Weeks before the onslaught of uncertainty and anxiety, brought on courtesy of the Coronavirus, I found myself wrestling with a different type of fear. I was faced with a circumstance that left me feeling spiritually unsafe and unprotected. What’s more, I couldn’t see what I was supposed to do to change the situation. I woke up one morning hours before dawn, and set out on a long walk in the quiet darkness. I put in my earbuds and fired up the Dwell audio Bible app on my iphone. Starting at Psalm 1, I pressed play.
I would like to say that I was paying close attention, and that I was earnestly praying as I walked. The truth is, I was simply worrying as I walked. I allowed the thorniness of the problem to choke out the faith I should have engaged. I despaired as I trudged.
Despite my faithless state of mind, something changed as the reader arrived at Psalm 12. Like a crack of thunder, a snippet of the Psalm jolted me: “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” I played the whole Psalm again, and the entirety of verse five was etched into my brain:
“Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
Psalm 12 was written by David, who knew much about betrayal and oppression, and much could be learned by examining those specifics. However, my mind was drawn to the greater Son of David, and what these words must have meant to Jesus while He was on earth. Jesus would have been raised with the Psalms as his hymnbook. The words were part of the fiber of His being. I imagine what must have been going through His mind as He matured and became aware of His divinity, His purpose, and His looming act of sacrifice.
Jesus placed Himself among the plundered poor, and He heard the groans of the needy. He saw the physical needs, but most importantly He saw them as the fruits of sin and a fallen world. I can easily picture the words of this Psalm coming to His mind as He encountered people tangled in their own depravity. “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.” These words and others like them in the Psalms would have struck a chord with Jesus as He saw the need around Him and began to understand the role He would play in fulfilling that Scripture in the most profound sense.
Last year my wife Claire was in the hospital for several days with a bad infection. In the midst of prolonged fever, pain, and weakness, she found solace when the Holy Spirit repeatedly brought comforting hymns to her mind. Songs planted like seeds in her heart and mind since her childhood blossomed through the breath of the Spirit into real peace and comfort.
What words would have come to Jesus as He suffered under Pontius Pilate? The scourging and abuse undoubtedly left Him in a state of mind where only the most intensely held truths would have sustained Him in His purpose. We don’t know all of what He was thinking, but we know the Psalms were in His mind. His cry, “Why have You forsaken me?” was a direct quote from Psalm 22.
Can you imagine the words of this Psalm 12 coming to Him as He trudged toward the cross? The weight of all humanity with its “needy groaning” must have been an unspeakable weight. “I will now arise…” How could these words and the souls of men not have come to His mind as His nailed body was raised on the cross? “I will – I AM – placing them in the safety for which they long…” What comfort and sense of resolve it must have brought Jesus to have the words of Scripture, the Psalms of His youth spring to His mind in His hours of deepest suffering. I feel a keen kinship with Jesus, my elder brother, knowing how the Holy Spirit sustained Him, because it paved the way for me to be sustained in the same way.
As I meditated on this in the middle of my anxieties about feeling spiritually unsafe, I sensed the Lord giving me an important reminder. I am already in a place of perfect safety from the punishment I deserved, because He has set me there. I would like to say for the sake of a tidy testimony that the issue at hand causing the anxiety has been resolved, but it hasn’t. It’s not like the Lord was saying that it didn’t matter at all. He lovingly reminded me that this temporary fear diminishes in the light of the fact that my greatest danger has been removed from me by my beloved Savior.
Despite the ebbs and flows of stress and anxiety in recent weeks, that bedrock sense of calm and peace that entered my soul a few weeks ago remains. I am safe, therefore I can rest. This was a timely truth to have on hand as we entered the coronavirus era. To mangle Luther’s hymn, “The body (and economy) coronavirus may kill; God’s truth abideth still.”
So as the Sabbath approaches may you find your bedrock peace and rest in meditating on the place of safety Jesus procured for you.