Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by.

Psalm 57: 1

 

There are some days when the air is just filled with a sense that something is going to go very wrong or be incredibly hard to handle. In some of these instances I have a good idea about the causes of my concern; since, I was likely responsible for causing the situation that is threatening me. At other times, I have absolutely no idea why I am experiencing this sensation of having the hair on the back of my neck standing up and my stomach churning with anticipation of what might come next. This world is certainly filled with enough evil to make anticipatory concern a rational state of being; then, I also have to admit that I have an exceptional capacity for providing my own input to the chaos of this world.

 

That is probably why David’s words strike me with such intensity and with a heart felt realization that he is speaking for me; so, I can readily claim his words as mine and sing along with him this prayer of request for God’s grace to be generously poured out onto me. From experience, my Lord is very quick to provide the sort of gracious mercy, compassion, and protection that I need in these personally challenging times. He protects me from the assault of evil, and He sooths any wounds that I might have incurred in the fight. God’s Spirit hovers over my heart and my soul like a protective mother eagle who will sacrifice everything in order to guard her nest. He provides me with a safe place to be until I have regained the strength and the resources that I need to face the world again. The Lord also grants me perspective on things that concern and that trouble me as He reveals His high and eternal view on life.

 

God’s protective and restorative drive is fundamental to who He is, and He readily gives the gift of His active presence to people. The Lordwants us to turn to Him as our source of encouragement as we prepare to face into each day of our lives. God wants us to remember that through Christ the war with evil has already been won; now, we are dealing with the guerrilla warfare style skirmishes that a defeated enemy uses to cause us to suffer pain and to distract us from bringing the message of Christ’s victory to more of the world. Yet in Christ, we serve a risen Lord who lifts us up on His wings of victory and allows us to live in the freedom of His clear and redeemed air space. So, rather than getting caught up in being focused on the struggles of this world, let’s join David in singing praise to God, the only true source of comfort, strength, and salvation.

 

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My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,

in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

Isaiah 32: 18

 

It seems that one modern trend in writing commentary and reviews is the need to warn the reader that something that is about to be said will reveal an important aspect of the story; so, the author uses the statement “Spoiler alert” as a means of suggesting that the concerned reader should stop right there. Well, I am calling it out to you, spoiler alert, I am about to tell you something startling yet true about existing inside of the story that is life in our world today. So, here goes, this world is not a very restful place, and peace is even harder to find that is quiet rest; thus, security is completely out of the question for most of us. This world does not provide the environment where these desirable qualities can develop, grow, and even thrive. In fact, there are many people around us who seek to promote this sort of edginess and disquiet in order to gain power and to promote distrust in the orderly systems that God has allowed to provide structure to our otherwise chaotic planet.

 

Throughout history God has used these same troubling forces and situations to demonstrate the simple fact that rest, peace, and true security are possible to find in this life and that He is the source for all of these desirable conditions in our hearts and minds. When finances are strained or relationships are troubled, God provides the wisdom and the strength to enter into taking the actions that are required to start down the path of resolution for these deeply troubled days. When health is compromised or failing, the Lord provides the hope of eternity to us, and He also touches people with the grace of healing for our broken bodies and our troubled spirits. In addition to the personal challenges that we all face, the nature of the world around us is one that is filled with distrust, anger, and violence to a such a degree as to touch, cover, and often saturate each of us with its edgy insecurity and discordant hymn of despair. Yet, in all of these troubling minutes and hours, I know that the Lord is present with me.

 

This presence is made even more real as I turn the concerns of this life and the worries of my days away from myself and look intently upon Christ. He provides the foundation for my sense of well being, for the security that settles into my heart and that defies the world’s reasoning in these troubled times. As I focus upon Christ with His lived out message of hope, peace, and sacrifice, the situation around me and the circumstances of my life are placed into the perspective of the eternal. God’s Word demonstrates both His will and desire for people to live in a loving and caring form of peace with each other, and it also guides the processes of so living. The Spirit speaks encouragement and the wisdom and truth of all ages to my mind and my heart as He grants to me insights and attitudes that transcend those of the culture where I live. Christ, with His cross of supreme sacrifice and His victory over death that was claimed for my benefit and for yours, grants to each of us who surrender our human striving to His infinite love His perfect peace, enduring security, and the restorative rest that our hearts desire and need.

 

 

 

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

Sleep is a wonderful thing. There are innumerable studies that demonstrate its value and connection in maintaining or regaining health. These bodies were created to enter into those restorative daily times of sabbatical from all else that we are dealing with in our lives. That idea of sleep as a form of sabbatical also involves the primary element of the biblical ones, and that is trust. When we enter fully into sabbatical, whether for a day or for a year as in some older practices, we trust the Lord to provide and to protect. In sabbatical living we are to surrender control of the course of our journey to God, set aside our defensive and our offensive practices, and grant to the Lord total sovereignty over every breath that we take.

 

So, perhaps in making this comparison between holy sabbatical and sleep I am over valuing something that is just a natural part of the way that people are constructed. Yet, I wonder, and I do so for two reasons. On the one hand, sleep itself is restorative, healing, and replenishes us in order to continue the life that God has set out for each person; yet, it can be easily interrupted, disturbed, and become illusive. In the other instance, sabbatical is also restorative, healing, and brings about a very special form of healing from the Lord. Here is where I think that they connect. When Davis wrote this Psalm and those around it he was living in dangerous and troubled times. There were certainly days when sleep was hard to find and in which closing his eyes for even a few minutes was risky.

 

For David to indicate that he could lie down and sleep was no small statement, and for him to say that he could do so in peace was monumental. Although he was talking about that particular time of trouble in his life, the same sort of truth applied to the rest of his life, and it is also true for me and for everyone who knows Christ. Although it can be very hard to let go of the issues, both small and large, in our lives in order to allow our minds and bodies to relax into sleep, Christ speaks trust into our hearts as He brings truth and real perspective to our minds. As with David, the only actual safety we will experience comes in and from the presence of the Lord. He cares about and for each of His people and He is present with us in His absolute sovereignty over this world. So, Christ calls upon us to be people who daily repent of our sins, trust His grace and forgiveness, set aside our fearful and aggressive ways, and allow His Spirit to speak truth and Godly wisdom into our troubles and cares. This is what it means to enter into the God-given gift of sabbatical, and this is what allows our bodies to be at peace in those daily times of sabbatical sleep.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s;

he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3: 19

 

Habakkuk is frustrated with the world where he lives. He is also impatient with God for allowing things to continue as they are. Justice is rare, mercy scarce, and peace is nonexistent. It seems as if godlessness is ruling the day, and Habakkuk is angry with God because He is allowing the world to go in this direction. So, the prophet engages in a dialogue with God. He pours out his frustrations and concerns before the Lord, and he listens to what God has to say in return. As the issues are great and it takes Habakkuk time to grasp it all, this process continues for some time. This interchange with God involves cycles of pouring out the heart and listening for a response; then doing it all again until God’s view of the world and His calling for His people becomes clear.

 

There is something for us to learn in all of this. This world is just as troubled and concerning as the one in which the prophet lived. Human wisdom seems to rule the day, and its selfish intentions are prevalent in our culture. Even the presence of pagan powers that bring fear of conquest to our gates is a part of the daily discourse of our world. God’s desire to engage with His people in honest dialogue is not any different today than it was in these ancient times. We can pour out our frustrations and concerns before God, and He will listen and respond. Difficult times are not ones in which we should remain silent, but the first place that followers of Christ need to go with our issues and concerns is to the Lord in prayer and with listening to His response as our intended outcome.

 

The reality and the reliability of God’s responses to His people have been proven throughout the long history of this world. The Lord does listen, and in His own time, He speaks wisdom and truth to us. He also provides us with the courage and strength that we need to continue along the journey of faith that He has called us to embark upon. Although the Lord does not promise that there will be some form of miraculous improvement in our world before Christ returns, He does grant His people the gift of His presence as we navigate the troubled waters of this world. The Lord lifts our spirits out of the dark shadows of life’s deep valleys, and He gives us the truth of His Word and the guidance of His Spirit so that we can confidently travel a path that is made bright by the glory of Christ.