Saturday, 5 November 2016

Looking for the city

"There is a river which makes glad the city of God, the habitation of the most high". 
Psalm 46:4

Ever been caught in the middle of a big storm? It can be pretty terrifying.
I had an experience back in the Spring which really scarred me. I was in the middle of the moors on Dartmoor, and visibility had reduced down to around 12-15 feet due to the mist. The Sat Nav we were using lost signal, and in moments, we were uncertain as to our direction. Then the rain came, lashing into us on a strengthening wind, soaking us to our skins through layers of clothing in minutes. The rain started to chill my body, and I could feel my legs freezing up. We were in serious trouble. Thankfully, at that moment, the dark shadow of the only building for miles appeared close by, and we were able to reach shelter, but it was a close call.

In Psalm 46, the sons of Korah see the present world in similar terms. When we look at things politically, economically, socially, then it does indeed appear that the earth gives way, the mountains shift into the depths of the sea, and those waters engulf what seemed so certain with a roar of overwhelming power.
What are we to do?

The answer lies in our coming to understand that there is something far more permanent than any of these swirling forces. At the end of the song of songs, the lovers have learned that nothing, not even death, is stronger than love, and that they can confide and rest in that mercy, as their experiences had taught them. The Psalmist here equally instructs us to a higher view - that God is a refuge amidst such troubles. As nations rage in their rising and falling, we can look to something greater and richer to aid us - to make us glad - in these days. We're not going to see the troubles end (that happens when The Gospel has reached every corner of the world), but there is help amidst those trials.

Mike Horton in his book, Beyond Culture Wars notes that there is only one remedy to the furor of the day, and for us to look beyond politics or moral crusades - the answer does not reside there. It can only be found in the stream that flows from Zion above - the river of mercy which brings us the good news of Jesus Christ. This alone can set us free.

God alone will bring peace to the earth, when His kingdom comes. 
Until then, His people, through their living, vocations, recreation and worship, should be seeking to engage in one thing above everything else - a holding out of the word of life (Philippians 2:16), because it is here and here alone, in our current trials, that we can taste and know something of the joy that is coming - the peace with God made ours in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan women at the well (John 4), it wasn't to bring her some collection of electoral pledges or moral and social imperatives - it was to feed her with the waters of life. Our manner of living, especially before our friends and neighbors, should be to do just the same (Romans 13:1-8). The 'wood, hey and stubble' of fools wisdom is everywhere, but the treasure that is more precious than rubies is only found in the fragrance and sweetness of the message of Jesus.

God 'brings' desolation for a purpose, and storms can often be the essential step towards our finding and truly appreciating refuge. It's then that we can truly be stilled and know His transcendence and imminence, and understand that the day is coming when He will truly be seen as Lord of all.

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