I was skimming through our local newspaper this morning and found myself so discouraged when I read about all the budget cuts going on to increase our defense spending by $52 billion to a total of $574 billion. That amount is staggering. When I read about local implications of such budget cuts, such as the potential disintegration of our valley’s Head Start program that provides affordable preschool to low income families, my heart groaned. There are two levels of security going on here. Macro and micro. On the macro level, perhaps our country becomes “safer”, but what about the micro? How does an increase in defense spending make the mother of young children feel safe, when the one program that she could depend on for childcare that doesn’t break the bank goes away? Now she still has to work, and perhaps find another job to pay for the preschool that she could not already afford. The broken nature of our policies grieve me. It was in that frame of mind that I entered today’s reading in the Psalms. Here’s what I found…
Portions of Psalm 46:3-11 (The Message version)
Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us. (This refrain is repeated three times, which means we are supposed to pay attention.)
Attention, all! See the marvels of God! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. ‘Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
When I look at the kingdoms of this world, it is easy to wonder where God is in the midst of everything? When He calls me to step out of the traffic, as he did in this Psalm, there is something in me that pushes against the idea. I find it difficult to disengage with the angry, sad part of me that reacts against what I find outrageous. I am like a child, with my face held in the Father’s loving hands, averting my eyes from looking fully into His because I’m a little pissed. I am trying to avoid the eye contact that I know will cause me to surrender. When I allow my eyes to look into His loving gaze, I melt. I melt because there are tears of understanding in His eyes, and love that envelopes me.
The Jacob-wrestling God is the God who, when Jacob was at his most fearful of the future ahead, loved him by wrenching his hip and putting him out of physical comission. He took Jacob’s last bit of self-reliance away and gave him shalom instead. (Read it yourself in Genesis 32:22-32.) The God-of-Angel-Armies commands troops that we have no concept of. (There’s a great story in the Bible where God gave someone a peek of his angel armies in 2 Kings 6:17.) We can’t even fathom the resources at God’s disposal. I think the reason that these markers of God’s identity are stressed in this Psalm is to remind us of our utter dependance on God. We cannot fix what is broken. We cannot make ourselves safe through earthly means. No security plan, macro or micro, will grant us the peace that only God can give.
The image I found myself fixed upon was that of the wildflowers I get to enjoy in the summertime when I go hiking. No human person tends to that garden, and yet it is one of the most glorious things to see the lupin and hollyhocks exploding in their colors out Fox Creek. All I have to do is look outside to see evidence of God’s engagement with this world. He is not unaware or uninvolved.
To close, the other moment of beauty this morning came from a friend’s blogpost who showed a clip of a gospel choir exquisitely singing God’s praise on one of those talent reality shows. In the dark theater of people craving solace from art or personalities, God stepped in through this gospel choir to give everyone a peek of His glory. It was like that story from 2 Kings 6, where Elisha prays for the eyes of his servant to be opened to see the angel armies. A little bit of heaven descended on everyone there, as well as those who watched them perform on TV. The combination of the Psalm, the flowers, and this choir served to remind me that God is still on the throne.
Some trust in chariots, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.