How To Respond When The World Totters - Psalm 59
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; 2 deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men.
3 For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord, 4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Awake, come to meet me, and see! 5 You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah
6 Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. 7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips— for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”
8 But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision. 9 O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. 10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
11 Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by your power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield! 12 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter, 13 consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth. Selah
14 Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. 15 They wander about for food and growl if they do not get their fill.
16 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. 17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.
Dr. Nichols of Ligonier, used two stories to contrast how godly people can respond during times of chaos. His first example was about Jerome who lived around 420 AD when the Barbarians were attacking Rome. Jerome was a scholar who translated the scriptures into Latin which was the common language of the people. When Rome started to crumble he spent the last years of his life hiding in a cave believing that all had been lost. His heart was overwhelmed and confounded by the fact that the great Roman Empire was crumbling before his eyes.
Dr. Nichols then contrasted Jerome’s response with the reaction of Augustine who was also living through those same events. Augustine saw that Rome would soon fall; but instead of going to hide in a cave he sat down and wrote a book that is called, ‘The City of God’. It is a book that contrasted the chaos of this world with the stability of the ‘City of God’ in heaven.
Augustine’s book begins with these words, “This is a great (long) work, its arduous; this, which raises us, not by human arrogance, but by a divine grace, above all earthly dignities that totter.”(v.11) In the midst of the chaos of his day Augustine wanted his thoughts and his attention to be raised above the turmoil of this world and placed upon something that was more solid.
At the end of the book Augustine says, “How great shall be that happiness which shall be tainted with no evil, which shall lack no good, and which shall afford leisure for the praise of God who shall be all in all. There shall be enjoyment of beauty. True honor shall be there. True peace shall be there. God Himself, who is the author of all virtue, shall be there and shall be its reward.”
Dr. Nichols finishes by saying, “Augustine could have this perspective about what was going on in Rome, and the collapse of the Roman Empire, because he had his confidence in the right place. Jerome goes off, when he senses the sands begin to shift beneath him, because he has his confidence in the wrong place.”
Having our confidence in the right thing is not always easy to do is it? So often our feelings can quickly shift when we experience the highs and lows of life. Perhaps some of us have experienced this during 2020 as we have experienced COVID19, financial pressures, a very intense political season, and during all of the social unrest that we see.