Today’s reading is Isaiah 8:1-9:21, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Psalm 55:1-23, Proverbs 23:4-5.
Today is September 11. Let that sink in. Where were you 16 years ago? I remember it vividly. I had gotten a couple of my kids off to school, the rest were playing quietly, so I decided to get a cup of coffee and catch the news on the Today show. Immediately, I was glued to the television, coffee grew cold, and I sat and wept as it unfolded before me and the rest of the world. It is a day that those of us who were grown enough to understand will never forget. Things changed that day—permanently. There is the undercurrent of knowing that “it” could happen—whatever that “it” is in our imagination. Before 9/11, I know I for one did not think the “its” of the world could happen—not to my home, not to my state, and surely not to our wonderful country. But it did. And we survived. And whatever “it” is that could happen again, we can survive that, too. However, the survival in catastrophic events is no longer dependent upon good will, good policies, or even good preparedness. All those things are great and important. But that is not what we need to survive—even thrive—after terrible events occur. We need God. It is as plain and simple as that. It is an urgent message, a timely message. I do not post this to be all doom and gloom. I don’t say these words because I am scared or even because I think something bad will happen—just look around and realize that something bad is already happening every day, whether big or small in the world’s eyes. So, where will we go? Where will we turn? In the floods and storms and earthquakes and tornados and hurricanes of our lives, where will we go? To where—to Whom—will we evacuate?
As I have stated before, I have always had sleep patterns that allow for very vivid dreams. I remember lots of my dreams and often have “story time” for my closest family and friends. I am sure they may roll their eyes at times when I start the sentence with “I had the strangest dream last night.” But you know, scripture tells us that God can teach us in the night watches, and sometimes, whether it’s pizza or providence, I have a dream from which I can learn something. Such is the case in a dream I had a couple of years ago. For obvious reasons, I have remembered this dream in the past few days and have been reminded again of its lesson.
I dreamed that I was standing before a giant wave—a terrible storm, typhoon, hurricane. And I knew there was nothing I could do about it. There was nothing I could do to change the situation. So I braced myself and prayed to God. And in my dream, I was swept on top of the wave and carried along in a gentle fashion. I still experienced the giant wave and all of its destructive power, but I was riding above it, and therefore it couldn’t hurt me. In my dream, I then landed on an island filled with people, unaware that another giant wave was about to come. I gathered as many as I could and took them to the top floor of a large building on the island. I looked around me and realized that this building was made of glass, and though it was tall, it would never withstand the great wave. My hope in this man-made structure was useless. And then I looked out the window and I saw the mountains behind me. I knew that I had to get the people to the mountain—a safe structure, made by God, not by man.
I don’t need to break it down for you as to why I have been thinking about that dream this week. But what I will do it this: I will remind you of truth from God’s Word. In today’s reading, there were snippets of truth we can remember today and every day that storms and fears of storms come into our lives.
11 The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said,
12 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do,
and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.
13 Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.
He is the one you should fear.
He is the one who should make you tremble.
14 He will keep you safe.
Yes, He will keep us safe. But we have to understand that the safety of the Lord may be different than our view of safety. Yes, he is capable of keeping our bodies safe and sound. And yes, even our possessions He can guard. However, the true mark of safety is not in this temporary body, nor in our temporary treasures. The true mark of safety is the safety of our souls. And only God can take care of that. And our reading today, prophetically tells where that safety lies.
Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.
2 [g]The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,[h]
a light will shine.
Where is this great light? Or rather Who is this great light, the glory coming from Galilee?
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,[i] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!
Do you recognize that description? Who is this great light, this great glory? It is our Jesus, of course. Though I don’t normally read The Message, I do like the way it describes these verses:
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! sunbursts of light!
For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7
There are no limits to the wholeness He brings. And no storm or flood or tragedy can take that away from us. So, whatever you are facing this day or in the days to come, remember these words:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.