The COVID-19 pandemic helps us realize that we are a community. We are not meant to live as an individual in our private world. Somehow, somewhere each one of us has a connection. Every action we do affects someone, in our country, in our town, in our community, our neighborhood, and our family.
The question we need to ask is after this pandemic is: “Will we ever be the same?” I hope our answer is: “No, we will never be the same. The worst that could happen is to go back to the way we were before. We must not stay the same. We must never be the same again.”
The sons of Korah wrote this song during a time of chaos, trouble, and uncertainty. This Psalm was written for the nation of Israel, but it applies to us today too. Reading this Psalm, we will notice the word “Selah” mentioned repeatedly in verses 3, 7, and 11.
The word “Selah” is a direct transliteration from the Hebrew. Psalms are songs meant to be sung. “Selah” refers to a musical rest. The singers stopped singing to take a breath. It also means silent reflection.
Moreover, “Selah” can also be translated “to praise” and “to lift.” Perhaps the singers paused so they could think about what they had just sung in praise to God. It is something required for the singers to do. So “Selah” means that we should pause and praise God. Every time we see “Selah” while reading Psalm we pause, look up and praise God.
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Selah) 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;he lifts his voice, the earth melts.7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.(Selah) 8 Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Selah)
So while reading this Psalm, we can pause, look up and praise God for:
His Promise: God Is For Us (1-3)
1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Selah)
The word used here for God is “Elohim” which means that He is the Creator, King, Judge, and Savior. Regardless of what we are feeling in this troubled time. This is a reminder to us of God’s promises that He is our refuge, our strength, and our help. He is not asking us to go to a safe place. But He (himself) is our place of safety. The word “refuge” is a place of trust and literally, it means “to flee” running into an indestructible shelter.
God promised us that He will hide us in His shelter, and His strength will help us. He is a “very present help in trouble.” The word “very” means His help is great and abundant right now in our present situation. God’s help exceeds any kind of help that any humans can do. We should be glad that we are serving a God who is always ready to help when we are in trouble.
In verse 2, the writer imagines the worst calamity that may happen to us. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and mountains slipping into the sea. It seems like the destruction of the planet earth. But even though the earth gives way” or the landscape suddenly changes, we don’t have to be afraid.
Verse 3 describes the roaring waters of the sea. This represents something so violent that we have no total control. Roaring means “to rage” or “to be at war.” COVID-19 is not as violent but it is a crisis that we don’t have total control. Every country is in a commotion on what to do next. Humanity’s sense of control has been replaced with fear and concern about the future. It’s fair to say that the entire world has been humbled by this pandemic.
This Psalm tells us that when our security is suddenly gone, we’re to seek refuge in God. Our sense of helplessness and fear should draw us nearer to God. We will echo the voices of many people of God that this tragedy should bring us to our knees and cause us to be a more humble world.
God says in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
This pandemic is pointing us to the real problem—humanity’s pride, self-centeredness and spiritual brokenness.
His Presence: God Is With Us (4-7)
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;he lifts his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD Almighty is with us;the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Selah)
God promises us shelter when we need it. We don’t have to look for Him because His presence is with us. In verse 4 the city of God refers to Jerusalem. It was a beautiful city but we all know that there is no river flowing through it like any other major cities during that time like Babylon has Euphrates, Egypt has Nile, Rome has Tiber. Jerusalem has not the physical river, but it had something even better—the presence of God.
The word “Most High” is Elyon, which refers to God as the highest of all. He is sovereign and supreme, and He is present with us. God’s grace flows like a river to bring gladness and joy to His people. While the ocean rages, God’s presence is depicted as a calm and gently flowing stream. This image in the Scripture is used to represent happiness, abundance, and peace, even when everything else is falling apart.
God’s presence with His people is one of the central truths of Scripture. Verse 5 says that “God is in the midst of her” and verse 7 declares that the “Lord of Hosts is with us.” This is from the root word “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” and was used in Matthew 1:23 to refer to Jesus. This means when we put our faith in Jesus, we have “God with us” at all times.
Notice the last part of verse 5: “God will help her at the break of day.” No matter how bad things get, God’s presence means He will help us. When we wake up to start a new day, we will experience what Jeremiah did in Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God is faithful to us. He will never leave us or forsake us.
His Power: God Is Over Us (8-11)
8 Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. 10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Selah)
We can depend on God during times like this because of His promise, His presence, and finally, because of His power. Verse 8 says that God calls us to “come and see what the LORD has done.” The word “come” means “we are to run or pursue” in order “to see” or “to behold.”
It means “to perceive through sight, to gaze intently upon, to observe fully.” It expresses a strong feeling of hope, expectation, and certainty. “To behold” has the idea of vividness and emotional involvement. Here we are commanded “to come and behold.”
There is a phrase that says, “We become what we behold.” A Pastor tells it like this: “Tell me what you are beholding, and I’ll tell you what you are becoming.” When we behold the Lord and His works, we become like Him and do His works. I believe in this COVID-19 pandemic many people are seeking the Lord right now.
Verse 9 shows us that in His position as the Almighty God, He makes “wars cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the chariots with fire.” We believe that the LORD has the power to stop the war.
Sometimes we feel like that there is nothing we can do to stop COVID-19. We may even feel helpless and even hopeless. This pandemic helps us realize that we don’t have control over the details of our lives. But God is in total control.
In verse 10, we are called to “be still and know that I am God.” To “be still” means to “cast down or let fall” and was used to the idea of dropping weapons.We have to stop fighting a battle we can’t win. We are not to just have a “moment of silence” or even to just be quiet. We are to cease, surrender to God and let go.
The purpose of being still is so that we can know God. To “know” means “to acknowledge and comprehend, to discover intimately.” It is not just enough just to know about Him; we must have a deep personal relationship with Him. To do that, we need to be still before Him, pray and listen to His words.
The last part of verse 10 says that “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Ultimately, all nations will exalt God. Jesus will come again and all the nations will surrender before Him. No matter what happens, in this pandemic: God will be exalted among the nations and He will be exalted in the earth. He is working out all things for His glory and our ultimate good.
Verse 11 is a great summary statement of this entire psalm as it repeats verse 7. Because “the Lord of hosts is with us, and the God of Jacob is our fortress,” we can trust Him.
Jesus Christ is God and Lord of history. Nothing has happened outside of His plan. Through worst disaster, though the mountains fall into the sea, if we believe in Jesus we have nothing to fear. Whether COVID-19 pandemic leads to more catastrophe and confusion, or the nations rage against one another, God is our refuge.
No matter what happens, we can pause, look up and praise Him for His promise, His presence, and His power.
Let’s pause here at the final “Selah” and praise God for His power. It’s time to be still and surrender before Him because we know that He is the most powerful God.
Photo is from South China Morning Post
Adopted from Pastor Brian Bill’s Sermon