How Does God Bring Destruction?
Come, see the glorious works of the LORD:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
Psalm 46 is one of my favorite psalms. When I’m leading a retreat at Laity Lodge, I almost always read this psalm to begin one of our sessions. The psalm writer packed so much into these eleven verses, from the assurance that God is “our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (46:1) to the Lord’s own command in verse 10, “Be still, and know that I am God!”
In the middle of Psalm 46, we find one of the most curious, ironic, and ultimately moving passages in the whole psalter. It begins with an invitation: “Come, see the glorious works of the Lord” (46:8). We might expect to be reminded of the beauty of the countryside or the majesty of the heavens. But Psalm 46 takes a surprising turn: “See how he brings destruction upon the world.” The Hebrew word translated as “destruction” is shammot, a plural noun that literally means “destructions, desolations, horrors.” See the terrible things God has done? What sense does this make? Why should we want to study God’s destructions?
We find an answer in verse 9: “He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” So what does God destroy? War and the weapons of war! God destroys the destroying things of this world. God breaks that which breaks people. God defeats tyranny and violence.
Indeed, it will be glorious when the Lord finally brings destruction to all that wreaks havoc upon our world. Psalm 46 invites us to peer into the future, to the time when God’s peace will fill the earth as he reigns completely. In the meanwhile, we are encouraged by this future vision to celebrate God’s power and to be peacemakers in every area of our lives. To be sure, we cannot usher in the peace of the kingdom by our own efforts. But we can cooperate with God as his agents of restoration, healing, justice, and peace. We do this with hope inspired by Psalm 46.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways have you observed or experienced God’s ironic “destruction”? In what areas of life do you have the opportunity to extend the peace of Christ? How might you be a peacemaker in your relationships? your family? your workplace? your church? your community? your city?
PRAYER: All praise be to you, O God, because your works are glorious.
All praise be to you, O God, because your destructions bring wholeness.
All praise be to you, O God, because you cause wars to cease.
All praise be to you, O God, because you break the weapons of war.
All praise be to you, O God, because you are bringing peace to the earth.
All praise be to you, O God, because the day will come when you will reign fully and finally over all creation. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.