As the dark cloud of a second wave of Covid 19 arises with a new strain threatening, like a seething cumulus thunderstorm, which seeks to cut off the Light of Christmas, a smouldering miasma of evil, I felt the Lord calling me to remind you of what we really believe at this time.
This morning my time with the Lord started with Him showing me the “well” from which we can drink “Living water” – a picture of Him and His Spirit – then psalm 1 comes to mind, “the blessed man is like a tree that is PLANTED by streams of water” – it is necessary not only to drink constantly of the Living Water, but I need my roots planted where I can continually draw water, the real Water of Life.. Then I see God, as the Rock and am reminded that I must build my house on that Rock. He is that Rock, but I must build my foundation. But wait a bit, if this depends on my ability to build, then the foundation will always be flawed. So it is necessary for God to build, with me so that I have a foundation with His strength, so when the storms come the house will stand. In fact His promise is that it will stand against any storm.
So “come to Me and I will give you rest, I will give you peace, I will give….. I will give, not as the world does but from my well of everlasting, living water that will never dry or rum out, so remain in me, plant your roots firmly.”
As I internalize this, I am looking out the window. A few meters away is a tree growing. It is an indigenous tree of which I have experience from my previous house. It grows tremendously quickly, shooting out new branches in overflow when pruned. But it easily outgrows its strength and when the wind comes it shatters and splinters. It really needs to be in a forest, among other trees to support it. Trees, some of which grow slowly and are very strong, like the yellow-wood tree, or the stinkwood. So the metaphor comes to me that this is a bit like the church, some people who are the real movers and shakers can easily be shattered if they are not protected by others who are slower yet more stable. Yeah the church is a bit like a forest. We were never meant to be out there, as it were, alone on a rock facing the storm, we are meant to be part of the forest where we can stand together to resist the storm.
So my final reading in 1 Peter is from 1 Peter 5:6-14. Now, when I used to train students to be discipleship group leaders, I always had them study this section as part of their quiet time. I wanted them to see it as encouragement in the context of the word in vs 5 addressing “young men/women”. Today it struck me that actually this is a summary of the whole of 1 Peter, remembering the basic gospel as foundation and then the extensive discussion on suffering. In vs 7 the verb translated “cast”, is a very forceful word. With energy throw your cares off your own shoulders onto God’s shoulders. There is also a play on the word “care”. The verse should read “cast your cares on him because He cares for you!”
So standing back and summarizing, there are three instructions to the reader on what his response should be to the message of the letter, and three corresponding promises from God which He will do in response. For us: humble yourself, under God’s mighty hand; Cast your cares on Him; be self-controlled and alert especially towards the whiles of the devil who prowls around seeking to devour us. It is necessary to consciously resist him and stand firm in the faith (because mainly he is in the business of discouraging us and causing us to lose faith). From God’s side: He will lift us up under His mighty hand in due time; He will care for us in the midst of the suffering and the attacks of the devil; He will restore us after we have suffered for a little while, making us firm and steadfast.
Vs 12 “This is the true grace of God, stand fast in it”
He has the power and the desire to banish this dark cloud at this time, shining the true light of the gospel on it and through it, as we remember the first baby steps of what would become a mighty powerful Presence sweeping through the world, far more powerful than this puny virus. Take heart dear reader, apply this and live in it.
To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (vs 11)
May I end by wishing each one of you a most blessed and truly joyful time especially on Friday, no matter what you are planning to do. May He bless you and make His face shine on you and give you peace.