Monday, 21 July 2014

A Devotion for This Morning

(Cross posted from here)

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
    until the disaster has passed. (Psalm 57:1) 

This verse has special meaning to me because it helped me through a very difficult time of my life. I think of it now, not only for anyone who may be going through a difficult time, but for our brothers and sisters, Christians in the Middle East (Mosul, where apparently Christians and any sign of their existence are being eradicated from the city) and Nigeria, for instance, who may also be going through struggles we cannot even imagine. 

Yesterday’s lectionary reading was from Romans 8, about the sufferings of this present time not being worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us, and the creation itself groaning to be set free from its bondage to corruption when Christ returns to set everything right. I can imagine these Christians in Mosul pleading, “Amen, come Lord Jesus.” 

Have mercy on me is the cry of desperation. It was the cry to Jesus of the tax collector, of a Canaanite woman, a blind beggar. Of David, the Psalmist. People don’t generally cry, “Have mercy on me” when things are going well; as Matt Redman says in in Blessed be Your Name, “when the sun’s shining down on me, when the world’s all that it should be…”  No, people plead for mercy when they are in the deepest of trouble; when things are at their most hopeless. And here David pleads it twice.

But it is a reassuring verse. “For in you I take refuge…” How reassuring to know God – to know that there is a place of refuge. How hopeless would it be if we didn’t know there was this place of refuge? How hopeless it must be for those who don’t know Him.

We may sometimes have the opportunity to tell some troubled soul about this place of refuge. 2 Cor 1:3-4 tells us that the God of all comfort comforts us so that we may be able to comfort others with the comfort we have received

Where is this place of refuge? It is in the shadow of His wings. We can be confident it is an absolutely safe and firm place of refuge. What could be safer than under the wings of the Almighty, the King and creator of the universe.

The Bible speaks in a number of places about a bird sheltering her young beneath her wings – an owl in Isaiah 34:15.

In Matthew 23 Jesus laments, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. 

Jesus longs to gather us under his wings, to care for us, to protect us; even those who, to this point, have rejected him. He longs for them to come to him in this way. Here is where Alpha comes in: People are free to choose or reject this offer, it is available to all, and we need to offer it to all. It’s not up to us whether they accept or reject. But if they refuse this offer, their destiny is on their own heads. Jesus assumes no responsibility for their fate. He says, “Your house is left to you desolate.” 

The final phrase in the verse from the Psalm gives hope – “Until the disaster has passed” Not if, but when. – It will pass. We have firm assurance that if we take refuge in the Lord our God, the disaster will pass. Not that we can take this in a flippant or facile way. We can’t necessarily be presumptuous. For some it may not pass in the way we wish or expect. 

As Jesus says, rather paradoxically, in Luke 21: "...they will put some of you to death… But not a hair of your head will perish." 

If we have put our faith in Christ, we are safe. The disaster will pass. As my friend and Alpha RD for Ontario put it this morning, The disaster will pass if we put  our faith in the One who will not pass away. 
Isaiah 43:2 - “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
 Again, we may take these verses for ourselves or we may have the opportunity to be a comfort to others at some point. Not so much by quoting various Scripture verses, but by inviting them to come and meet this God who can provide them the ultimate refuge.

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