Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Theft #15 - Stealin' Back Labor Day with Psalm 46

OK, so this is a recycled small study which I thought was worth posting here.   It was originally done with Labor Day in mind, but it does work for anyone trying to find rest from the daily grind. (The Blogspot editor didn't convert my Word doc very well, so some sections are a bit "scattered" on the page, but I hope you'll get the essence.) Above all,  . .  RELAX ! ! !

For the Chief Musician. By the sons of Korah.
According to Alamoth.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we won’t be afraid, though the earth changes,
      though the mountains are shaken into the heart of the seas;
3 though its waters roar and are troubled,
      though the mountains tremble with their swelling.
4 There is a river, the streams of which make the city of God glad,
      the holy place of the tents of the Most High.
5 God is in her midst. She shall not be moved.
    God will help her at dawn.
6 The nations raged. The kingdoms were moved.
    He lifted his voice, and the earth melted.
7 Yahweh of the Angel Armies is with us.
  The God of Jacob is our refuge.
8 Come, see Yahweh’s works,
    what desolations he has made in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth.
   He breaks the bow, and shatters the spear.
   He burns the chariots in the fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
      I will be exalted among the nations.
      I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 Yahweh of the Angel Armies is with us.
     The God of Jacob is our refuge.

"Relax: God Works on Labor Day!" - Psalm 46

Although the concepts of "rest" and "Sabbath" are not present, Ps. 46 ties in with Labor Day as a celebration of labor and leisure. However, the Christian celebration of Labor Day ought to go a step further and lead not simply to leisure and partying, but awestruck contemplation of God's person and mighty works. This is the objective, the mood and attitude we are trying to encourage.

    On Sept. 5, 1882, the first Labor Day parade and celebration took place as 10,000 workers marched around Union Square in New York City. The first Monday in Sept. was chosen because it was "the most pleasant season of the year, midway between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, and would fill a wide gap in the chronology of legal holidays."
    Labor Day was supposed to be a time of celebrating the worker, for remembering the multitude of abilities and efforts that made this country great. It has evolved into a family festival--the last big celebration of summer, vacation's end, the final fling before the start of a new school year, and end of summer and prelude to fall. It has become not just a day, but a weekend--a time for taking to the out-of-doors for trips, picnics, and sporting events. (Robert Myers, Celebrations: the Complete Book of American Holidays, Doubleday 1972).
    Originally, the day's rituals emphasized--along with picnics, fireworks, and speechmaking--the parade of workingmen, of laborers, but this aspect has been lost to the summer's end activities of today (Jack Santino, All Around the Year, University of Illinois Press 1994).
    In other words, we no longer really honor the accomplishments of working people on Labor Day, but we attempt to cram a whole summer's worth of fun into a three day weekend. The massive schedule of activities for CityFest this weekend contains, at the very bottom, a small announcement for the Labor Day parade on Monday. We not only forget to honor the workers, but we work so hard at relaxing, we forget to relax on our day off from work.
     As Americans, we really need to recover a sense that Labor Day should honor American workers, and give them a day to relax from their labors. As Christians, I'm going to suggest we go even further and use Labor Day to honor the work of the Lord, and use our day of relaxation to focus on Him. Psalm 46 can help us approach this day properly.

    Psalm 46 was probably written as a song of confidence and reassurance that God was still in charge despite the threatening forces of nature and foreign nations. As Creator, God keeps the world from falling apart, and as Redeemer, God keeps Israel from falling into the captivity of foreigners; as Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, God keeps His people safe in the midst of the turbulence which occurs when He brings final judgement upon the earth. The psalm acknowledges those things in life for which we are totally dependent upon God, and before which we are helpless without Him.

Theme: We can truly relax (on Labor Day) only when we know the protection and person of the Lord.

1a.  We Can Relax When We Know the Protection of the Lord. vv 1-7

        1b. God protects us during natural disasters. vv. 1-3
              *God is our shelter in the storm
               1c.  v1a "God is shelter and strength for us."
                             --Shelter for when there is nowhere to run
                             --Strength for us when we have none of our own
                      v1b "Ever-present help" - help "being found abundantly"
                              --Idea of "being found" presumes we are looking for help.
                               ISA 55:6: "Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near."
                 2c. v2 "We will not fear when the earth/land changes..."
                      --"Mountains..." is a picture of earthquakes, but could be any drastic change on earth
                       --most common for us is weather.
                         Gen. 1:9--God caused dry land to appear from the waters;
                          since the Creator Himself is our God, we need not fear that creation will be reversed
                    3c. v3 "Let its waters ... , Let the mountains ... "
                       --In other words, as long as we have confidence in the Lord's protection,
                             we can say "let the storm come! I'm ready!"

         2b. God protects us during national disturbances: vv. 4-7
               *God is our fortress in the fight
                These verses see the unstable state of foreign nations world as a threat to God's chosen nation,
                 God's chosen city.
                 1c .v4 "A river!"
                      --In contrast to the turbulent sea
                      --The streams or "canals" are channels of irrigation making the city
                          not dependent on water from outside. Refer back to river in Eden
                          and, for us, forward to river in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21)
                      --"city of God" certainly Jerusalem, but metaphorically, the people of God;
                              -again ref. forward to New Jerusalem as people of God
                                    as well as God-built city (Rev. 21).
                         --"holy tabernacles of Most High" - then in a city,
                              now the church is the earthly dwelling place of God.
                     2c.  v5-6 "She will not fall ... kingdoms fall"
                          --city will not "fall" even though kingdoms "fall"
                               and even though mountains "fall"
                            --presence of God is the key to security of city, our security
                           --The turbulent, uncertain behavior of the nations seems a threat to us,
                                  but nonetheless, under God's protection,
                                 His city, His people, His church survives,
                                 and the "kingdoms fall." Indeed,
                                when God raises His voice in judgement, the earth itself will melt.
                                 The city of God survives even that because "God is in her midst."
           3c. v7 "YHWH of Hosts/Armies...our fortress/stronghold/secure height" -
                                  This is military terminology
                            --EXO 15:3 "The \Lord\ is a warrior; The \Lord\ is His name." (NASB)
                           --ZEP 3:17 "The \Lord\ your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior.
                                             He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love,
                                             He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." (NASB)
                             ---"God of Jacob" - identifies historical God of the patriarchs with YHWH
                            --their God is the same one Who rescued Israel;
                               Our God, our Lord Jesus is the same God
                                      Who rescued Peter, Paul, the rest of the early church.

2a. We Can Relax When We Know the Person of the Lord - vv. 8-10

       1b. We know Who He is when we see what He's doing. - vv. 8-9
                *We know the person of God by knowing the works of God.
                 1c. v8a "Come, behold/see/envision..."
                      --the invitation is to focus on what the Lord has done,
                            specifically as the covenant God of Israel, is YHWH.
                             "See" could be "envision,"
                                     that is, not only what you have seen with your own eyes,
                                      but what you have read about God doing in the past
                                      and what He will do in the future.
                                      "Come, get a vision of the works of the LORD!"
                   2c. v8b-9 "placing desolations ... stopping wars"
                     --"Desolations" refers to the results of what we have called natural disasters.
                          None of them are accidents,
                          God has complete control over them at all times,
                               and uses them for His purposes.
                         --It is possible that God "makes wars cease" through the use of "desolations!"
                            That is, He stops wars by using earthquakes, hurricanes, fire, etc.
                                BUT:  In in the final war in Revelation, He just wins!

        2b. We know Who He is when we stop what we're doing. v10
               *We know the person of God by knowing the position of God.
               1c. "Be still" (KJV,ASV,RSV,NRSV); "Cease striving" (NASB);
                     "Let it be" (REB);
                     *lit. "let drop" the hands, ie. from labor, or possibly war: from any kind of struggle.
                       *In a word: "Relax!"
                       *In its Labor Day edition of 1984 USA Today reported
                         that 70 million people would be traveling by automobile that weekend,
                         then went on to say that the airlines and Amtrak rail services
                         were temporarily expanding service to deal with the increase in travelers.
                          The same story mentioned that the National Football League season
                          began that weekend, as did the college football season
                               (Santino, All Around the Year).
                  2c. "Know that I am God"
                         We know Him by experience
                          when we are still from our work and worries
                          long enough to focus on God; but also,
                          by being "still" to acknowledge the priority of God
                          in our lives over work, and that when we relax
                          in order to focus on Him, He takes care of our needs.
                             MAT 6:31 So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV)
                       3c. "I will be exalted ... "
                             When we relax before the Lord and focus on Him,
                              we become aware that He is using
                            both the natural and national realms for His own exaltation.
                            To be exalted is simply to "be high."
                            God is affirming that His position as Creator and King
                             will be acknowledged in the world of nature, "the earth,"
                              and in the world of nations.
                                   The two realms which were viewed as threats
                              to God's people earlier in the psalm
                              are now brought into the service of God to exalt Him.
                              God is being exalted out there, among people all over the world,
                              and certainly by nature itself.
                                *If we don't take the time to be still, to relax before God, we miss it.

Conclusion/Reflection - v11
        --Let's use our time of relaxation on for contemplation of the Lord's protection and person.
        --Let's do some written reflection on God's Word to you today.

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