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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Everything Happens 7

Today I'm reading Psalm 91, especially verses 5-10.

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you 
from the fowler’s snare 
and from the deadly pestilence. 

4 He will cover you with his feathers, 
and under his wings you will find refuge; 

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 

5 You will not fear the terror of night, 
nor the arrow that flies by day, 

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, 
nor the plague that destroys at midday. 

7 A thousand may fall at your side, 
ten thousand at your right hand, 
but it will not come near you. 

8 You will only observe with your eyes 
and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” 
and you make the Most High your dwelling, 

10 no harm will overtake you, 
no disaster will come near your tent. 

11 For he will command his angels concerning you 
to guard you in all your ways; 

12 they will lift you up in their hands, 
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; 
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; 
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 

15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; 
I will be with him in trouble, 
I will deliver him and honor him. 

16 With long life I will satisfy him 
and show him my salvation.”

When the movie “Saving Private Ryan” first came out I got to see it with a friend who was an HR director for AMC theater chain. He was in charge of opening a new theater complex and he invited me to tour it before it opened to the public. He said we could watch any movie we wanted to and I chose that one. So the two of us sat alone in the largest theater in the complex with our popcorn and sodas and watched this very intense movie with the state of the art sound system that blew me away. If you know the movie, it follows a squad of soldiers during World War II who are given the mission of finding one soldier in the vast confusion following D-Day. One of the men in the squad is a country boy who quotes scripture to calm his nerves during the battles and to steady his hand as he acts as the squad sniper protecting his “band of brothers” from overwhelming enemy troops. All throughout the movie it seems as though God does protect him in situations where he should have been killed. Near the climax of the move he is shooting from a church tower trying to hold back the advancing enemy soldiers and he quotes from Psalm 91. But this time, despite his valor and faith, he’s spotted by a German tank and they blow up the church tower with one blast.

I have never been in battle but I’ve read a great deal of military history and one common reality in all wars is the fact that young men die. And many soldiers die senselessly and in random, unpredictable ways. A soldier who escapes death almost in a miraculous way one day is then killed the next day. Friendly fire, accidents and illness killed more soldiers in previous centuries than the enemy. So, how does the expression "Everything happens for a reason" fit into the terrible tragedies of war and the random way in which war brings devastation. How do we live in the tension of God's providence and human free will? How do we avoid simplistic answers? How are we to read this Psalm?

(7) A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 

This is a great Psalm for the survivor, but what about the other eleven thousand who die? What psalm do their family members sing? Where is the God of protection for them?

This is the issue we all have to deal with as believers when we try to understand the providence of God, the protection of God and the natural course of the world where bad things do happen to ‘innocent’ people.

“No disaster will come near your tent.” How do you read this psalm in light of the floods that devastated the Midwest, the fires that scorched Arizona, the Tsunami in Japan, etc. The reason we need to think this through is that there are so many people who have the expectation that God is SUPPOSED to protect them from anything bad. So, when something bad happens they feel God has let them down and they abandon their faith saying something like: "I can't believe in a God who would let 'X' happen." As though giving up on their faith somehow gets back at God and makes him feel bad.

Tomorrow I'll blog about some of the best books on this kind of disappointment. But, what would you say in that kind of conversation? How does God protect us?

Something to ponder.


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