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Psalms of Ascent and the Corona Virus

If you are a friend of Crossway Community, you know Pastor Funk and I have been preaching a series on the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). In their original context, it is believed these Psalms were sung by God’s people who would literally ascend in their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at special festivals. The words they sung here, gave them a vocabulary of desire and perseverance, as they anticipated the celebration of worship, culminating as they arrived in Jerusalem. Back in their day, this journey was one of peril (Ps.121:7) so, they needed God’s help (Ps.121:1-2; 124:8) as they moved toward Jerusalem (Ps.122:1-4). These Psalms of Ascent serve as metaphor for our own walk as pilgrims today, as we also, are looking for a city where we will enjoy fullness of worship, and, a Home in which we can finally rest (Hebrews 11:13-16). We get tired sometimes, don’t we? And, we need words, tunes to sing, to keep us going with hope along the way. It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog. Lately, most of focus has been on providing some short videos on our church’s Facebook page, as I seek to encourage our flock to keep persevering, to keep “ascending” during this Covid-19 outbreak. I want to bring a bit of that encouragement to you today on this blog. As I’ve pondered my own heart-responses to this pandemic, I find myself asking certain questions, and, of course, I am seeking some “answers” along the way of my “ascent”. Let me list a few of my questions/answers below, trusting at least some of them will encourage you in your own walk, in your own ascent.

– What troubles me most about this Corona Virus and the Lockdown? It’s not that I’ll get sick or die. I mean, let’s face it, that was always going to happen anyway!  Right? Death and taxes! This Pandemic has not changed any of that. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to get sick. No one does, but long ago, I found peace with the fact of death. Unless Jesus returns first, we will all die. I am not afraid to die. Because of the victory of Jesus in His resurrection, I am at “peace” with facing this last enemy death. His resurrection gives me peace and meaning for today, and, hope for tomorrow (I Cor. 15:15-19, 58). What seems to trouble me the most is that I am reminded daily, that I am not in control of my life. Now, I have always considered myself a pretty laid back guy. I am certainly not a “Type A Control Freak”. Yet . . . in this outbreak, I have been finding I highly resent government telling me what I can and cannot do. Leave all politics aside, I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and how I want to do it! Here’s the funny thing though, this pandemic has revealed a mirage/illusion I am more deeply aware of now. The illusion is this: I thought, pre-virus, I was “in control” of my life. I know. You’re laughing. Poor disillusioned Pastor Bob. He thought he was in control of His life. Oh, if you would have asked me before the virus came, I would spout  clichés like, “God is in control”. “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow”. Translate: “Chill”. God is God. You are not. This virus is showing me (and you?), the depth of my/our lack of trust. We are not in control of our lives. We never were.  Part of what I hope changes in me as a result of this virus is twofold: I won’t be afraid of the next big boogey man that might come upon this world, and two, and perhaps even more important: I will trust God with my day-to-day worries and anxieties that try to choke out His Word, making it unfruitful (Mark 4:19).  And, if that happens, my “ascent”, my upward journey of trusting and enjoying God will deepen. I will truly believe/feel/walk in, truths like these verses in Psalm 124, a Psalm of Ascent: “If the LORD had not been on our side when people (viruses?!) attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away” (Ps.124:2-5)

– What/Who do I most truly and deeply love?  If I were to try and frame this question in relationship to Scripture, three passages come immediately to mind. Matthew 6:19-24; Matt.16:26 and I Timothy 6:17-19.  In these verses, we are shown, by way of contrast, those things which are “truly” life that will endure forever and those things which are merely transitory and so has much less value. Jesus asks somewhat rhetorically in Matt.16:26, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Corrie Ten Boom, the WW2 holocaust survivor was reported to have once said, “‘You may never know that JESUS is all you needuntil JESUS is all you have.’

By this, I don’t think she meant we don’t need things like food and water, companionship, a roof over our heads, a job, etc. In her context and experience, I would suggest she meant to convey the greatest value of Jesus in comparison to other things. I mean, her freedom, livelihood, family, etc., were all taken away from her by the Nazis. But when all other things of value were taken away, she still had Jesus. Her love/trust in Jesus, albeit with struggle, deepened. I am thankful one of the things this virus is revealing to me, is, my most true and deep love is not as consistently in Jesus as much as I long for it to be. If we are worshippers of the One True God, in our lives of “ascent”, as we walk this road, our deepest heart’s desire is to know and to love Him, to obey Him (Ezek.36:24-26). This pandemic has caused me to slow down and reflect more upon God, and, how little I love Him, yet how much I truly long to love Him.

This blog’s title is “Walk With Me”. In this entry, “Ascending During Covid-19”, I’ve shared with you things this virus has confronted me with. My purpose is to encourage you. I hope you will feel like you can keep walking, keep ascending. My final word would be to remind you of the good news of Jesus’ “descent”. Because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), we don’t have to feel like it is necessary for us to “ascend” in the sense that God’s heart, and a relationship with Him is hard to find. No! We do not have to “say in our heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:6-9). All of that to say (!), Jesus came down to us, so we would be able to come to Him. While a walk of faith is quite vigorous and requires our all, the life of salvation is not something we aspire to. It is something we receive by faith. Brother, sister, friend, keep walking, even in this time of pandemic. Remember, we are not in control of our lives, but the One who is in control of our lives, is of highest value. He is our greatest desire and love. Walk with Him. And, if I can help encourage you in your walk, walk with me.

 

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