God Will Help Her When Morning Dawns

I’m in the process of writing a song that is about God being Lord of the morning, and that’s led me to do some exegesis on a few passages of Scripture, with one being Psalm 46. I’ve done some work with this psalm in the past; it was the text of my last sermon and the topic of a previous exegetical paper. I also reference this idea in the music post for 4.25.08.

In Psalm 46, speaking of the city of God, the psalmist writes in verse 5,

God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

God will help her when morning dawns.

The “when morning dawns” part is what I’m focusing in on. Morning, for an Old Testament Israelite was a time for prayer and rejoicing and sacrifice. It was something worth longing for because with the morning comes the symbol of God’s faithful love, mercy and justice.

Psalm 59:16 puts it this way:

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.

One glaring thing I recognized is that without the distress, the idea of a refuge does not make sense. Without the night, the morning does not matter. It is not that strange of a thing to think of our suffering as a necessary part of our existence. It is somewhat of a strange thing to think that our darkest moments are used to define who our God is. Our disorientation gives us a picture of what re-orientation will look like.

This gives meaning to our pain. It’s very easy for me (and probably all of us) to think that our agony is in vain, that it is only a sadistic God who wants to see us squirm and that we’re all alone with our troubles. But passages like these point us elsewhere. They affirm our problems, but also direct us to something other than us: to the breaking light on the horizon, giving us a longing and comfort that God is with us, that our sufferingisn’t pointless, that one day we will be redeemed. And now, having lived through so many things that need redemption, we can more fully appreciate what that word means.

These thoughts are more fully fleshed out in Walter Brueggeman’s book, The Message of the Psalms. You can buy it here, from my Amazon store Books You Should Read:

Psalm 46: first thoughts

This post is my personal reflection of a sermon I prepared. You can also download the message: God is Present and Powerful to Bring Us From Our Darkness to His Morning

Rouault - Landscape

Rouault - Landscape

I was originally just going to post a summary of the sermon I gave last week on Psalm 46, but then got to thinking. This venue has a little more freedom and even different expectations than a person sitting in a church on Sunday. So I think it would make more sense to give kind of a background of what I am wrestling with in light of the message I gave. Kind of like me preaching to myself.

Last week was the first week of Advent, and did not want to miss out on tying in the whichever text I chose to anticipating the coming of our Lord, looking back at the anticipation the birth of the Messiah. I was originally going to preach from 1 Tim. 1:15:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

I had done a message like this before and planned on using a lot of previous research, saving some time, but also excited to present it in a new way. And this is an excellent text for Advent, God taking on flesh, leaving the perfect love of the Trinity, coming to this earth, hanging out with those who do not want Him, but coming with a plan – and following through with that plan – saving sinners. But God had other plans with me for the sermon.

The more I was reading in my own devotional and prayer life, the more I felt God directing me to Psalm 46. It’s a psalm that most people know or have heard before, especially part of verse 10:

Be still, and know that I am God.

But in wanting to do justice to the text as I have studied it, it seemed the climax of this psalm, and therefore the sermon, was in verses 4 and 5:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

The dawning of the morning is what all creation is waiting for and longing for and this is the climax of the psalm. It’s in Jesus, in His coming to the earth, making all things new, taking the disorder and creating order, taking all that’s crooked and wrong and making it straight and right.

You can also download the message: God is Present and Powerful to Bring Us From Our Darkness to His Morning

Metaphor and the Psalms

I wrote a paper on the different voices that come into play in the book of the Psalms (possible future post) and came across a great quote by Eugene Peterson.

He writes in Answering God:

Metaphor is the psalmic antidote to the dematerializing venom of the gnostic. This language is so ruggedly and inescapably material. If we live in a country of shepherds, and know what if feels like to carry a shield, and have occasion from time to time to enter a fortress, and then address God as shepherd, and shield, and fortress, our metaphors bring us closer to the material world at the same time they bring us closer to God. When we pray we do not rise above the commonplace of the material, but embrace them, and in embracing them to find intimacy with the one who made them. Materiality is affirmed as precious.

Peterson is speaking of guarding against a kind of elitism- that we are some form of high society. And how often we live that way in our daily lives- even just our minds. This reminds me of the first chapter of I Corinthians, where Paul tells us over and over- we are not big and strong and cool. We are the lowly and the simple.

Some other thoughts: Is Christianity the only consistent worldview to embrace care for creation while also affirming human dignity? And of course, ideas like this break down the sacred/secular barrier.

Implications of an Aetheist’s Rage

Here’s another quote, this one from Elie Wiesel’s The Town Beyond the Wall:

I go up against him, I shake my fist, I froth with rage, but it’s still a way of telling him he’s there, that he exists, that he’s never the same twice, that denial itself is an offering to his grandeur. The shout becomes a prayer in spite of me.

An interesting quote, especially in light of the imprecatory psalms, and most especially of Psalm 88.