This is the blog post that will probably make some of my friends mad. Maybe. We’ll see how we feel at the end haha
I feel like I need to just jump right in to telling the bad news to all my friends with the wall hangings and mugs and phone lock screens with pretty, scrolly, rest-inducing script and colorways. I’m pretty sure that the verse you surround yourself with…. was not being spoken to you.
“But it does speak to me! It reminds me to stop and think about God! It’s comforting!”
K, yep, great. Except, in context it isn’t all that comforting. Hang with me for a few minutes, and I’ll try to make you like me again at the end.
So. I was reading this Psalm, and I was pausing and reflecting at the Selahs, and I noticed something I’d never really seen before. I had always felt that verse 10 was spoken over God’s people as a message of comfort and reassurance. (Really, at the start of this, I was on your side.) And if that was the case, it would be in the section we talked about last week – in the city during the siege. Before the second Selah.
But the thing is, it isn’t spoken inside the city walls. It’s after the second Selah, which made me wonder if there might not just be a change in audience. It turns out I’m not the only one who saw and noticed that. Several commentaries discuss this, and the consensus is that God is not speaking to His people in this third section: He’s speaking to the formerly-tottering kingdoms – now defeated. Read with me in verses 8-11 (NRSV):
Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
You guys, I want to read this and change my mind because the coffee mugs and magnets are beautiful, but the more I read this, the less I see a comforting God offering peace and hope to his wounded people. I see a victorious Savior demanding that His defeated enemies acknowledge who He is.
So I practice the Selah on this portion of the Psalm. I pause and reflect on what is being said, and what God is saying about Himself. And the word that comes to mind for this section is victory. We ran away scared to a cave, we stayed under God’s protection in the city, and He gained the victory. The morning dawns, he throws open the gates, and we see what God’s kind of victory looks like.
It looks like justice.
The poetic description has us under siege from a pretty powerful enemy. And in your life, that enemy and siege could take a number of forms. It could be a person who seems to be out to get you. It could be a work situation that takes all your mental energy. It could be something in your health, or a trying family relationship. It could be an overwhelming set of circumstances that has you feeling trapped and relying on God’s provision.
I need you to hear that when the siege comes to an end, when God gains the victory in your life, I may not know what the resolution will look like for you. But I know that God promises not only a defeat of enemies on our behalf – he promises justice.
“Desolation” means a complete and total destruction. It isn’t just winning a battle and the enemy flying a white flag in surrender. The cities ruled by the enemy power would have been completely leveled. Any type of future resistance is destroyed. They even lose the ability to defend themselves when their shields are burned. At the beginning of the Psalm, the children of God were running defenseless, hiding from an enemy. Now the enemy is unable to ever hurt us again.
It feels like it can take a lifetime to see this kind of victory, this kind of justice, but I promise you, it’s there if you look for it. Some of these siege seasons seem to last a really long time. I know. And I can’t tell you why some people have really short stays in the cave and the city, and others feel like they will never see victory this side of heaven. I don’t have those answers. All I know is that if we pause and reflect on what God has done, we may start to see the little victories that He’s won inside us during our time of waiting.
And this is where, I hope, we can start to be friends again. Because this idea of “Be still and know” in the sense of finding rest IS found throughout this Psalm. It just isn’t in the verse we always quote. You find it in the Selahs. You find it in the cave. You find it in the city. And you find it as you watch your conquering King claim a victory on your behalf.
We pause and reflect on who God is and what He has done. We acknowledge what He requires of us; we choose to repent in the cave so we don’t face desolation on the battlefield. We trust his presence and provision in the city. We pause. We reflect. We are in awe. And we know that “the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Alright, what do you think? Disagree? Agree? Still mad at me? Let me know in the comments!