Summary: Prayer is talking and listening to God. We must not be too busy to listne. God spoke to Elijah in a still small voice. He speaks to us that way, too.
Focus on God
“Be still, and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Ps 46:10
In 1517, an obscure Catholic priest named Martin Luther placed his life in God’s hands when he nailed his 95 theses, his 95 arguments against the Catholic church, on the door of the Wittenberg Church. There was nothing wrong with nailing pages to the door. Everything was posted there for everyone to read. It was the community bulletin board. But Martin Luther had been studying the Bible personally and realized that Catholic ceremonies did nothing to dispense grace and the church had no right to sell indulgences. Salvation is received through faith in Jesus. His 95 theses specified errors of the Catholic church in the light of personal Bible study.
At that time, Catholicism was the most powerful institution in the western world. The Pope not only coronated kings, he could order them to abdicate if he so chose. The power to excommunicate did not so much inspire the fear of God as the fear of eternal hell. Opposition to the church meant a charge of heresy, possible torture, possible death, and certain excommunication.
After ten years of leading the Reformation, a series of health problems assaulted Martin Luther. In April, 1527, a dizzy spell struck him while preaching. Things got worse. By July he wondered if he had long to live. He regained some strength, then was assaulted with depression, heart problems, and severe intestinal complications. In those days, some treatments were as bad as the ailments.
At one point he wrote, “I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain.” Some of you may know how that feels. He continued, “I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God.”
That sounds like Job, who was tempted to “curse God and die.”
Then the black plague struck Germany. His home became a hospital where he watched his friends experience the blessed relief of death. Then his year old son became seriously ill.
The 46th Psalm became his favorite. It inspired Martin Luther to write, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The hymn is so compelling that, ironically, it became a suggested hymn for Catholic Masses, appearing in the second edition of the Catholic Book of Worship, published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Psalm 46 is not as familiar to many of us as other passages we have studied, so I want to review the context of 46:10.
One commentator described this as a psalm of radical trust in the face of overwhelming threat. That’s a good description. Verses 1-3 describe that radical trust when nature is in an uproar, 4-7 describe God’s protective presence when nations are in an uproar, and 8-11 call us to trust God who will cause all war to cease.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging,” Ps 46:1-3.
There are two pictures here of nature in an uproar, of the world falling apart. First, the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea, possibly describing an earthquake.
After striking an iceberg the size of a large hill, but not a mountain by any means, the Titanic took on waters for hours before it finally sank. Survivors described the moment when the mass of steel and water below the surface became great enough to lift the exposed portion of the ship up from the ocean surface. The Titanic stood on end before completely diving into the water. As it disappeared, the suction pulled some short term survivors who were still too close down with it. Then the waters churned and foamed as more short term survivors who were still too close were overturned and drowned.
Now imagine an earthquake that shatters mountains into Titanic sized boulders. Imagine the air being filled with these Titanic sized boulders as they fall into the sea. Imagine how that water would churn and foam. There is no safe place on the land, in the air, or on the sea.
The second picture goes in the opposite direction. This time, the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Do you remember the tsunami that struck Japan recently, knocking out the cooling system to a nuclear power plant? That surge was small compared to the one that struck Indonesia a few years ago. Some of us saw video taken from high ground of a forty foot wall of water sweeping onto the beach. Suddenly, the people who were there seconds ago were gone. Now imagine a wall of water not just forty feet tall, but tall enough and fast enough to make mountains tremble.