THE LORD OUR STRENGTH

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 29)

 

THE LORD OUR STRENGTH

 

April 15, 2011

Today’s reading: Psalm 18:2-7

Our theme for this year comes from Isaiah 49:5, “and my God is now my strength!” Indeed, if we are to do the work that God eternally destined us to do, we will need to go forth in the fullness of His strength. The meaning of His strength is so deep and so all-encompassing. It is about the fullness of our life in Him.

David was so overwhelmed by the Lord’s deliverance, that he was very effusive in proclaiming who God was.

“I love you, Lord, my strength,

Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,

my God, my rock of refuge,

my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold!”

(Ps 18:2-3)

      What does it mean that God is our strength?

First, God is our rock. Jacob proclaimed “the power of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel” (Gn 49:24b). Moses, in his song, proclaimed: “The Rock–how faultless are his deeds, how right all his ways!” (Dt 32:4a). Isaiah says that “the Lord is an eternal Rock.” (Is 26:4b).

Paul says that our ancestors in the faith “ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ.” (1 Cor 10:3-4). This was about the Exodus experience of Israel, but pointing to the Christian experience, with Christ as our spiritual food and drink in the Eucharist. The Rock followed the Israelites throughout their migration (according to rabbinic legend).

For us, Christ, the source of the living water, is the Rock upon whom we build our house and base our lives (Mt 7:24). We need never fear, even if the house is buffeted by storms, for it has been set solidly on rock (Mt 7:25). Our God keeps us on a solid foundation!

Second, God is our fortress. A fortress is where we live and work secure. It is the bastion that withstands the attacks of the enemy. It is the base from which we attack the enemy. As the Lord laughs at our enemies and derides all the nations (Ps 59:9), we look to Him: “My strength, for you I watch; you, God, are my fortress” (Ps 59:10). Our God keeps us secure!

Third, God is our deliverer. We face a very powerful enemy, but the Lord delivers us from our enemies. We look not to our own strength or resources, but only to Him. “A king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength. … But the Lord’s eyes are upon the reverent, … delivering them from death” (Ps 33:16,18a,19a). With the Lord, we need never be afraid of anything. The Lord “delivers us from all (our) fears.” (Ps 34:5b). We can go forth and engage the enemy, knowing that in the end, our God will be there as our deliverer. Our God delivers us!

Fourth, God is our rock of refuge. In our work we will face many challenges. We will be wounded in battle, and pummeled by many blows. But we can always find refuge in God. The Lord provides His people “refuge in time of distress. The Lord helps and rescues them, rescues and saves them from the wicked, because in God they take refuge.” (Ps 37:39b-40). Our God gives us refuge!

Fifth, God is our shield. When we are engaged in battle, the enemy will shoot his fiery darts and arrows at us. God gives us our protective gear. It is our faith in Jesus. We “hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Eph 6:16). And we know God will be faithful to us, that “God’s faithfulness is a protecting shield.” (Ps 91:4c). Thus we need never “fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that roams in darkness, nor the plague that ravages at noon.” (Ps 91:5-6). Our God protects us!

Sixth, God is our saving horn. The horn is the dreadful weapon of an enraged bull.  It is a symbol of great strength. Zechariah, in his canticle, said that God “has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant” (Lk 1:69), referring to Jesus. Indeed, when Jesus won for us our salvation through the cross upon his resurrection, he crushed the head of the serpent. Our God saves us!

Seventh, God is our stronghold. We live in a world of injustice and suffering and oppression. It would be easy enough to be discouraged, to grow weary, to give up. But we do not, because we can always turn to God who strengthens us. “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Ps 9:10). We can trust in God, because He never forsakes those who seek Him (Ps 9:11). Thus we have this wonderful assurance: “you have made the Most High your stronghold. No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent.” (Ps 91:9b-10). Our God guards us in all our ways!

It is of crucial importance that we look to God as our strength. We face the fearsome tsunami of evil in the world. “The breakers of death surged round about me; the menacing floods terrified me.” (Ps 18:5). But when we call upon God, He hears and responds (Ps 18:7). God responds with His earthquake of wrath. “The earth rocked and shook; the foundations of the mountains trembled.” (Ps 18:8). The Lord thunders from heaven (Ps 18:14a), attacks the enemy (Ps 18:15), and rescues us from the mighty enemy, from foes too powerful for us (Ps 18:17-18).

All this happens “at the roar of the Lord, at the storming breath of his nostrils.” (Ps 18:16b). Awesome indeed is the Lord our God!

“Who but our God is the rock?” (Ps 18:32b). “The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock!” (Ps 18:47a).

“Praised be the Lord, I exclaim! I have been delivered from my enemies.” (Ps 18:4).

The Lord “is a shield for all who trust in him.” (Ps 18:31c).

“Exalted be God, my savior!” (Ps 18:47b).

With God as our strength, God has “girded (us) with strength for war” (Ps 18:40a). So off to war we go. We proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus to the whole world. “Thus I will proclaim you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.” (Ps 18:50).

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