I start to let the busyness of my life interrupt my quality time with him.
God is our Father. As a Father, how it must delight his heart when his children set aside all our striving to spend quality time with him. How often we become ‘too busy’ and distracted by life, filling our days with worries and cares, work and fun, even doing things that we convince ourselves are ‘for God,’ until there’s barely a moment left over to spend time with him.
If our hearts as parents long for meaningful connection with our children, how much more does the Father heart of God long for connection with us, his children?
God is always with you.
“I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.”
There is one attribute of God that not even the best parent in the world could ever hope to replicate; his ability to be with you all the time.
This is something that has always boggled my mind. Our Father God is constantly with me, every second of every day. He is also with you – constantly, every second of every day. From Heaven’s throne to my humble human heart flows an uninterrupted stream of love, as though nobody else in the world existed. And the same goes for you.
How is that possible? How can God be personally involved with billions upon billions of individuals all at the same time? I’ll be honest, I don’t know, but I do know that for the Creator of the world it’s no big deal. He is Almighty God. He is omnipresent- a concept most of us have a hard time getting our heads around.
Perhaps the explanation is the sheer speed of his thoughts. God has created things in nature that pulsate at incredible speed. For example, let’s look briefly at the quartz crystal’s whose molecular structure reportedly vibrates at the speed of 9 billion movements per second. And that’s only something created. Surely then the abilities of God, the Creator, must far surpass this.
Bearing this in mind, God could easily think a loving thought towards you at least twice every second without straining his ability to relate to the rest of his children at the same time. It is quite staggering really, isn’t it?
Your Father knows you
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord.”
Our Father God is never too preoccupied with his own activities to show a real interest in the small events of our lives. He knows and cares about the tiniest detail. Even the hairs on your head are numbered. (See Luke 12:7)
The Bible doesn’t tell us this just to let us know that God is concerned with data, but to lead us to understand how God knows us and takes care of us.
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” Matthew 6:31-32
He is the Perfect Father
God is the perfect Father. He is faithful, generous, kind, gentle and loving. He longs to spend time with, and have meaningful connection with his children. He wants you know that you are a special and unique person to Him, unconditionally loved.
In this wonderful Psalm David gives specific reasons for rejoicing in God: The sheer might of Yahweh, his victory and triumph over all the earth, and yet in all his power and splendour, his enduring love and faithfulness to his people. Verses 5 and 6 describes him as “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”
What burdens weigh you down today? Worries over the future security of your job? Your health, or the health of a loved one? The rising cost of living? These and many other issues are valid worries that plague us in every ‘corner’ of the world.
We were never promised a trouble-free life, but we do have a Father who knows what we need (Matthew 6:8) and who, as Psalm 68:19 says, “daily bears us up.”
Daily. Bears us up.
Daily — every single day of our lives Jesus bears the weight of our burdens (if we are willing to let go of our grip on on them). Bears us up — the Lord not only takes the heavy weight of our burdens, his mighty arms go around and under us —daily— and carry us as well. There’s only one thing we need to do from our side: daily hand it all over to him. Jesus himself invites us to do so:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
In a way it would be wonderful enough, when facing a particularly difficult struggle to read that through Christ you are a conqueror; but Romans 8:37 tells us that we are more than conquerors!
Whatever comes against you today, isn’t it good to know that you can rest in this knowledge?
Christ-Confidence, not Self Confidence!
The phrase “more than conquerors” in this verse comes from the Greek words nikao, meaning ‘to overcome’, or ‘to conquer’, and huper, meaning ‘beyond,’ ‘over and above,’ or ‘to prevail completely over’.
In joining these two words huper and nikao together, Paul makes an incredible power-statement about us, as followers of Jesus.
Jesus triumphed over sin, death, sickness and hell; leaving not one enemy unsubdued or undefeated. It’s only because of his absolute victory that we, as his disciples “prevail completely.” The fight has already been won! Romans 8:37 is not about self-confidence. Paul reminds us that we are ‘Christ -confident.’
And because you are Christ-Confident, you can rest assured that if and when some or all of the things listed in Romans 8:35,38,39 may happen in your life, there’s absolutely nothing that can separate you from God’s great love; not angels, not demons, not your fears for today or your worries about tomorrow. You are more than a conqueror.
This is such an encouraging Proverb. And, with good reason, probably the most frequently quoted and preached-from. There are several lessons for life contained in its 35 verses. This morning I was meditating on verses 5-6.
Trust in the LORD
King Solomon knew from personal experience that God is truly worthy to be trusted, and here, he advises his son to live a life of trust in God.
It is our nature to put our trust in something or someone. Some people have had their trust betrayed or let downs so many times that they have privately vowed to trust no one but themselves. Some self-help advocates advise us to ‘trust yourself.’ ‘Find the bigger you deep within,’ they tell you, and other such clichés.
There is no ‘bigger you’ within: The truth is, there is no bigger you within. Contrary to the popular catchphrase we are not ‘enough.’ If we were, why did Jesus need to die?
Solomon’s admonishment to his son, and ultimately to us all, is to consciously put our trust in the LORD, the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Although we in and by ourselves are weak, the very good news is that when we surrender our self-trust, and all our striving to ‘be better’ or ‘be stronger’, and we acknowledge that it’s only in Christ that our strength is found – it is quite literally his strength in us – then we become strong. A divine exchange.
With all your heart
If I’m to trust God, must be complete; wholehearted. More often than not we put half trust our in God and the other half in ourselves or something else.
The following analogy really stuck a chord with me:
With “all your heart” could sound like a tall order to some; demanding perfection. As imperfect people it is impossible for us to trust in the LORD perfectly. But really, Proverbs 3:5-6 describes a heart that is willing to trust with a childlike, unwavering confidence in our perfect Father’s well-proven trustworthiness, wisdom, mercy, faithfulness and love. It isn’t about perfection, it’s about willingness — surrender.
Lean not on your own understanding
Trusting God with our whole heart is an ongoing process. It is making the decision to put away our own understanding, however wise we might think ourselves to be in any given circumstance, and choosing instead to trust that God’s understanding is far superior.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
Trusting God with all our heart means to honour and acknowledge him in everything we do. It is the conscious choice to invite God into our everyday life and conduct. It is to practice the presence of God in the regular, sometimes mundane things that happen every day.
He will make your paths straight
One of the most commonly asked questions is, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” In principle, Solomon answers this question in Proverbs 3. The whole Proverb is a great chapter to meditate on.
God’s response towards those who choose to trust him with all our heart, not to lean on our own understanding, and to acknowledge him in all our ways, is to direct them in the fulfilment of his will, into what is right and pleasing to him.
We can be confident, not in ourselves but in him, to take the next step, then the next in the peace of God, believing that through his word, the Holy Spirit’s leading, the counsel of others, and through godly common sense, God will lead us.
The psalm opens with a call to praise God; to sing a “new song” to him. Those words ‘new song’ could be a little bit confusing to someone who doesn’t consider themselves to be particularly musical. But the psalmist isn’t suggesting we all turn into composers overnight, it’ more of a “heart thing.”
It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with the old songs, or that God is bored with them. There are some wonderful songs, both old and new that we use in our churches for corporate worship.
‘New song’ simply means that every song of praise we sing to God, privately or corporately, emerges from a fresh, daily awareness of God’s goodness, grace, mercy, loving kindness and steadfast love.
After all, God’s mercies are “new every morning” (Lam 3:23) so surely it’s befitting that our awareness of this should be new every day too, resulting in hearts that overflow with praise to the God whose steadfast love fills the whole earth! (Psalm 33:5).