God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. – Psalm 46:1-6
This passage provides a reflection of some of the language from Psalm 23. It also aptly describes the tumultuous and tenuous nature of the western coast of North America. Many locations quite literally have mountains that “fall into the heart of the sea”. The reason for this is that the tectonic plates along western north america are actively colliding with one another, which is why there are frequent earthquakes in California. Mountains are continually being built as a result of these continental-scale collisions – “the mountains quake with their surging”.
As mountains grow along the Pacific Ocean they come into conflict with the waves and breakers that “roar and foam” at their base. Large chunks of the foot of the mountains are removed through wave erosion. Removal of the lateral support for the mountains causes the “earth to give way” and the end result is that entire sections of mountains, and anything built on them, fall into the sea. The rugged beauty of the coast is a result of this shifting of mountains and the great power of the sea.
The dangerous and unstable coast is contrasted with a river “whose streams make glad the city of God”. How do rivers and streams differ from the waves and breakers of the coast? Rivers can certainly cause erosion and landslides as the people of Oso, Washington learned during the tragic landslide of March, 2014. So what makes the city of God glad of rivers and streams in a way that they are not about coasts and waves. Perhaps it is that rivers, although occasionally destructive, are also very important in creating farmland and supporting life. Rivers are like the lion and the lamb — the One River.
Prayer: God you are the one river from which brings both blessings and floods. Thank You for being both our refuge and strength.
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