An Advent Journey: Stop, Look, Listen – Day 5

These pictures were taken in 1967 in what is now Zimbabwe, at Matopos National Park. The second and third of these three shots are of the same oddly shaped and extremely large rock with a sheltering ledge built right into it. The paintings drawn under that ledge attest to it’s use as a safe refuge. 

“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down —
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times,  you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hopes in stolen goods;
though  your riches increase,
do not set  your heart on them.
One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard;
‘Power belongs to you, God,
and with you, Lord, is unfailing love;’
and, ‘You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”
Psalm 62, TNIV

Whenever I read this psalm, I imagine the one who wrote it sitting high in the hills, looking out over some kind of rocky land mass. I have never been to Israel, but I have been to central Africa and as I read through this song for today, I remembered the overwhelming size of the rocks we saw there. Looking at such large, looming boulders is both daunting and deeply reassuring. 

The psalmist sings out — cries out — for such reassurance, for refuge, for shelter, for a place to hide away, safely enfolded by God’s goodness and strength. There is an expressed need for bigness, for some sort of reminder that God is larger and stronger than any enemies who might be threatening. The singer wants to feel safe. And so the ‘controlling metaphor’ for his song is a great, big rock. A fortress-sized rock. An unmovable refuge.

We all want to feel safe. Yet we live in a decidedly unsafe world, with enemies of various kinds on all sides. Fiscal cliffs, sick children, struggling parents, and the very worst enemies of all — the voices inside our own heads, the ones that tell us we are worthless, useless, unloved and unwanted. 

Advent invites us to sit with that unsafe feeling for a while, to listen to it — but also to speak back to it. Because Advent also invites us to sit with an expectant young mom and her brave husband, to join them in their waiting, in their uncertainty. And in their amazing trust. There is much we can learn from these two ordinary people, chosen by God for such extraordinary work. 

I imagine that God alone was their Rock, their safe place, during much of the journey to Christmas morning. 

I imagine that this very song was one of their favorites. I know it is one of mine.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me . . . there isn’t a rock on this planet large enough to picture YOU. But somehow, these earthy reminders help us to remember that you are bigger, stronger, more sheltering, and far safer than any trouble, struggle, or enemy we may encounter along the way. You never promised us an easy road; you promise us your presence in the midst of it. Thank you for being our Rock and our Refuge.

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