You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us; you have been angry—now restore us! You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger. But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow. Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. God has spoken from his sanctuary: “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter. Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.” – Psalm 60:1-8
This passage contains some interesting geological details and a fleeting reference to water. First the geology. The first part of the passage provides a fair description of what geologists refer to as fault scarps. Fault scarps are the surface manifestations of a fracture deep in the earth – a fault. A fault rupture occurs when earth forces, usually due to moving tectonic plates, build up stress like a bending twig. At some point the stress exceeds the strength of the rock and it breaks resulting in “quaking” or earthquakes, movement along faults (“fractures”), and fault scarps (areas “torn open”).
The psalmist appears to be describing a fractured relationship between God and the Israelites. The Israelites prior to the writing of this psalm have experienced all kinds of “earthquakes” in the form of enemy attacks and persecution from neighbors — “desperate times”. This is much of what the book of Kings was about as reflected in previous posts like the One River and Floating Axe Heads. They have often responded to these events more like drunken sailors (“wine that makes us stagger”) than children of God. The psalmist calls out for help and God answers.
God responds to the pleas for help by reminding the Israelites that He rules everywhere and everything — “Moab is my washbasin”. Why this reminder now? I think king David and the Israelites felt that things were spiraling out of control. They were caught in rip currents and raging torrents – carried by circumstances that were beyond their control.
Earthquakes are beyond our control as well. Human actions like groundwater withdrawal or hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can cause minor earthquakes As far as I know humans have never successfully predicted or prevented an earthquake from occurring. So what are we to do with this sense that things are happening that are beyond our control? It is tempting to get angry with God or to conclude that God is angry with us, but perhaps we just need to let go of the idea that we need to be in control.
Experienced river rafters will be able to relate to this concept. When one is navigating whitewater in a raft the river dictates the pace and the path. Successfully navigating big rapids and whitewater is all about working with the natural flow and movement of the river to choose a line that will convey both boat and bodies through the rapid without going for a swim. I don’t know too many rafters that get angry with a given rapid or stretch of whitewater or feel that a rapid is out to get them. They work with the River rather than against it.
I think our walk with God through our time here on earth is like rafting a river. There will be rushing waters and turbulence. We can get angry with God, conclude He is angry with us, or we can view these rapids as an exhilarating part of our journey of discovery of who God is and who we are. I choose the adventure of pursuing God as he dictates the path and the pace — He knows the river way better than I do.
Prayer: God You love us and care for us. Help us to approach life rapids with faith rather than fear.