We are all shocked and saddened by the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th. Like most religious professionals, I had to quickly change my sermon for December 15th in order to address the situation from a spiritual perspective. I tried to bring both comfort as well as a challenge to our people. I used Psalm 113 as my text for the day.
1 Praise the LORD!
Praise, O servants of the LORD,
Praise the name of the LORD.
2 Blessed be the name of the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting
The name of the LORD is to be praised.
4 The LORD is high above all nations;
His glory is above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God,
Who is enthroned on high,
6 Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in heaven and in the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 To make them sit with princes,
With the princes of His people.
9 He makes the barren woman abide in the house
As a joyful mother of children.
Praise the LORD!
The first part of the Psalm describes God as all powerful; above all nations and heavens. The second part describes God as humble and caring. The problem that many of us have is focusing on only one of these two overarching attributes of God. If we only focus on God as all powerful then we ask why God would allow such a tragedy. But if we focus only on the humility of God, we reduce him to a god who can do nothing but respond with comfort. When one reads the Bible, we see both sets of attributes in action. God is all powerful and does indeed intervene at various times. However at other times he responds with comfort, peace and hope. Like you and I, the people in the Bible cannot understand the ways of God. They, like us, respond to the situations of life with trust and faith. Tragedies test the metal of our faith. God understands this. He understands our frailty. He understands our doubts and our hurts. This almighty God who is above the heavens is the one who lifts the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap. Believing this is what faith is all about. Like Job, we say, “I know my redeemer lives!” I do not understand why these tragedies happen but I know that the almighty God brings real comfort and peace. Comfort does not mean making everything all better. Comfort means helping people to work through the circumstances of life, no matter how bad they might be. God manifested his humility – his powerful concern for us – in the person of Yeshua the Messiah. Yeshua said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When we embrace the Messiah we do not escape the issues of this life but we receive rest for our souls. We have an assurance of the constant presence and comfort of God in all circumstances now and beyond the grave. the Scriptures refer to this as an inheritance that awaits us.
As Messiah followers, we have a responsibility to stand in the gap – to bring the comfort of God to hurting people around us and to pray for those who are hurting so deeply.
May the God of all peace and comfort bring comfort to the families and all of the people in Newtown Connecticut. May God bring comfort to all people who are experiencing vicarious grief in this unspeakable tragedy.
I will close with Psalm 123 which speaks for itself
1 To You I lift up my eyes,
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
Until He is gracious to us.
3 Be gracious to us, O LORD, be gracious to us,
For we are greatly filled with contempt.
4 Our soul is greatly filled
With the scoffing of those who are at ease,
And with the contempt of the proud.