In this verse Paul is being transported as a prisoner to Rome when a fierce Northeaster swept in. The crew of the ship suddenly found themselves totally at the mercy of the hurricane force winds and crashing waves. In many other places in the Bible we can find examples of that helpless feeling of being tossed by waves and battered by the storm. Psalm 107:23-28 tells of that weak and defenseless feeling of being thrown back and forth by the storms of life…and the hopelessness that comes from the lack of control. For many of us, we feel like we’ve been caught up in a terrible storm for weeks now called COVID 19, and have been waywardly tossed here and there. But the good news is, if we continue to read in Psalm 107, we find that only our God is able to still that tempest in and around us and guide us to a haven of peace…and that place of refuge in Him.
The last time our Church Body met was in March. And while we have a weekly online service…it’s just not the same. This past week our Pastor sent out 5 questions for everyone to answer, and one of them really struck home for me. The question asked in what ways had we experienced loss during the COVID 19 pandemic? The word loss got me thinking about the stages of loss – shock/disbelief, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression, and finally acceptance/hope. Now while I haven’t lost a friend or family member to the Corona Virus, or lost my job or business in the aftermath…I’ve watch in stunned sadness as millions of people have. So in a way, this profound loss can not help but effect me too. And when you couple this feeling of loss with a pervasive sense of uncertainty, I’m only left with dryness…a desert within my soul. But God’s remedy for this arid condition is simple…His Word. For just as Ezekiel spoke to the Valley of the dry bones and they lived…so my soul can be made alive through His Word.
Here, as well in Philippians 3:19-20, Paul was showing the moral contrast between heaven and earth. In Philippians he accused the Church of “setting their minds on earthly things”…which was demonstrating the unethical realm of fallen man and the world under the power of sin. In both occasions, Paul was urging the Church towards holy living…a putting on of their new self under Christ, and a putting off of their old self dictated by the sinful world. And even today Paul’s message rings loud and clear to all of us…for where our mindset goes, the rest of our body will follow.
Here Isaiah was lumping together any idol crafted by man…whether it was cut, carved, cast, or sculpted. He called them all worthless, or as he wrote in Isaiah 41:24, “Less than nothing.” But sadly from the beginning of time, mankind has coveted with selfish desire idols of their own making rather than worshiping the one true God. And this vanity has only led us to deceptively think we know more than God…which is so far from the truth, or as Isaiah lamented, “They are ignorant to their own shame.” Wow!
To know the good shepherd is to love Him. But to love Him, we must first listen to Him to be able to recognize His voice over the din of the world. For as we become attuned to His voice and incline our ears, we will learn to not only embrace His word, but Incorporate it into our lives. Right now the world is a very noisy place, and there’s times we’re not sure who or what to listen to. But if we know the voice of the good shepherd…we can rest assured He will lead us safely through all of this.
COVID 19 has introduced a whole new batch of “What ifs” invading my mind. What if they can’t find a effective vaccine against it? What if there is no immunity after you’ve contracted it? That’s why this Scripture in Psalms seems so timely today. For when all these fears are swirling around me, I need to stop and seek God’s perspective. I need to seek His face for answers when the world has none. And when I’m stressing about things that are completely out of my control, I need to trust God and have confidence that He has authority over all these matters. For even though the “What ifs” may still bombard my mind, bottom line is my dependence and hope must remain in God.
The Book of James focuses on the fact that none of us is perfect… none of us is righteous. And especially when it comes to keeping a tight rein on our tongue. In Matthew 12, the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of being Beelzebub, the prince of demons, after healing a man… but Jesus knew their thoughts and reckless words, and told them at the Judgment Day all would have to give account for every careless word spoken…”For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37) Nothing gets us into more trouble than idle conversations or blurting out something before we’ve thought it through. And as James observes, if we can’t keep our tongue in check, how can we expect to keep our whole body from stumbling.