A beautiful song that provided the musical background to some of my childhood speaks of a ‘restless world’ where love is ended before it’s begun. And the planet has become a lot more restless since the likes of Nat King Cole sang it back in the fifties.
But with the coronavirus pandemic forcing us to drop our hectic schedules, it presents a marvellous opportunity for us all to stop and ponder the meaning of life.
The Creator of heaven and earth wants us all to know that we are special and uniquely loved. And this is his heart-cry: “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.”(Psalm 46.10)
We are so proud of our technological and other advancements that we have almost come to believe there is nothing we can’t achieve. But our ‘Tower of Babel’ (see Gen 11) is now swaying in the wind, in danger of collapse. However, the Lord of glory still reigns!
Our work, leisure time and social life are all legitimate activities, but we have turned them into idols replacing God, thus breaking the first commandment. Now they are confiscated, what are we left with?
Well, God remains on his throne, and he desires our worship. In fact, there is nothing more precious than time spent with our heavenly Father who has created us for this very purpose – a one-to-one relationship with Him.
The context of the psalmist’s plea for us to ‘be still’ is the storms of life when God invites us to seek shelter in his everlasting arms: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way…” (Psalm 46.1f)
We are further encouraged to be refreshed by the river of God – Jesus offers us “rivers of living water” (John 7.38). “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall…” (Ps 46.6) But God is with us, Emmanuel!
I recall how we used to sing a modern version of that psalm to the stirring tune of the Dambusters’ March – appropriate indeed to the current battle as it celebrates a crucial breakthrough in World War II.
God prefers not to shout at us; we are in a better position to hear his voice away from all the noise of the workaday world.
A disconsolate Elijah fled to the solitude of Mt Horeb after his mighty victory over the prophets of Baal, understandably depressed over the people’s apparent rejection of his ministry despite the miraculous evidence of God’s power. The Lord then made his presence felt – not in the earthquake, wind or fire, but in a “still, small voice” – or “gentle whisper” as my translation puts it. (1 Kings 19.12)
And Elijah was reminded that he was not alone – there were 7,000 others who had not bowed the knee to Baal. I am so encouraged by my brothers and sisters who are determined to make the most of the current shaking of the nations.
I am also beginning to see a much clearer link between being still and hearing the truth. It was not for nothing that the Sabbath was the fourth commandment – even the Pope is now encouraging us to keep the Jewish Sabbath!
As long as we continue to run our lives at breakneck speed, maintaining a 24/7 connection with our friends and colleagues and filling our minds with worldly ideas, we are unlikely to hear the voice of God; unless, of course, he shouts – perhaps through pain or indeed the coronavirus pandemic.
Trouble is, the latter scenario too often leads to panic. The Lord, on the other hand, would say: ‘Do not fear; Trust me!’ Isaiah writes: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast (or stayed on thee), because they trust in you.” (Isa 26.3)
When we are thus focused on God, Jesus promises us the ‘Spirit of truth’ who will guide us into all the truth (John 16.13). But this can’t happen amidst a crazy-busy lifestyle. If we want to forge a true path in life, we must acknowledge him in all our ways, for it is then that he will ‘direct our paths’ (Prov 3.6).
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul contrasts the spiritual infants “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching” with “speaking the truth in love” enabling us to mature in our faith. (Ephesians 4.14f)
At such a time as this, Jesus says: “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” adding that he is coming back for us and that, even now, he is “the way, the truth and the life”. (See John 14.1-6)
We may well be in a “city under siege” (Psalm 31.21), but the Lord is there for us.
Paul also prophesies of a time when people will turn aside from truth and be taken in by myths (2 Timothy 4.3f). But Jesus offers us true peace, saying: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33)
“Come to me,” he adds, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11.28)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International