The first casualties of upheaval can be love, kindness, and patience. But crisis is also a moment when love for God & one another can spring up. For 150 days, starting on 17th March 2020, I will write 300 words based on one of the 150 psalms in the bible. How can I find and give love in the midst of coronavirus?
“Only sinners get the sickness!”. A line from my lockdown viewing – the Anglo-Saxon quasi-historical Netflix series “The Last Kingdom”. A plague has arrived in 10th century England (a not uncommon event) but some are claiming that it only affects sinners – so the righteous (whoever they may be) will be OK.
It sounds like someone has been reading Psalm 91:
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? What a great deal – stick with God and you will be safe.
Hang on – but what about……?
Last year one of my closest friends, and colleagues at my church, died. He was fifty, developed a brain tumour – and despite treatment & prayer he ultimately died. Many of you will have similar stories in your lives.
The two of us had prayed together for years. We talked about God, worked for God, trusted God – and so if anyone was a candidate for being someone who was “dwelling in the shadow of the Most High” it was my friend. But he died.
So, what do I do with this psalm? It is a great psalm. It says much about God, and is full of promises. Do I ignore them?
But, and it’s a big but – we need to remember one very important thing. It’s a thing that is key when we look at the life of Jesus (who is the best picture of who God is). It is this: the world we live in now is a battlefield. It is a mixture of good and bad – or God and the devil – of healing and disease. Jesus comes into a fallen world (“enemy-occupied territory” as CS Lewis calls it) and brings the good stuff of the kingdom. But it’s not all here yet. In the words of the theologian George Eldon Ladd we live in the “already, but the not yet” – the kingdom of God is here, but not fully.
So, Psalm 91 is not a manifesto for the lucky life of a believer (‘if I believe in God, then everything will turn out well’) – but is instead an invitation to pray for these promises in our lives – and perhaps more importantly in the lives of others. Psalm 91 sets out what God wants for everyone – and we need to recognise that in our broken, messy and devil filled world it doesn’t all happen – yet. It will one day – but right now we are waiting, praying & working. And we are seeking to live every day in the shelter of the Most High.
May you know his shelter today.