This old world van never hold me, any moment I’ll be gone. I have made my consecration and I have my “wedding garments” on.
These are the words of an old song. Our world feels timeworn and feeble. Our planet is overweight with desperation, destruction, and deprivation, hungry for relief and restoration and overwhelmed with burning issues aimed at ruining so much that we hold dear in life – family, the right to education, freedom of speech and association, and opportunities to reach our potential in life.
Can you see the destruction of the four horses of the apocalypse in your mind’s eye – frightening strong war horses with blood dripping from their hooves and terrifying, faceless riders (think Lord of the Rings!) wreaking havoc in communities? They have all the colours described in Revelation 6 – a red one, a black one, a pale horse and a white one. They are depicting war, economic hardship, famine and disease and the white horse of the victor who is also covered in blood, since victory always demands the sacrifice of lives. [Pebbles 50 – The earth groans, the people moan…]
In general, I am not scared of horses, although I am not a hippophile. I respect and appreciate horses. The most wonderful description of a horse comes from God himself, in his response to Job.
“Have you given the horse strength?
Have you clothed his neck with thunder?
Can you frighten him like a locust?
His majestic snorting strikes terror.
He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He gallops into the clash of arms.
He mocks at fear, and is not frightened;
Nor does he turn back from the sword. (Job 39:19-22 and on)
Globally and geo-politically the world is scary and unstable at the moment. The war in Europe has a sharp impact on our pockets in terms of inflation, interest rates and gas prices. Suddenly almost forgotten ideological barriers are risen and alive hitting city after city with the dreadful destruction of modern weapons in a conventional war. Street voices are outraged and fuming over abortion, racism, sexual preferences, and guns spewing hell-fire and damnation over one another. When I watch the news, the world is ugly and repulsive, the people are trapped in hysterics and tragedy and the leaders are arrogant and corrupt, caught up in their own ideological agenda and ego.
Is there even one to whom I would trust my destiny? One leader on the world stage that breeds some confidence with wisdom and insight? Money sex and power rule as always.
That is only the shortest possible summary of the big picture of the clamour and chaos on our screens daily. In the smaller community people cope with personal crises and disruption. Some will remember 2022 as a year of great sadness and loss.
I long for the green pastures and still waters, a cup that runneth over and a lovely meal. (Psalm 23) It is only the words of an ancient text that miraculously survived many centuries that can calm my soul. Jesus promised that his words are Spirit and life. (John 6:63). He washes his Church with the water of the Word. (Ephesians 5:26)
I know, of course, where to find the nourishment and quickening for my inner being. In the valley. It took me a while to understand that the rest and peace that I crave are all to be found in the valley of the shadow of death. The words of the twenty third Psalm do not promise all the answers before the table is laid. The table of feasting is laid in the valley of the shadow of death. The oil of anointing and healing is dripping, and the enemy is present, looking upon the miracle work of God in my life. It is there where goodness and mercy follow me and there where I live in the “house” (Presence) of the Most Hight God.
David , who wrote about still waters, pastures, and the valley of the shadow of death (Psalms 23), did not have a temple to worship in. God “lived” in a tent and David in a “house of cedar wood”. (2 Samuel 7:2) With great conquest and difficulty David brough the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem with the intention of building the home for the Ark which would then be the temple of worship for God. The Ark was taken out of the Tabernacle as a “good luck charm” by Eli’s godless sons in a battle with the Philistines. Captured by the enemy, the Ark wreaked havoc in the temples of the Philistines. Plagued by all sorts of calamaties, they sent it back to Israel. The Tabernacle was destroyed and as a temporary measure the Ark was stored in the house of an ordinary Israelite. His two sons were consecrated to serve the Ark. It stayed there for over twenty years until David brought it into Jerusalem with a great feast and his famous dance of joy. The Ark was housed in a tent of which David said one day there is better than a thousand outside. (Psalms 84:11)
David knew the value of shadow. For ten years he roamed the wilderness of southern Judea fleeing the hate, jealousy and murderous endeavours of Saul and his armies. He writes about the Shadow of the Almighty as the hiding place from everything that threatened his life in his world.
God does not change – the Church sings it over many centuries already. Our world is also full of hate, jealousy, and murderous plans. The Shadow of the Almighty and the feasting table in the valley with still waters and green pastures are here for us in the midst of a world that crumbles and groans with evil and calamity.
From the pen of our New Testament “Psalmist”, Paul, who is not always depicted as such, flow the words of healing and hope.
God’s Everlasting Love
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-29)
What then shall we say? God is for us, and He reigns.
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
Pebble-pal, we are not called for the big picture. Do not allow the worries of the world to become your personal panic. Jesus calls you as a witness to Jerusalem (your household), Judea (your family). Samaria (your neighbours and even those around you that you do not like so much) and then the rest of the world, where He will specifically lead you. (Acts 1:8) God’s structure for society is family. Just think for a moment against what is the fiercest attack in our modern world – yes, against the family. Every possible hellish garbage can is tipped over in order to collapse our community structures – family and education.
Stand firm in every promise of God so that you will become the “fortified bronze wall” and the people will “follow” you and not you them. (Jeremiah 15:20)
The rest can be swept under the “carpet” of Isaiah 40:15.
Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
[Just a short “explanation”: Many years ago, I heard the author of the book The Cross and the Switchblade, David Wilkerson, preach about a vision that he saw of the garbage cans of hell being dumped on our world to declare war on every aspect of goodness and beauty in society. It stayed with me. I “see” it around me.]