I’m So Mad I Could…

Let’s play a fun “finish-the-sentence” game! Finish this with your favorite response: I’m so mad I could….

Spit Nails.

Punch someone in the throat.

Scream.

Snatch you bald. (OK, that’s a southern one…)

I began a five-mile run with my partner yesterday with one or more of these sentences. My aggravation was a familiar one. I had been without internet for five days after spending the entire first day getting no satisfaction from the 1-800-WEDON’TCARE internet provider.

I finally got an appointment five days later and when they showed up, the problem was just as I had predicted. The surveyors who surveyed the lot next door had driven a spike through my line. Which I knew and had tried to explain to the agent I spoke to after an HOUR of working through the automated call system. An agent who was reading from a script. So even though I knew the problem, I still had to “unplug, then replug the modem after waiting five minutes” at least three times in order to satisfy her. Only to find out that she doesn’t actually make the appointments…you have to wait for the local dispatcher to call and make one with you. Three days later. For five days out. Oy vey!

So as I was venting about this to my partner, I realized that my feelings of frustration and anger were expressing themselves by verbalizing aggression. All of my chosen idioms connected my displeasure with a physical act.

It is so easy for anger to take hold of your heart. And what takes hold of your heart can easily come out in your actions.

So here is your challenge for today. Read this beautiful Psalm and get IT into your heart.

Let’s pause for a moment…what is in your heart right now? Are you aggravated? Hopeless? In despair? Wanting to give up? Feeling mad about everything? Dreading remote school starting again? Ready for this stupid pandemic to be over?

If you leave those things in your heart all day, no good will come of it.

Psalm 145 (Common English Bible)

    “The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
    very patient, and full of faithful love.
    The Lord is good to everyone and everything;
    God’s compassion extends to all his handiwork!”

The Lord is patient and merciful. Think about it! He is putting up with ALL of our nonsense, and still he is full of faithful love. Amazing. And by his own hand, our desires are satisfied. He cares for all of his creation so much he even died on the cross for it. Can you imagine a love like that? How can we stay mad?

Listen, anger is a normal thing. It’s all right to be angry when something goes wrong. But it is never good to stay angry. That only hurts your own heart.

The Lord supports all who fall down,
    straightens up all who are bent low.
15 All eyes look to you, hoping,
    and you give them their food right on time,
16     opening your hand
    and satisfying the desire of every living thing.


17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways,
    faithful in all his deeds.
18 The Lord is close to everyone who calls out to him,
    to all who call out to him sincerely.
19 God shows favor to those who honor him,
    listening to their cries for help and saving them
.

This Psalm reminds us that we are God’s hands and feet in the world and we are invited to show the kindness and thoughtfulness that marks us as God-followers. It is OUR job to support all who fall down and are bent low. I don’t know about you, but when I’m mad at the internet company, I don’t have any kindness in me for anyone. Forgive me, Lord. Take away my selfishness so that I might be of use to you!

How can you reflect God’s compassion and patience today? Who needs your saving touch? Where can you extend mercy instead of frustration? God listens to his people’s cries for help….it’s up to us to listen with him. Come Lord, and empty out our hearts so that we might be filled with faithful love.

His Faithful Love Endures Forever by Michelle Robertson


Thirsty?

Thirst is an issue in these dog days of summer. Being outside for even a nano-second (with mascara melting and sunglasses fogging) is an instant dehydrator. Here on the Outer Banks the relentless heat index has made us feel as though we are living on the surface of the sun. Just getting to the car to go grocery shopping is thirsty work.

Have you ever considered the things people thirst after that aren’t hydration? Some people thirst after fame. Some thirst after power. Some thirst for wealth. Others for equality and inclusion. Some things are worthy of our thirst and others are frivolous. We can either drink the clear and healthy water that sustains us and helps us thrive, or we can try to satisfy ourselves with sugary soda pop. God has created us to know a good thirst from a bad one, and to seek to satisfy that thirst with healthy things rather than waste our resources on things that will never satiate us.

But we still keep reaching for the soda pop.

God has a better offer.

Isaiah 55 (Contemporary English Version)

If you are thirsty,
    come and drink water!
If you don’t have any money,
    come, eat what you want!
Drink wine and milk
    without paying a cent.
Why waste your money
    on what really isn’t food?
Why work hard for something
    that doesn’t satisfy?
Listen carefully to me,
and you will enjoy
    the very best foods.

I think the conflict we face is between taking a quick and easy fix for our problems or accepting the free grace and mercy that the Lord offers.

I know a woman who is struggling in her marriage. Her alcohol consumption exacerbates the situation. She knows that. Night after night she chooses to drink, which causes her to say critical and harsh things to her spouse. She recognizes that she is invited to drink from the Living Water that is Christ, who offers patience, perseverance, and forgiveness, but that would require sobriety. Christ alone is able to quench her thirst, but instead she drinks from the wasteful bottle of avoidance and anger, which will never, ever satisfy.

Pay close attention!
    Come to me and live.
I will promise you
the eternal love and loyalty
    that I promised David.
I made him the leader and ruler
of the nations;
    he was my witness to them.

No matter what you are thirsting after today, God has an unlimited well of goodness that is offered without price. His healing mercies flow from the font of the resurrection. When you drink freely of the water he has to offer, you will be blessed with a life that provides the very best foods of peace, wholeness, and contentment.

Thirsty? Try Jesus. Come to him and live and you will receive the eternal love and loyalty he offers to all. When you drink the Living Water you will never be thirsty again.

The Thirsty Come by Kathy Schumacher

Abundance

One of the interesting things about life is negotiating the personalities of individual members in a group. In families, offices, institutions, and churches, people fall into different and sometimes opposing categories when it comes to taking a risk. Some are optimists, some are pessimists, some are risk-takers, others have a serious aversion to taking chances, some are followers, and some are leaders. If you ever want to see this in action, attend your church’s Finance Committee meeting. As the saying goes, “it takes all kinds.”

To put it another way, some are Tiggers and some are Eeyores. Tiggers see abundance. Eeyores see scarcity. One’s ability to take risks is firmly grounded in which one you are.

I fall into the risk-taking, glass always full, Pollyanna-lives-in-my-soul category, so I am always grateful to be balanced by the risk-averse folks who keep us in line and counsel caution. But sometimes God’s plan involves taking great leaps of faith.

I love the interplay between Jesus the risk-taker and the disciples, who are seriously risk-averse in this well-known story about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

Matthew 13 (Contemporary English Version)

13 After Jesus heard about John, he crossed Lake Galilee to go to some place where he could be alone. But the crowds found out and followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw the large crowd. He felt sorry for them and healed everyone who was sick.

Jesus saw the sick and felt sorry for them. What a beautiful statement of who Jesus is. He had tried to get away from the hustle and bustle of Messiah-life, and was probably feeling very burned out. I can relate, and I bet you can, too. If we all had a chance right now to get away to a place by the lake to just rest, I bet we would cherish that. But Jesus, ever mindful of people’s needs, tended to the large crowd.

15 That evening the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This place is like a desert, and it is already late. Let the crowds leave, so they can go to the villages and buy some food.”

16 Jesus replied, “They don’t have to leave. Why don’t you give them something to eat?”

Here is the risk-taker at work. He tells the disciples that the people don’t have to leave because the disciples can give them something to eat. The Eeyores in the group looked at each other and likely thought the same thing: “W-W-With what??”

Jesus was teaching them to appreciate what they had and realize that everything we have is subject to multiplication. The trick is to offer it to the One who will multiply it for our good.

17 But they said, “We have only five small loaves of bread and two fish.” 18 Jesus asked his disciples to bring the food to him, 19 and he told the crowd to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish. He looked up toward heaven and blessed the food. Then he broke the bread and handed it to his disciples, and they gave it to the people.

In the Savior’s hands, the meager resources are offered to heaven and blessed. They provided so much food that there is an abundance of twelve large baskets of leftovers. God is never a God of scarcity, but always a God of abundance.

20 After everyone had eaten all they wanted, Jesus’ disciples picked up twelve large baskets of leftovers.

21 There were about five thousand men who ate, not counting the women and children.

The question for us today is, where are YOU offering your resources? Don’t be fooled. Just as the Lord can multiply what you offer him, so too can the Enemy. If all you offer is hate, violence, anger, selfishness, and vitriol, you can be sure the Enemy will take that and multiply it in a hurry.

But when you offer love, compassion, prayer, generosity, and peace, heaven will bless and multiply that in great abundance.

The choice is yours. What’s in your basket?

God’s Daily Abundance by Michelle Robertson

For the Good

A very long time ago, I worked for a wonderful church that went through a major building project. We purchased 63 acres of land three miles from our building and built a second campus with a thousand-seat worship center. Just months before we took occupancy of the building, the congregation was invited to write their favorite scripture on the concrete floor before the carpet was laid. Folks were encouraged to figure out where they would probably sit in the new sanctuary (based on where they sat every Sunday in the current one) and write their scripture in that spot. See! We understand how important “your pew” is to you!

The other pastors and I chose a place in the front where we anticipated sitting. I took the big Sharpie pen and wrote, “For God can use ALL things for the good of those who love him, and who are called to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I left that church 11 years ago, and those words are still there on the floor. I have experienced the truth of that scripture all of my life. No matter what comes our way….death, cancer, job loss, estrangement, pandemics….God can use those things for our GOOD.

If we let him.

And that’s the point.

Let’s back up a moment and look at that verse in its context:

Romans 8 (Contemporary English Version)

26 In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. 27 All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God’s people.

The power of these two verses is profound.

When we are weak, the Spirit is here to help.

When we don’t know how to pray, all we have to do is groan.

God knows our thoughts at all times.

He understands what the Holy Spirit is doing…and what the Holy Spirit is doing is praying the prayer you can’t form the words to say.

Feel better yet?

 28 We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him.

Here is the trick. God is always at work for our good, but we have to yield to his understanding of what is good. We have to train ourselves to have the faith and humility to lay down our concept of “good” in exchange for his.

When I left that church, I was convinced it wasn’t a good thing. I was wrong. When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I knew no good would come of it. Good things did come. When this horrific pandemic hit, I gave up all hope that there would be anything good in life again. Yet all around me I see evidence to the contrary. I see people reaching out to help others in ways they NEVER would have done in their pre-pandemic busyness. I see families slowing down and spending quality time with each other. I see ingenuity, creativity, compassion, and scientific understanding growing exponentially. People are reading more scripture and experiencing the presence of God in new and surprising ways. And as a nation, we are confronting and discussing centuries-old issues that we have suppressed for way too long. Do we see a lot of bad right now? Absolutely. But yielding to God’s understanding of “good” requires that we see beyond the bad.

Need more convincing? How about this:

Because we are driving less, places like Washington DC, Los Angeles, and cities in China are reporting the cleanest air they have seen in decades.

Less large ship traffic in the waters is providing relief during the annual migration of sound-sensitive animals such as humpback whales.

Walmart just announced they will be closed this Thanksgiving. Folks, that is not only good, it’s a miracle!

So is the pandemic good? Oh, heck no. But can God use bad things for our good in some way? Yes. Even in this horrific time, God is still and always will be working for our good.

Where can you claim the good today? What one thing has gotten better since this started? What aspect of your life would you not go back to when the pandemic is lifted?

Think on those things, and ponder them in your heart today.

Quiet at the Docks by Michelle Robertson

The Smallest Seed

We are supposed to be having Vacation Bible School right now at my church, but of course the pandemic has changed that. It is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I have always had the role of storyteller at VBS, and the creative fun that ensues with sweaty, wiggly kids is one of the best parts of being a pastor.

Today’s parable took me back to a time when I was working with two off-the-wall pastors at VBS. We shared the story time, and I suggested we create a “growing plant” to use for this parable. You make it by rolling folded sheets of newspaper into a tight roll, and then cut slits from the top of the roll about half way down through all but the outer sheet. Then you tape around the base to secure it. When you reach inside and pull out the very center sheet, it grows into a large tree-like thing. If you use enough paper, it can be over six feet tall.

So I prepared several of these to use with each group, and the three of us took turns telling parts of the story.

Well, if you’ve ever been to VBS, you know that toward the end of the week and by the end of the day, the participants get punchy. So do the pastors. So at our last session, as I was pulling the paper out and making the tree grow, the narrating pastor decided to change the story and described how the mustard tree attacked the farmer. On cue, the other pastor grabbed the tree and pretended it was attacking him. His academy award-winning performance included the tree pushing him down as he wrestled with it, causing him to roll off the steps of the chancel and down the center aisle.

Well, that’s one way to tell the story! The kids LOST it. I still laugh at the memory of it!

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

The applications here are endless.

With a tiny grain of hope, life is renewed.

With the smallest seed of faith, peace is restored.

With just a little perseverance, a door is unlocked and you are set free.

With one man’s actions on a cross two thousand years ago, an entire world was saved.

With one word gently spoken, a lashing out of anger is prevented.

With one small act of kindness, a day is made.

With one selfless move, an accident is prevented.

With one smile, a stranger decides to hang on for another day.

With one quick phone call, a lonely person is comforted.

The question for us today is, where is God calling you to be that one small thing? What little effort on your part could turn things around for someone else?

You are the mustard seed. Go and plant peace, hope, and love in someone’s heart. You can make all the difference in someone’s day today.

From Small Seeds by Barbara Hudson

Talk About It

What do you like to talk about with your friends? Do you discuss current affairs? Family updates? The weather? Fashion? Politics…..oh, never mind. Hardly anybody ventures THERE any more!

I have a delightful moment once a week when I ZOOM with my two daughters and my niece. We talk about everything and anything. We catch up on the news of their children and jobs, we discuss the pandemic, we giggle about a feisty lady named Nancy whose room is opposite my niece’s office in the nursing home where she works, and we recommend books and shows we have enjoyed binging during the Pandemic.

Apparently there is a Japanese show called “Terrace House” that captured their imagination. I tried to interest them in the History Channel’s survivalist competition “Alone,” but I’m sure I lost them when I described how a contestant not only took down a 600 lb. moose, but killed a wolverine WITH AN AX. Those were my exact words as our free ZOOM call cut off, and that benediction has stayed with them for a week. “WITH AN AX!”

The content of our conversations with one another reveals who we are. Talking is our way to spur one another on, offer encouragement, support each other, give suggestions and corrections, and speak out loud the things that are nestled in our hearts.

In today’s psalm, we hear a call to speak about our Lord. We are invited to tell about his deeds among the people. We are asked to talk about his wondrous works:

Psalm 105 (New King James Version)

Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

Think back for a moment when you first learned about God and his love for you. You didn’t fall into that knowledge in a library, most likely. I’m guessing you didn’t take a walk on the beach and have a sudden revelation. No, chances are SOMEBODY TOLD YOU.

He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,”

So here is your challenge for the day: go and tell. Tell somebody about God’s goodness in your life and his covenant of love that lasts forever. Talk about what having a relationship with God means to you. You may be the only Jesus somebody will see and hear today!

Go, and tell.

This little guy came to Worship on the Lawn. Photo by Sharon Whitehurst

A God-Listening Heart

Can you imagine God coming to you tonight and asking you, “What can I give you? Ask.” Whoa. I have no idea what my answer would be. What would yours be? Wealth? Riches? A clean house? A car that doesn’t break down? Two hours just to yourself? A year’s salary without having to work? The pandemic gone in an instant? Your baby sleeping through the night?

This passage in 1 Kings presents us with this exact scenario. King Solomon has just taken the throne from his father David, and has gone to Gibeon to worship. God meets him there in a dream and tells Solomon that he can ask for anything.

1 Kings 3 (The Message)

4-5 The king went to Gibeon, the most prestigious of the local shrines, to worship. He sacrificed a thousand Whole-Burnt-Offerings on that altar. That night, there in Gibeon, God appeared to Solomon in a dream: God said, “What can I give you? Ask.”

Of ALL the things a person might request, Solomon chooses something very unexpected…he asks for a “God-listening heart.”

Solomon said, “You were extravagantly generous in love with David my father, and he lived faithfully in your presence, his relationships were just and his heart right. And you have persisted in this great and generous love by giving him—and this very day!—a son to sit on his throne.

7-8 “And now here I am: God, my God, you have made me, your servant, ruler of the kingdom in place of David my father. I’m too young for this, a mere child! I don’t know the ropes, hardly know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of this job. And here I am, set down in the middle of the people you’ve chosen, a great people—far too many to ever count.

“Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?”

Indeed, who on their own is capable of leading God’s people? Who alone is able to discern the difference between good and evil? Can anyone lead well without listening to God? A God-listening heart is what every leader needs. Leaders need wisdom, patience, discernment, and the ability to set aside personal agendas in order to follow God’s plan to the letter.

This passage today is a reminder to us that we need to pray that our elected leaders, from the White House to Capitol Hill to the local mayor’s office, would have God-listening hearts. Our prayers should be focused on asking God to help them lead and govern well. And we need to pray that our church and school board leaders have the ability to discern God’s direction and plan things according to his wisdom.

Friends, pray for your leaders…and pray for the rest of us, that we, too, would tune our hearts to listen to God.

Watch what happens next and see how God blesses Solomon’s humility with things he didn’t even ask for:

10-14 God, the Master, was delighted with Solomon’s response. And God said to him, “Because you have asked for this and haven’t grasped after a long life, or riches, or the doom of your enemies, but you have asked for the ability to lead and govern well, I’ll give you what you’ve asked for—I’m giving you a wise and mature heart.

A wise and mature heart. Oh God, grant us this as well!

There’s never been one like you before; and there’ll be no one after. As a bonus, I’m giving you both the wealth and glory you didn’t ask for—there’s not a king anywhere who will come up to your mark. And if you stay on course, keeping your eye on the life-map and the God-signs as your father David did, I’ll also give you a long life.”

May we all stay on course and keep our eyes on the life-map that God himself has already laid out for us. Give us your wisdom, oh God!

Keep Your Eyes on the God-Signs by Michelle Robertson

Truly Happy

What would it take for you to be truly happy? Deeply, unquestionably, full-tilt happy? I know that is an enormous question, especially if you are reading this first thing in the morning. You may need to go grab another cup of coffee.

I think that there are some answers that come more easily than others. For those who are in places or systems of oppression, “being free” probably comes to mind. For those who are battling a serious illness, “being well” is a natural response. I would hazard a guess that for everyone reading this today, “the end of the pandemic” rings true.

Those responses represent things that are beyond our control. What is something you can control that would bring you happiness?

Psalm 128 (Common English Bible)

Everyone who honors the Lord,
        who walks in God’s ways, is truly happy!

There is always a practical simplicity to the Psalms, isn’t there? The Psalmist boils true happiness down to two precepts: 1. honor God, and 2. follow his ways.

Other translations use the word fear in place of honor. I have never cared for that, as we tend to define fear as be afraid when we read it. But fear is understood here as reverential trust. That changes it, doesn’t it? Having a reverential trust of God and following his commandments is the key to happiness. Simple, right?

Wrong.

For most of us, following God’s ways as spelled out in God’s Word is very difficult indeed. Our need to assert our free will, our need to have things our own way, our weakness against temptation, and our easily distracted lives get in the way. We can read and study God’s Word until the cows come home, but living God’s Word is a different matter all together.

But the Psalmist goes on to describe the reward for honoring God:

You will definitely enjoy what you’ve worked hard for—
    you’ll be happy; and things will go well for you.
In your house, your wife will be like a vine full of fruit.
  All around your table, your children will be like olive trees, freshly planted.
That’s how it goes for anyone who honors the Lord:
    they will be blessed!

That’s how it goes! Honor God, and you and your family will be blessed by knowing that you are faithfully serving in ways that are meaningful and significant.

When we truly honor God, we make what is important to him important to us. When we follow his ways, we behave in the way that Jesus behaved…tolerant, accepting, forgiving, inclusive, and most of all, loving. Every day that we make strides in those areas we are guaranteed to come closer to true happiness.

May the Lord bless you from Zion.
    May you experience Jerusalem’s goodness your whole life long.

Blessings, goodness, and happiness await those who walk with God. If you don’t have those things in your life right now, consider the path you are on. Good things come to those whose lives are turned toward God.

Look for the Cross by Bonnie Bennett

A Chance to Change

When you are raising children, you work every day to teach them the difference between right and wrong. It is a parent’s job to show their kids how to make the right choices, say the right words, and do the right thing. Even when they become adults, this is still a parent’s fervent prayer, because we know that doing what is right is inherently the safest way for us all to live.

Stay in your lane.

Don’t dump toxic waste into the river.

Drive the speed limit.

Recycle your trash.

Don’t swim when the red flags are out.

Buy the low emission car.

Don’t steal what isn’t yours.

Wear your seatbelt, don’t smoke in Non-Smoking areas, never drink and drive, stop for pedestrians crossing the street, and don’t go into an area marked, “Do Not Enter.”

God, like a good parent, teaches us the difference between right and wrong, and good and evil. It is in his very nature to do what is right, and in his case, it involves showing mercy even for those who doubt him. He spares every person, but he has no patience for pride. Especially the kind of pride that makes us think we can ignore his rules.

Wisdom of Solomon 12 (Common English Version)

16 Your strength is the very origin of doing the right thing. Because you rule over all, you spare all. 17 You show your strength to those who doubt how powerful you really are. You condemn the pride of those who should know better than to doubt you.

God’s sense of right includes exercising careful judgment. This is probably the exact point where humanity goes a different way. I don’t know a single person who is capable of that. We are quick to judge and too selfish in wanting to do things our way. We take a lot of pride in exercising our individual rights.

18 Still, though you rule absolutely, you exercise careful judgment. You govern us with amazing restraint. If you wanted to, you could do anything you wished. 19 By your actions, you taught your people that those who do what is right must always want what is best for others.

God’s litmus test is simple. Those who do what is right are those who ALWAYS want what is best for others. If your sense of what is right is good for you but harmful to others, you’ve missed God’s mark.

Your sons and daughters saw that you give to those who have sinned a chance to change their hearts and minds. In this way you encouraged them.

Think about your attitudes and your behaviors. Do they match up with God’s standard? Do they reflect an attitude that puts what is best for others ahead of what is best for you? Or is your need for individual freedom outweighing what is best for the common good?

It’s never too late to change. God always offers us a chance to change our hearts and minds.

It’s never too late to do the right thing.

Time for a Change by Michelle Robertson

No One Else

So many little gods! So many things to worship! From presidents to kings to Netflix to scientists to football teams to favorite causes, we have a lot of options. And what we worship becomes our focus. Our thoughts, priorities, decisions, and our resources are all dedicated to the god we serve.

Take a look at our behavior. We fly the flags of our royalty from our boats and balconies. We spend endless hours sitting in the glow of the majesty of our chosen television king. We fund the opportunity to gather together as loyal subjects in stadiums and theme parks without regard to the needs or safety of others around us. We adulate wealthy businessmen, pro athletes, movie stars, and even stand in awe of institutions of higher learning. And we spend a lot of time shouting down people on social media when they don’t support a cause we venerate…

What do we do, though, if all those little gods are taken away? If sports are canceled, if universities don’t open, if movies and TV shows stop being produced…what if all the king‘s horses and all the king’s men can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again? What will be our god then?

Isaiah 34 (Contemporary English Version)

I am the Lord All-Powerful,
the first and the last,
    the one and only God.
Israel, I have rescued you!
    I am your King.

God makes it clear that he is our all-powerful, first and last, one and only King. Any bowing down to anything else is futile. There is nothing that can compare to God. When it all falls away, God is still there.

Can anyone compare with me?
If so, let them speak up
    and tell me now.
Let them say what has happened
since I made my nation
    long ago,
and let them tell
    what is going to happen.

No human power can predict what is going to happen. No little god of government, science, statistics, medicine or opinion can say with 100% accuracy what is going to happen. No one entity can compare with God.

Don’t tremble with fear!
Didn’t I tell you long ago?
    Didn’t you hear me?
I alone am God—
no one else is a mighty rock.

God indeed told us long ago that he is with us, and is always working for our good. Yet we turned away and began to kneel down to other gods.

What are you worshipping that takes God’s place? What have you put on his throne? Who or what are your little gods, requiring all of your attention? ALL of those are failing right now. If this pandemic is good for anything, it is that all of our little gods have been exposed, one by one.

God alone is God, and he is mighty, immovable, impenetrable, and intractable. He is our solid ROCK. We need not fear. There is no one else. On Christ the solid rock we stand…all other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

The Wise Man Built his House upon the Rock (Vernazza, Italy)