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“Sabaoth”—Lord of heavenly forces

December 7, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Psalm 46:1-11

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a help always near in times of great trouble.
2 That’s why we won’t be afraid when the world falls apart,
    when the mountains crumble into the center of the sea,
3     when its waters roar and rage,
    when the mountains shake because of its surging waves.
4 There is a river whose streams gladden God’s city,
    the holiest dwelling of the Most High.
5 God is in that city. It will never crumble.
    God will help it when morning dawns.
6 Nations roar; kingdoms crumble.
    God utters his voice; the earth melts.
7 The LORD of heavenly forces is with us!
    The God of Jacob is our place of safety.
8 Come, see the LORD’s deeds,
    what devastation he has imposed on the earth—
9     bringing wars to an end in every corner of the world,
    breaking the bow and shattering the spear,
        burning chariots with fire.
10 “That’s enough! Now know that I am God!
    I am exalted among all nations; I am exalted throughout the world!”
11 The LORD of heavenly forces is with us!
    The God of Jacob is our place of safety.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

We most often read Psalm 46 at times of personal pain—serious illnesses or funerals. Israel lived in in a violent, dangerous part of the world, so the psalmist likely thought about the tumult of the nations in writing this message. The traditional King James Version translation of Psalm 46:10 is, “Be still.” But the Hebrew did not refer to going to a quiet mountain retreat. It was a call to say “enough” to our noisy inner fears, and with them silenced, to recognize God as our place of safety.

  • Psalm 46 used the phrase “The LORD of heavenly forces” twice (from the Hebrew “Sabaoth,” also in Isaiah 6:5 we read yesterday and nearly 300 times in the Old Testament). Eugene Peterson paraphrased the Hebrew as “GOD-of-angel-armies.” * Enjoy superhero stories? Reflect on the psalmist’s daring image showing God and the heavenly army God leads able to overcome all earthly forces. What makes it good news for you that the “GOD-of-angel-armies” is on your side?
  • The psalm asserted, right at the start, that God is “a help always near in times of great trouble.” “More literally, the Hebrew says God is ‘much to be found,’ easy to find. You just have to turn to him.” ** Sadly, it’s often in times of great trouble that we are most reluctant to turn trustingly to God. “How could God let this happen to me?” we think. But that’s when you most need God’s presence. How can you make it almost a reflex to call on your God, who is “much to be found”?
Prayer

God of angel armies, so often this world feels scary, and you don’t always wave a magic wand to make bad things vanish. Help me more fully understand and trust the ways in which you are my “place of safety”—always. Amen.

GPS Insights

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Human Resources Lead Director. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

My husband once gave me a t-shirt that says: “Worst Case Scenario Expert.” I was given this because he knows me well. When any situation arises, my mind often goes down a trail considering everything that could potentially go wrong until I’ve come to my final destination of the worst-case scenario. It’s a very familiar territory. I’m not going to lie; I think this has often served me well as I’m also able to think through potential solutions to keep myself from ultimately landing there. But this also means I spend much of my time in a state of worry. You can throw all the great quotes about worry at me: “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorry, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom. “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard. “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.” – Eckhart Tolle. I’ve got a whole trunk-load of these quotes that I carry around with me. I logically understand what they are saying, but for whatever reason, logic rarely accompanies me on my journey. I’ve invited it many times, but it always turns me down.

I’m guessing this sounds familiar to some of you. But even if you’re not a “Worst Case Scenario Expert,” I’d imagine that worry creeps up on you from time to time. It’s sneaky like that. As Christians, we’re not immune to worry. Oh, how I wish we were. But our faith also invites us to remember that when we face trials, even those that we never saw coming, we’re not alone. God is right there with us, sleeves rolled up, ready to dive into the mess alongside us.

We’re not alone. You’re not alone. God is here.

If you’re ever traveling down the path to the worst-case scenario and you only carry one quote about worry with you, let it be Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.”

© 2022 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Peterson, Eugene H., The Message Numbered Edition Hardback. Navpress. Kindle Edition. Click here to hear how Chris Tomlin used that phrase in his song “Who Shall I Fear?”
** John Goldingay, Psalms for Everyone, Part 1: Psalms 1-72. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014, p. 148.