Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

Tremble!

 

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
     at the presence of the God of Jacob.

One
Saturday morning when I was a teenager, my friend Mike and I rode our
bikes to our school in order to play handball. The school was deserted,
and we had our pick of the outdoor courts. During the game, three older
boys approached us. They were dressed in gang apparel and carried
menacing chains with them. I sensed that Mike and I were in deep
trouble.

Not knowing quite what to do, I invited them to play
handball with us. They weren’t interested. They claimed to be from a
rival school and were looking to beat up students from our school.
Three of them with weapons versus two of us with a handball didn’t
stack up well. So, in my coolest voice, I tried to suggest alternatives
to the violence that seemed inevitable. Finally, I came up with
something they were interested in: my money. Yet, as I opened my
wallet, I could hardly grasp the bills because my hands were shaking
uncontrollably with fear. The boys seemed to think this was funny, but
I didn’t care, as long as they took my money and left us alone, which
is how the story ended. But it took several minutes before my body was
able to stop trembling.

Psalm 114:7 calls the earth to tremble
“at the presence of the Lord.” The Hebrew verb translated as “tremble”
can also mean “writhe” in pain or “be in labor” while giving birth. It
connotes an uncomfortable body movement, one that happens without our
choice. In the poetic language of Psalm 114, the earth should tremble
in recognition of God’s mighty power, just as the Red Sea parted before
the approaching Israelites (114: 3-5).

Of course, this poetic
language is really meant for us, not the planet on which we live. We
are the ones who need to tremble before the awesome power of God. Yet,
unlike the menacing boys on the handball court, God does not want to
hurt us or to steal from us. Rather, he comes in power and grace to
save us. Thus we tremble before him, not only because we are
overshadowed by his might, but also because we are overwhelmed by his
mercy.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Can you
remember a time in life when you were trembling? What helps you to
glimpse the power of God? What shows you his amazing grace?

PRAYER:
All-powerful and all-gracious Lord, how easily I take you for granted.
I can minimize your might and neglect your grace. Yet every now and
then, your Spirit opens up new vistas for me that I might see you
afresh. Do it again, Lord! Show me your power. Stun me by your mercy.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Amen.

(The
words to this prayer are from the hymn, “Were You There When They
Crucified My Lord,” words and music both anonymous, public domain.)

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