“For You have been a strong-place for those who could not help themselves
and for those in need because of much trouble.
You have been a safe place from the storm and a shadow from the heat.
For the breath of the one who shows no pity is like a storm against a wall.
Like heat in a dry place, You quiet the noise of the strangers.
Like heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the one who shows no pity is made quiet.”
The background story is of foreign invaders massing at the borders. The pressure is building and the sense of helplessness increasing. What can we do Lord? We are without resources in the face of such power.
The phrase “the one who shows no pity” is sometimes tranlsated “ruthless.” The enemy that is coming is implacable and relentless. And it’s not just a question of danger but of brute ignorance. The “song of the one who shows no pity” is the braying, jeering football= chant of a mob. It’s the “noise of strangers” who don’t even understand our language.
And Isaiah prophesies three levels of protection.
The enemy will come, but it will be like a a storm beating against a wall. You will hear the howl and rage of it, but the wall will hold. “I am a strong place for those who cannot help themselves.” Be still. Be confident. Storms will come, but
The Lord is your shelter
“And the rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”(Matthew 7:25)
Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. Just look at the word “and” in 7:25. Jesus does not say “if the rain falls” or “if the floods come” or “if the winds blow.” He says, “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house”.” Jesus tells you straight-up that storms will come and you will not be spared! And if you’ve walked with Christ for any length of time, you’ve observed that people who hear and do the words of Jesus have the very same crises in their lives that people have who don’t do His words.
Obedience to Christ does not mean you will not get rained on.
Anyone who tells you that the Christian life is all sunny days has lied to you. Nevertheless, the storms are what test us. Living in the sunshine of life doesn’t tell us much about ourselves. Anybody can build a house that will stand firm when the sun is shining and the wind is still. It is the storms that reveal the strength of your foundation.
But when the storm comes, says the Lord, “I will be your wall, and it will break against me, and I will hold.”
The second picture of the enemy is of a relentless, scorching heat. It destroys everything that is green and living. It’s the scorch of the desert, the withering blaze of high noon. And God promises the protection of clouds.
And the heat is diffused “by the shadow of a cloud.” What a relief. “Lord, You have been [not only] a safe place from the storm [but] a shadow from the heat.”
That means that life can continue, that things can grow. It’s the oasis promise of possibility. ” I am with you.”
The Lord is your shade
Psalm 1:3 speaks of those who are “like a tree planted by streams of water” and Revelation 7:17 promises “springs of living water.” Isaiah points to a day when
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus . . .1
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.” (35:1, 6b-7)
In a sun-parched land, we are able to “abide in the shadow of the Almighty “(Psalm 91:1); as if in “the shade of a great rock in a weary land ” (Isaiah 32:2); for
“The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.” (Psalm 121:5-6)
The Lord is your shade! And,third,
The Lord is your silence
Amidst the braying noise of the angry mob, God promises quiet and rest. “Be still” means to hush up.It’s a necessary precursor to resting!
Sometimes that “braying noise” is within you, however. It’s not that you wish to escape from something outside, but from something within you.
And God offers you rest.
The Psalms have two main forms of prayer. One is a lament and cry for help. The other is thanksgiving and praise to God. On a more hidden level, there is a third kind of prayer, without demands or explicit expression of praise.
Look at Psalm 131
In Psalm 131 for instance, there is nothing but quietness and confidence: “I have calmed and quieted my soul … hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.”
At times prayer becomes silent. Peaceful communion with God can do without words. “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” Like the satisfied child who has stopped crying and is in its mother’s arms, so can “my soul be with me” in the presence of God. Prayer then needs no words, maybe not even thoughts.
And when the storm of words rises inside your heart and brain, worrying you half to death with anxiety about the future… “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me.” Silence means recognising that my worries can’t do much.
Silence means leaving to God what is beyond my reach and capacity. A moment of silence, even very short, is like a holy stop, a sabbatical rest, a truce of worries.
The turmoil of our thoughts can be compared to the storm that struck the disciples’ boat on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus was sleeping. Like them, we may be helpless, full of anxiety, and incapable of calming ourselves. But Christ is able to come to our help as well. As he rebuked the wind and the sea and “there was a great calm“, he can also quiet our heart when it is agitated by fears and worries (Mark 4).
Lord, you are my strong shelter when the storm breaks.
You are my shade in the heat of the day.
You are my silence midst a welter of words.
I trust you with my today.