What are you focused on as you live through a global pandemic? What is grabbing your attention? The COVID-19 virus has caused unbelievable havoc for the entire world. Markets are shaken; countries are closed. People are fearful, and panic seems a breath away. How do we respond?
Drs. Mark McGinniss and Wayne Slusser of Baptist Bible Seminary offer a brief note of encouragement, sharing truths from Psalm 46 and Hebrews 12.
In the midst of fear and uncertainty where does a believer’s strength come from to deal with such a threat to health, safety and our general welfare? In such moments Psalm 46 reorients us to divine truth that each must grasp to deal with today’s chaos.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
There is but one theme in Psalm 46, and its theme is someone that everybody needs to understand and grasp individually—God! This psalm is a song of quiet confidence in the midst of unbelievable chaos.
The Foundation of Our Trust/Confidence and the Reason Not to Fear is because of God (1-3)
Unique to this psalm is the first word, God (v. 1). This does not seem unusual for the subject of the sentence to come first in English, but in Hebrew it is an unusual practice. By placing God first, the psalmist is pointing out that He is the foundation for all that will follow. If there is no God, there can be no confidence or trust or security. But since there is a God, He is the foundation for what will follow in the psalm and in our lives.
Even though we would experience the most horrific of natural disasters, we need not respond in fear. Verse 2b–3 shows us that even if the mountains, (which were known for their constant stability and their inability to be moved) were for whatever reason to slip into the sea, or if the sea were to attack the mountains on land, we need not fear. No matter what severe natural process, no matter what horrific event threatens us, we do not need to give in to the natural response-fear.
We need not fear any natural process that creates chaos in our world because God is our refuge (v. 1-2a). During the 9/11 attacks the mayor of NYC and other important government officials of the city (and national government) were whisked away to secret bunkers where they could help the city respond to the attacks. In those bunkers they found a refuge, a place of safety. In a way this illustrates what God means when He declares that He is our refuge. He is our secret and safe bunker that we run to when any danger threatens us.
God is a very present help (verse 1b). He is always ready and always near to be our refuge when trouble or distress of any kind is upon us. God is not hiding from us. He is ready to be “found” by any that would desire Him as a refuge and strength.
Yes, COVID-19 is creating havoc and chaos in our world, homes, 401k’s and churches. However, we can choose not to fear because we have, as this song so rightly reminds us, a very present help for such a time as this. Now that you have a confident and trustworthy picture of who God is during this chaotic time, what is it that WE are to consider when a pandemic takes over?
This contagion has caused just about everyone to stop and think through the financial, social and spiritual aspects of their lives. Americans, have been asked to stay at home, and if we must go out, keep our distance with others. So, how are we striving to make better use of this extra time; especially at home with our families? Do we see this as an opportunity to think about our relationships? In all the potential panic of this pandemic, are we considering our relationship with Christ?
The author of Hebrews admonishes readers to consider their relationship with Christ. Admonition is not uncommon in Hebrews, for the author desires to encourage and strengthen the weak believers of a small community (13:22) that they might stand fast in their faith during times of affliction (4:14; 10:23). The author writes to a congregation in crisis (10:32-33) pointing them to the superior and great high priesthood of Jesus Christ.
He introduces Jesus in chapter one as the superior mode of revelation (1:2) and the superior means of redemption (1:3). Because of our personal relationship with Him, Jesus calls us brethren (2:11), makes reconciliation possible between us and God (2:15-18), extends grace and mercy at the appropriate time (4:14-16), continually intercedes on our behalf (7:25-28), offers a one-time sacrifice that qualifies us to worship Him (10:10-14), and is the author and finisher of our faith (12:2).
In chapter 12, the author urges patient and trusting perseverance even in spite of hardship and endurance through an athletic metaphor: running a race (12:1). We all have a race to run. Experiences in life are full of both friendliness and joy, but they also include opposition and suffering, and yes, even a global pandemic. These all serve as a providential and fruitful role in the maturing of our relationship with God.
The author provides the basis for the believer to endure, to consider Christ (12:3a). “Seriously think about His endurance,” and do so that we may evaluate and assess our own life. For Jesus “to endure the cross and despise the shame,” we see the opinions and values of the world were not worthy for Him to take into consideration when it was a question of His obedience to the will of God. He is the epitome of faithful obedience.
The purpose for considering Jesus is “that we will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3b). By considering Jesus, we will not grow fatigued and discouraged even as we face an unprecedented event; rather, we will press on in the Christian life even as we endure the hardships, inconvenience and even sickness. As you consider this difficult time, what will grab your attention? What comforts of this world or alternative solutions will keep you from the appointed course? Will you consider Jesus even through a pandemic?
By Drs. Wayne Slusser and Mark McGinniss
Dr. Wayne Slusser is dean of Baptist Bible Seminary and professor of New Testament and Greek. Slusser produces a weekly video series, “Greek for a Week” at NTresources.com.
Dr. Mark McGinniss is assistant seminary dean and professor of Old Testament. He is also the editor of BBS’ Journal of Ministry and Theology.