Article by: Ben Kiujian, Head of Sponsorship Sales
How are you going? I have a confession to make, I really didn’t think lockdown would affect me too much but these last couple of days I’m just feeling down. Lots of things are out of whack. It’s nice being at home and spending extra time with my wife and kids and not having the long drive to and from the office but it just feels weird. I have to mask up everywhere I go and I can’t visit friends or family. Cry me a river right?
Before you inbox me and tell me lots of people have it worse, I know. Last week my 36 year old cousin down in Sydney died, it was a very close and very personal death and in many ways our extended family is still in shock. At the same time the news has been one disaster after another. Extended lockdowns, rising case numbers, earthquakes in Haiti, incomparable terror in Afghanistan, economic crisis in Lebanon, rumours of war in China and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So are you feeling a little confused? Depressed? Lost? Or is it just me?
In amongst all this I picked up my Bible the other day and read Psalm 46. “…though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with its turmoil.” (vv2-3) If ever there was a more accurate description of our world at the moment. But against this backdrop of chaos, the Psalmist turns his attention on God and says, “There is a river, its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High. God is within her; she will not be toppled. God will help her when the morning dawns. Nations rage, kingdoms topple; the earth melts when He lifts His voice.” (vv4-6).
Now on first glance it can seem comforting to know that in the midst of all that is going on around us, our God sits enthroned and unmoved, but it can also be a source of frustration. That’s what I felt when I read these things, my reaction was to cry out, “No! I don’t want You to be sitting in a walled-off city, I want you to be here, now present, helping!” sounds like another Psalm that says, “Why, O LORD do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). It’s not wrong to cry out to God like this, it’s not rude to take our laments to God, it’s thoroughly Biblical and the Psalms are full of other examples of this.
Yet in the midst of my crying out another truth stood out to me, verse 7 says, “The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” Notice the language, it doesn’t say, “Praise be to our far off God,” but “the LORD of Hosts is with us.” This is the truth about the God of the Bible that while He is so separate, so other, He does sit enthroned above all things as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and yet, He is also the God who is near. The God who came near in the person of Jesus. One of the names given to Jesus in the Bible is Immanuel – literally – God with us.
When God, who is immortal, invisible and above all looked at the world and decided to step in, He didn’t send us a box of goodies, He didn’t send us money, He didn’t send us unlimited ice-cream (though that would be nice), He didn’t send us a cure for COVID or immortality. When He could have sent us anything, He sent us His Son. The God-Man, Jesus, who takes our punishment on Himself, who enters into the muck of our lives and restores our relationship with God, our deepest need. And if you find yourself asking, “So what?” well here it is, what good is Jesus in our current world?
What good is a far off Jesus? The fact that the Bible teaches us that Jesus reigns in heaven gives us hope. For those who have put their hope in Jesus they are literally called, “Citizens of Heaven.” In a world where no country is safe from the ravaging effects of COVID, it is a comfort to know that our God is removed from this. That He is within a different city, a perfect city where there will be no more sickness, sorrow or pain.
Revelation 21:3-4 looks forward to this future, “Look! God’s dwelling is with men and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will exist no longer; grief, crying and pain will exist no longer because the previous things have passed away. “
And what good is a Jesus who is near? The Bible is full of examples of the way Jesus changes our lives in the here and now but nowhere is this put more clearly than in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have peace with God in our present world. The passage I was reflecting on in Psalm 46 says that “God is our stronghold.” What good is a far-off stronghold? How does it help someone trying to flee Afghanistan to know that there is a stronghold in a far off land? Well the reality is that those who put their trust in Jesus are already hidden in that stronghold. No weapon forged by man can take us out of the loving arms of our God who is near.
So where does this leave us? As I sit here writing this I still feel a mild sense of anxiety about all that is happening, I am troubled by the news, I do wish lockdown was over and I wonder what all this will mean for the future of our city and its people. The Bible encourages us to cry out and share our burdens with God and one another but at the end of the day it invites us to rest. To rest in the knowledge that our God is both far above and sovereign over all that is happening and He is also incredibly near, He dwells within our hearts by faith and is a stronghold where we can find hope. Psalm 46:10 concludes, “Be still and know that I am God.” I pray that you will know this God and find rest in Him.