>God as our refuge

>Yesterday while I exercised at Anytime Fitness, I watched a documentary about the 1883 volcanic eruption that sunk two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa. The resulting tsunami claimed more lives than the actual eruption.

This morning I read Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear
though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved
into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble
at its swelling (1-3).

Two volcanoes and most of the island of Krakatoa fell into the heart of the sea. The waters roared and foamed in a powerful tsunami that claimed thousands of lives. The volcanic explosions were heard 3,000 miles away and the pressure wave from the final eruption was recorded on instruments as it reverberated around the world seven times.

Where the volcanoes collapsed into the sea, a new volcanic island–Anuk Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa)–rises at the rate of five inches per week (6.8 meters per year). Almost continuous low-level eruptions, with occasional explosions, have occurred on Aunk Krakatau since 1994. After the volcano released hot gases, rocks, and lava in April of 2008, people were warned to stay out of a 3 km zone around the island. In May of 2009, the volcano’s eruption alert status was raised to Level Orange. Surely the mountains and people of Indonesia tremble at Anuk Krakatau’s swelling!

When the volcanoes of Krakatoa exploded in 1883, they threw enough debri into the atmosphere to cover the island of Manhattan to a depth of 200 feet. People around the world described a darkened sun and a “blood red” moon; fiery sunsets were recorded for several years following the eruptions. The earth’s temperatures dropped 1.2 degrees and did not return to normal for five years.

It doesn’t take much imagination to think about what could happen if God allowed just a few volcanoes to erupt at the same time. The Bible speaks about the sun being turned to “darkness” and the moon to “blood” before the great and awesome day of the Lord (Joel 2:31, Acts 2:20, Revelation 6:12).

But Psalm 45 doesn’t stop with this vision of cataclysmic or even apocalyptic destruction; it immediately reminds readers that:

There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High (4).

This brings to mind the River of Life John describes in Revelation 22:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him (1-3).

The author of Psalm 45 wants to remind believers that in the midst of geological, political, or social upheaval on earth, the church can cling to the vision of the crystal river in God’s city:

God is in the midst of her;
she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns (5).

God dwells with his church, and that church will not be moved. Out of the darkest nights on this earth, morning will dawn.

Even when nations rage, kingdoms totter, and the earth melts (6):

The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress (7).

With confidence, we can behold the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth (8). God’s desolations are not limited to cataclysmic events within the creation; he also “makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire” (9). At least part of his desolations will be bringing a final and definitive end to warfare.

In the midst of this earth’s fury, God tells us:

Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! (10).

The Psalmist ends this remarkable song with a rousing and encouraging chorus:

The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress (11).

No matter how many volcanoes explode and spew their ash into our atmosphere, no matter how many mountains fall into the sea, no matter how many nations rage, no matter how many kingdoms totter, even if the very earth melts, we can be still and know that God is with us. He is our fortress. He will be exalted!

[NOTE: As I began the day with Psalm 46, so I ended it. At the conclusion of the evening Classis meeting, the assembled group sang #85 from the blue Psalter Hymnal: “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength,” a versification of Psalm 46.]

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