God we need help down here, where are you?
This is a thought or a statement that many of us make when the times are tough and it seems like things are against us and we wonder where God is. Listen to someone else who thought this.
“Ah my master, what will we do now?” he cried out to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” Then Elisha prayed, “O, Lord open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened his servant’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6:15b-17)
The situation in the text is that the King of Aram wanted to arrest Elisha because it seemed that Elisha had a direct pipeline into the King’s mind. And so every time the King planned to invade Israel, Elisha knew of the plans and warned the king of Israel. So Aram could not defeat and capture Israel. Finally it was determined that Elisha, the prophet of God, was providing the information and the King of Aram went to arrest Elisha. The King’s troops surrounded where Elisha and his servant were staying. When the servant awoke in the morning and looked out, he saw troops everywhere. And while he addressed his question to his master Elisha, he was also questioning God. Where are you God? We are in deep trouble down here.
Elisha was able, through prayer and God’s grace, to have his servant see the angelic forces that God had assembled to protect and save Elisha and all of Israel. What this text helps us to learn is that God and his angels are with us much more than we ever think or believe. The problem is that we don’t have eyes to see them or ears to hear them, but that does not mean that they are not there.
I experienced that in my own ministry, not having eyes to see. As a student at the Seminary, I was sent to help out for a couple of weeks at an old downtown congregation in St. Louis. This congregation was a dual congregation with an English speaking and a Vietnamese group and there was a separate service for each group. As the local pastor and I were preparing for the English speaking service, I looked out and there were maybe 20 people in church that sat over 300. I said to the pastor, where are all the people? He told me to look harder. Still I saw only 20. He again said to look harder, look with eyes that remember this church has been here and people have worshipped here every Sunday for over 160 years. As we went through the service, my eyesight improved as God worked on my spirit and eyes, and I saw that the church was packed to standing room only. The thousands of people who had worshipped there came to mind and te angels who watched over them still came to hear God’s word, spoken, sung and proclaimed. They came to worship a great God who is always with them.
When we feel alone, when we wonder where God is and why he isn’t here with us, we need to pray for better eyesight and better hearing. Not better eyesight and hearing in our earthly life, rather for better eyesight and hearing in the eternal life we have in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Then you too might be allowed sight like Elisha’s servant and see and hear the presence of God and his angels around and with you in all of your days.
O most gracious God, how often we only see and hear what is before us. How often we doubt or question, are you with us or where you are. Help change our unseeing and our unhearing of your voice and continue your presence in our daily lives. Help us to grow ever stronger in our faith and dependence on Jesus, your son our Lord, who provides everything we need for daily life. O Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.
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. –Psalm 46:1-2
One of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken to was to Scotland. The scenery is beautiful, this history is rich and amazing, and everywhere you look there’s something to commemorate what happened in that spot, either in recent or ancient times. While there I was able to take in a number of castles and fortresses. Some were very clearly used only for official functions like royal audiences or summer homes, with buildings and walls that were more decorative than anything. But then there were the fortresses—massive refuges, usually tucked away in a difficult-to-reach place, with thick walls and foundations that reached down into the bedrock of the hills. These weren’t merely for decoration or fancy royal events. These were built to last through attacks and storms, to give people a safe place to live, even if everything outside the walls was falling apart.
In our devotional reading from Psalm 46, the psalmist describes God as a refuge. In the last verse, the psalmist says, “The God of Jacob is our fortress.” These were the verses that inspired Martin Luther to write the comforting hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” God is described as a place of security. He keeps His people safe. Later on in the psalm it says, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High,” painting the picture of a secure city with strong walls, well-supplied by a stream of pure water that provides all that the citizens need.
That doesn’t mean that those who take refuge in God will never see trouble. In fact, fortresses draw attacks from enemies who want to overthrow them. The devil will attack our mighty fortress. The world will rage against the God who points out sin and who forgives as only He can do. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter,” the psalmist says. People don’t run to the safety of a fortress because things are good. They run when they need protecting.
Very often, people think that if they just get their religious life in order, then things will be easy for them. That isn’t always the case. They’ll still suffer attacks and troubles. But that doesn’t mean that they’re doing something wrong. It just means that they need to take refuge in God, their fortress, their very present help in trouble.
So yes, outside the walls of our Mighty Fortress we may see the earth giving way and the mountains falling into the heart of the sea. But those troubles are passing. Our life is safely hidden in God. “Be still, and know that I am God,” the Lord says to us at the end of the psalm. He promises to defend us and heal us, to provide all that we need from his rivers of mercy and love. So we rejoice, even when the world is upside down outside the walls, for “the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Almighty God, You are our refuge and powerful protector. Help strengthen our faith in Your ability to save and in Your never failing love for us, no matter what we may see in this quickly passing world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. –Mark 4:37-39
The disciples were afraid. They were trying to cross the Sea of Galilee when a sudden windstorm swept up on them and the boat started to sink from all the waves that were washing into it. And through it all, Jesus was down in the stern, sleeping.
How could He sleep at a time like this? Wasn’t He going to do something? At least He could grab a bucket and start bailing out water! So the disciples went down to where He was and woke Him up with the harsh question: “Don’t you care that we’re dying?!”
It’s always the temptation of our frail flesh and minds to think that Jesus doesn’t care. Something bad comes along and our first reaction is to think that Jesus is asleep at the switch, or that He’s angry, or even worse, that He doesn’t care. Like the disciples, we launch our questions at Jesus: “How could you let this happen? Why won’t you stop it? Aren’t you going to help me? Don’t you care that I’m perishing?”
This is the reaction of unfaith. Unfaith refuses to look at all the goodness that our Lord has done for us in the past. Unfaith refuses to look at all the great promises that He gives for the future. Unfaith wants to have its sight satisfied: if things look good, they must be good; if things look challenging, they must be bad. Unfaith says that we should only receive good things, those things that our fallen human nature likes.
But then the windstorms of life come along. Something rocks the boat, something that tips us off-center and we get scared. We’re scared that we’re not as good as we think we are. We’re scared that somehow God’s love for us has disappeared. We’re afraid that Jesus doesn’t care.
But that’s unfaith. As an answer to this, Jesus doesn’t give us a long list of things we can do better to make Him love us or care. Instead, He takes care of the problem. He calms the storm. It might not be right away. He didn’t wake up and calm the storm right when it first swept up on the disciples. It might not be in the way we thought, but it is in His own way, which is often unexpected. But it does show us that He does care. He tells the winds and waves to be still. He calls for peace in the middle of storms.
That’s why He came to earth. When the storms of sin and death were threatening to drown every last human being, Jesus came to us and spoke peace. He spoke forgiveness. He died on the cross to buy that forgiveness. And from the cross, peace and forgiveness still flows. He still forgives. He still calms storms—whether in the world or in our hearts.
“Jesus, don’t you care?” Of course He does. He showed that He does when He came to live among us, when He died on the cross, and when He rose again to give us eternal life. He cares and He still works wonders so that our faith would always be strengthened in His ability to save us.
Gracious God, Your love and compassion knows no limits. We pray that You would calm all storms of doubt and fear. Show us Your salvation and rescue us from everything that threatens us. Increase our faith in You and Your love for us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
And as [Jesus] drew near to the gate of the town [of Nain], behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow…And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. –Luke 7:12-15
As she walked behind the funeral bier of her only son, the widow of Nain knew that she would have a hard life ahead of her. Widowed, she relied entirely on her son’s ability to provide for her. Widows at this time were often left destitute, not having the same opportunities for making a living that men did, so they had to rely on family to keep them in house and home. But now with him gone, she would live in social isolation with no means of support. She would be devastated financially. The death of her son meant almost certain isolation, poverty, and death for her as well.
But then, on the way out of the city to bury her son, the funeral procession stopped. A man leading a train of disciples came to her and said, “Do not weep.” Then He touched the funeral bier—unthinkable in her culture, because touching a dead body meant becoming unclean—and He did the strangest thing: He spoke to the corpse. “Young man, I say to you, arise.” This stranger was addressing her dead son. But then, miracle of miracles, her son sat up, resurrected, and began talking. The mysterious and powerful stranger, Jesus of Nazareth, has raised her son from the dead. And in raising her son, Jesus also restored her to fellowship, to a secure future, to daily bread, and to life.
The Lord still does the same for us. Very often, especially in recent times, we may find ourselves feeling like the widow of Nain: isolated, cut off, worried about what the future may hold, afraid even for our lives or the lives of our loved ones. But Jesus has an answer to all of that. He comes to us and He says, “Do not weep. Do not be afraid.” He places His hands on our heads, unclean though we may be, and He forgives our sins. He offers the ultimate antidote to all our troubles with His own resurrection—which He promises us will lead to our resurrection as well. His eternal life becomes ours.
So now we know that no matter what the world throws at us, Jesus’ resurrection is the answer to it all. He speaks to us, “Your sins are forgiven. You will live forever,” and that never-ending life is promised to us by the One who really can raise the dead and cure every disease. So in His resurrection, in the promise of our own eternal life, we find faith, hope, peace, joy, life, and hope—all that we need in this life and the next.
Lord Jesus, You have given life to all through Your sacrifice on the cross and Your resurrection from the dead. Give us confidence and faith that what You have won is truly given to us through Your Word and promise. In Your name we pray, Amen