Originally published April 3, 2020
Earlier this week, I was all out of sorts. I knew the stress of everything was getting to me—and I knew the only place my soul would find rest was in God’s word and His truth. Now, I am generally a chronological reader. I try not to just flip open my Bible to “see what God has for me.” Usually, no matter what obscure passage I’m in line to pour over, it speaks to me as if hand picked. But on this morning, I was drawn to Psalms. I had no idea what passage I was turning to but as I went in that general direction, the pages fell open where I had some old sermon notes and a BCM Missions program at Psalm 77, which, in my Bible, is given the title, “When Overwhelmed, Remember God’s Greatness.”
Well, okay, God. I can marinate on that.
There are so many things right now to overwhelm us. The pandemic threatens to overwhelm our medical system. The pandemic-induced panic buying (temporarily) overwhelmed our food supply. Worry about an immunocompromised friend in the epicenter of the outbreak overwhelms my calm. My dear sweet angel babies fighting over a lego while I am trying to type an email working from home overwhelms my already stressed brain until I snap at them. My exhaustion of staying up late to watch a TV show overwhelms my habit of reading God’s word before bed. The sight of chocolate coconut caramel shortbread cookies overwhelms my willpower to eat healthy. The absence of human interaction outside my family unit begins to overwhelm my sanity.
For the first nine verses of Psalm 77, the author explains how deeply overwhelmed he is:
• My soul refused to be comforted v. 2
• I am so troubled I cannot speak v. 4
• Will the Lord cast me off forever v.7
And then the passage that I needed – NEEDED—comes—
Verses 10 through 17:
“And I said, ‘This is my anguish;
But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’
I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary;
Who is so great a God as our God?
You are the God who does wonders;
You have declared Your strength among the peoples.
You have with Your arm redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah”
Christians (and the world in general) often lose sight of what the Bible IS. Hang tight while we unpack that.
The world thinks the Bible is a book of rules about how to live. Well, there are some.
We read our kids Bible “Stories” about heroes they can be like – unintentionally emphasizing the “moral’ of each story instead of the message of Jesus. (Note: there are some GREAT children’s Bibles that constantly point to Jesus – message me if you want suggestions.)
In our home, we are a little counter-cultural in our Bible reading.
We don’t read Bible stories.
Yep. Crazy people.
We don’t read Bible STORIES.
We read “from the Bible” or read Bible accounts or histories. No lies, when my husband first suggested the altered phrasing, I secretly thought “Ooooookay…. People are going to think we are over the top.” But then I let it marinate awhile. (I marinate on things quite often.)
Once while teaching our church youth class, I asked the group what they knew about David. I expected to hear about David and Goliath, King David, shepherd boy, or even David and Bathsheba. Nope… crickets.
Then… “Is he the one with the beanstalk?”
We read a bedtime story and then a Bible story and expect our kids to know the difference between the fairy tale and the factual truth. And they grow up with the mindset that these are a bunch of nice comforting stories to think about when you fall asleep.
Here’s what you’ve been waiting for: If you must use the word story—this is OUR story. The Bible is not merely a book about people that lived a long time ago. It is about us. We are part of the narrative started in Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the earth, and God have given us this RICH history so that we may REMEMBER.
Last November, I started rereading my Bible from the beginning after finally completing my first chronological read through (Nope – I don’t think it is a coincidence that faithfully reading God’s word gave me the irrepressible desire to share what God’s been teaching me.) Reading our history, I began to notice how many times God commands His people to REMEMBER. Leaders like Moses and Joshua are constantly rehashing a play by play of all that God has done for His people. It happens so often, when you get to a rehash, you are tempted to skim because yeah, I already know this, BUT DON’T! This is YOUR history. This reminder is meant for you, too!
Not only does God constantly remind them (and us!) to remember, He also instructs them to create memorials to help them remember.
One of my favorite hymns says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer.”
I always get a little geeked out to share what that means.
In 1 Samuel 7, we find the nation of Israel has returned to the Lord, but the Philistines are coming, and Israel is scared. They beg Samuel to cry out to God continually to save them… and He does. The passage explains that “the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel.” (v. 10) How cool is that? In response, Samuel sets up a visible, tangible memorial stone and called its name Ebenezer, which means Stone of Help (v. 12) The stone was something they could look to and reflect on the greatness of God’s rescue.
So the hymn is saying I raise my Stone of Help – I will look to my memorial stone to remember the mighty, amazing, miraculous things that God has done.
The God you serve is not the hero of moral stories to help your kids behave better. He is the thundering, earth-shaking Creator of the Universe! He is the constant redeeming-rescuer of His people. He drew them and He draws us to Him through His word and His very breath in creation. He did. He can. He will. His call to remember is a call to strength- strength that only comes by looking to what HE has done.
In these hurting, uncertain, unprecedented days, make your memorial stones now, because if you don’t need them now, there will be a day that you do. What has God done in your life? What has He done in the Bible that you can draw from, not just to celebrate His past greatness, but to remind you of His eternal greatness? And when you have those big, “WOW, GOD!” moments add to your list, and maybe set up your own tangible Ebenezers.