Years ago, a major art gallery sponsored a competition for painters and they were offering prizes for the best painting on the subject of “Peace.” The painting that won was a real surprise. The scene was the ocean in a violent storm. The sky was ominous, the lightning was cutting across the sky, and the waves were crashing into the rock walls of the cliffs by the shore. Where was the peace? You had to look twice to understand what was going on. There, about halfway up the cliff, was a birds’ nest tucked into a tiny hollow in the rock. A mother bird was sitting on that nest with her little babies tucked underneath her, sleeping soundly. That was peace!
Read Psalm 46
What images of God does this Psalm contain?
What is a fort for? …a refuge for? (Times of trouble)
What response is asked for? (Be still and know that I am God)
Like the painting, that’s the Bible’s picture of peace.
Peace is not just the absence of a storm, but rest in the middle of the storm. Whether it’s natural disasters like the Christchurch quakes, or more personal times of hardship, we can have the incredible peace offered in Psalm 46. It is good news for troubled times – “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The psalmist then says, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shakes and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Even when things that have always been there for us fall down or are lost, yet God, “our refuge and strength,” calls us to be at peace through trust in him – “Be still, and know that I am God” .
As Jesus says in John’s gospel:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27
What is the difference between a resort and a refuge?
The Biblical image is of a refuge – but sadly many Christians mistakenly see God as a resort, i.e. where we find a care-free life, where we don’t have to work hard and can ignore the problems of the world. But the Bible does not back that up. God never promised us a ‘rose garden’ as the old song goes. The peace he offers is in the midst of real life, which is often still hard and rarely problem-free – for us or others we may care for or minister among.