There is a logic to Psalm 33 that I enjoyed reflecting on a few months ago and sharing with my mum. She said some lovely encouraging things and, perhaps my head got big, but I thought I would share a little of what I was thinking then and what I am thinking now. Somehow sharing something often makes me try and articulate it better for myself anyway. So that’s my excuse. The psalmist begins, insistent that we should sing to the Lord because His word is right and true, and because He is a powerful creator. Because His word is right and true and He is a powerful creator, we are right to fear and revere Him. Because He is a powerful creator He has control over the nations, and over history. Because He has control over history, the nation whose God is the Lord is blessed. If we are blessed to have the ever-loving, ever faithful God of justice and righteousness as our God, then it is right that we wait for Him. As we wait, we are called to sing joyfully to the Lord, and as we sing, we both seek and receive His unfailing love.
It seems so sensible doesn’t it?! But sometimes we don’t feel it. Sometimes I don’t feel it. These deep truths about who God is and just how good it is to be counted among His people are transformative, if, and only if, we still ourselves and give them a chance to soak down into the soil of our lives, to whet us on the inside. Asher and I are waiting at the moment. Waiting for work, waiting for the garden to grow, waiting to start study, waiting to settle. Waiting is not always particularly comfortable. I have never been very good at sitting still, but elsewhere in the Psalms comes the call to “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exulted among the nations, I will be exulted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).
I am beginning to think that perhaps, “Be still …” might just be the flavour of my month, or year. Or perhaps even life! Asher and I just did a summer school course at Regent Bible College called Technology, Wilderness and Creation. It is an immersion course that involves living with your fellow students and lecturers, with whom you go on a rowing and camping expedition, all the while exploring the issues of Christians and Creation. We asked questions like, what does it mean for us to be God’s image bearers looking after and caring for His creation? What does it mean for us to have a good relationship with creation, even ‘wilderness’ areas? Does God meet us in the wilderness (like He did Hagar)? Is creation care important to Him and our Christian calling? How are we as a human race going with that? Does creation care offer a regenerative connection to the land? How can technology be used in a way that encourages human flourishing and does not diminish it? As we talked, the idea of knowing came up regularly. There seemed to be a sense that knowing who God is rightly (His creative power, His wide ranging and intimate knowledge of all of His creation (see Job 38-42 as an example!) is key to knowing who we are and what we were made to do. Psalm 8 begins to catch the sweep of it: He’s big and majestic and cosmically able – we are far smaller but called to greatness under Him. Called to care for His creation. In his book For the Beauty of the Earth, Steven Boumer-Prediger says that to care about something, you have to love it, to love it, you have to know it and to know it you must first experience it. Paying attention to God’s creation, from the minnows, to the minerals, to the mountains, helps us to know it, love it and to care for it.
Back when I first read the Psalm and started thinking about it I was struck by the way that our ‘waiting’ on the Lord somehow needed also to encompass the ideas of working and walking. Ultimately we are waiting (with creation, none the less) “for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). For the day when “all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of His death, His blood that poured down from the cross” (Colossians 1:20 MSG). But as we wait we are called to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV) in His ways (held mercifully by His grace), working for Him (Ephesians 2:10) (in our small ways towards His final and complete redemption).
Sometimes the waiting overwhelms us, I find myself railing against the stillness I am called to, just wanting to do something. Sometimes the work overwhelms us, we look at the world and its needs and feel so infinitesimally small that to do anything seems to be as doing nothing.
Sometimes the walking overwhelms us, the path is unclear, our feet are heavy and God’s hand seems to be slipping from ours (in my case, this is probably because I am pulling away, getting frustrated with His leading!).
It can be agony waiting on the Lord, but at the same time the Boat course was a reminder that the work that needs doing in our world is so huge, so all encompassing, that we long to cry out “Come Lord Jesus, come” (Revelation 22:20). However, that in a sense is the only right thing to do because, ultimately, it is He who has done and will do the work. He alone is powerful and capable, able to untangle wrong, bring Life, breathe Spirit with His words. We can only ever make baby steps in the right direction, lead by Him. We are like Isaiah, after experiencing Who God is, presents himself to God saying ’send me!’ … but we’ve got to get the order right; Isaiah knew who God was and who he was, and after his ‘unclean lips’ had been atoned for, could ‘go’ for God.
When, by His goodness and enabling, we begin to try and balance the waiting, working and walking, holding lightly to our own strength and ideas and leaning more heavily on His shoulder, that is perhaps the beginning of what life should be. We can and must do each because of Who He is. Each, in a sense is too much for us, bringing us to the edge of ourselves and our capacity, showing us again who He is, that He is beyond us and before us. We must do each and yet we can’t do them well enough to save ourselves or the world.
Thank God that He steps in where we aren’t able. Every time.
Do you have the wisdom to count the clouds (Job 38:37)? He does. So we will sing.