Bread – Fortress

January 2, 2017


Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… Selah.”  Ps. 46:1

The title of this Psalm is “God is our Fortress.”  James Boice in his commentary on the Psalms notes that this Psalm was on of Martin Luther’s favorites, from which he wrote “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

My focus today is not so much whether God is a fortress or what kind of fortress is He, but where this fortress is.  What is its location?  Where on a map may it be found?

We tend to intellectualize Scripture and God, and so our first response might well be to say that the fortress who is God is “up there,” and point to the heavens.  And, indeed, there is much in this Psalm to suggest that God’s fortress is the New Jerusalem, which will descend in the end times to bring in the thousand year reign of Christ.  “God is our refuge and strength” suggests a place of refuge, a place where we can physically go for protection.  Perhaps the image comes to mind of a high mountain redoubt, armed to the hilt with massive guns, which provides us peace and safety if we can only get there.  Perhaps we recall the place of fortress called the “shadow of His wings,” where we can hide under Him and let life’s travails flow over us, leaving us untouched and unscathed.  Perhaps we have a view of heaven with the heavenly hosts surrounding God’s throne and bring ourselves to the place of refuge there.  Perhaps we climb in our imaginations to the peak of the mountain where the transfiguration occurred, and in the presence of God’s glory revealed.

But the second part of our reading today says “God is … a very present help in trouble.”  How can one be “very present” when one is “over there” or “up there.”  The only way one can be “very present” is to be here, in the place where the calamity exists, in the place of worry and fear.

And so we realize that God is not only “over there” or “up there” but also “right here.”  He is “very present.”

Which means this, if God is in me, beneath me, above me, and around me, then the fortress is in me, beneath me, above me, and around me.  If I am in God and He is in me, then I am in the fortress right now.

If that is true, then why do we worry?  Why do feel defeat in calamity?  Why do we yield to trouble instead of just looking at it as it flies by our fortress, which is God in us?

I really don’t know the answer to that question, because I do it too.  I look at a problem and say to myself, “I am in trouble,” instead of sitting under God’s wing, in His fortress, and say to God, “look at this problem and help me solve it, or, better yet, solve it yourself.”

But the implications of our failure to recognize that the fortress to which we can retreat is in us go well beyond us.  The reason is simple … if we, as God’s ambassadors, act like we live in a fortress who is God, then those who need healing, those who need help, those who need love, will find shelter in us.  The beacon of light we should be not only shines light in darkness, but it reveals the fortress from which the light comes.

Imagine for a moment if people said “God’s people are our refuge and strength,  a very present help in trouble.”

Whether or not it has happened to you yet, calamity will come upon us all.  We suffer in this fallen world from disease, death, disaster, pain, and loss.  And where will we turn?  Will we turn to the empty promises of the world or the true promises of Christ?  Will we run to the fortress in heaven in our mind, or run across the street to our Christian neighbor who stands in the evil day and is a fortress of hope, of light, of help, of friendship, and of  strength?  If we claim to follow Christ, we should be that fortress in the storm, we ought to be that fortress in the storm, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be that fortress in the storm for our neighbor.

“A mighty fortress is our God …”  And, to the extent He lives in us, so are we.  Let’s act like it … and let our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and praise not us, but our Father in heaven.  Amen.

_________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

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Bread – Unapproachable

July 21, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, July 21, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 25:1-22; Acts 14:1-18; Mark 4:21-34; Psalms 45,47,48

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In our reading today from Samuel, David has reached out to a wealthy man called Nabal and asked for a festival gift to David and his men because David and his men have kept Nabal’s men safe and Nabal’s assets protected. Sort of a “I’ve been nice to you, even though I didn’t have to be, so why don’t you be nice to me.” Nabal responds by saying “No” in a very offensive way, stating that he does not know David and, besides, “there are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters,” suggesting that David is nothing but a scoundrel.

David’s reaction is to “mount up” with 400 men and swords and teach Nabal (which, by the way, means “foolish”) a lesson in manners.

But in this story, what stands out to me is what Nabal’s servant says to Nabal’s wife about these events. He says “… for harm is determined against our master [Nabal] and against all his house, and he [Nabal] is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” 1 Sam. 25:17

“He [Nabal] is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”

Nabal is a man with wealth, many possessions, many servants, and the pride to go with it. He is a snob of the first order. And his staff have absolutely no respect for him because “one cannot speak to him.”

And the fact that Nabal cannot be informed or corrected by others makes him “worthless” in the circumstances. Even though he has a position of wealth, power, influence, and leadership, he is worthless in the circumstances because he will not listen to anyone except himself.

In our daily grind, how often are we so full of our anger, our purposes, our pride, our selfishness, our own goals and objectives, our own self-righteousness that we will not listen to anyone, that we cannot be informed of the truth, be imparted wisdom, or be helped in any manner. This attitude makes us worthless. It makes us worthless to God’s purpose for us, it makes us worthless to the people who rely upon us, it makes us worthless to being able to effectively engage the situation, and it essentially makes us worthless to ourselves, because all we have is an echo chamber for our ideas, where what I say bounces back to me as good advice. Notice that this overarching pride does not make me worth nothing, it just makes me worth less.

What do we do which makes us unapproachable, unteachable, uncommunicative, and ultimately unable? We feed our pride.

When we admit we could be wrong so that we are ready, willing, and able to listen and hear, are we any less right? When we never admit we are wrong and have no ear for disagreeable information or advice, does that make us any less wrong?

What Nabal did to David we do to God all the time. When God has a word of revelation for us through His Holy Spirit which we do not want to hear, we raise up the wall of unapproachability, content to surround ourselves with the walls of self-delusion. When God wants to speak to us in prayer, we make ourselves unavailable by just not praying. When God asks us for something which we do not want to give, we pretend we don’t hear Him or, even worse, deny that we even know who He is.

But as Christians there is one thing we know, and that is that while we were unapproachable, steeped in sin, God approached us and saved us. While we insulted God, God forgave us.

But other people are not God, and we have the ability to make ourselves unapproachable as far as they are concerned. In so doing, we make ourselves worthless.

When we have Jesus there is no need for the wall of self-preservation. When we have been preserved for all eternity by God’s sovereign act, what wall of protection from the world do we need?

Are we unapproachable? If so, what are we afraid of and why?

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© 2015 GBF

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