Psalm 46 opens with the words; 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.' We experience our own small losses and disappointments. Nations and peoples experience larger scale calamities. The planet groans from human exploitation, greed and warming induced climate change.
The psalmist reminds us that God is present to us in all situations for all times, particularly for those with the presence of mind to acknowledge God. The psalmist gives us a vision of the city of God, well-watered and unshakeable. God's people Israel often had to cling to this vision of hope, of a better future. They were (and are) a small nation surrounded by large, often hostile neighbour states. This city vision is echoed in the final chapters of the book of Revelation, linking Old and New Testaments, God’s people Israel and the church, people of the new covenant.
These thoughts come to you in time for ANZAC Day, a commemoration significant in our shared commonwealth history with Australia. Amid the general horror of World War One, and the monumental, strategic mistake that was the Gallipoli campaign, I imagine many ordinary soldiers who were believers took comfort from the words of this and other psalms, speaking words of eternal hope into the mud, fear and suffering.
Yes the earth groans, but God is present. 'The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.' (Ps 46: 6-7 NRSV)
Whatever destruction and woe human beings can conjure up on any given day, on large or small scale, the person of faith can be confident that God is very present. This is an age of anxiety. Will our broken relationships be mended? Will human sin overwhelm us? Will the nations remain at peace? Will the planet sustain us?
ANZAC Day reminds me not that we are a great and glorious nation, but rather that in spite of human violence and the misuse of power and resources, the earth remains and God is still our refuge. The extreme circumstances of the Gallipoli campaign revealed many acts of selfless bravery and even faith, but in the end, it is God's peaceable kingdom that will remain. 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.'