As we enter into these frightening last days of this world, a message of comfort, peace, and hope is given to us in the Psalms. We will need these words as this world descends into great wickedness, calamities, and suffering. Listen, then, to the message which God provided ahead of time for us, in the Psalms, to encourage us to look to him for protection as the world collapses around us and our salvation draws nigh.
Two psalms in particular were pointed out to me by the Lord for this purpose of encouraging us as we go through this world’s collapse: Psalms 29 and 96. Psalm 29 begins with the command to “ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (v.1 NIV).
We are to look to the Lord for strength, not to governments, some of which will become belligerent while others collapse and the whole world descends into chaos. We are to acknowledge the Lord as the source of both glory and strength. This is important to remember in our age when governments are often the main providers for these qualities for many people. Military might and money from the government are frequently looked to by many for assurance in these uncertain times, instead of looking to the Lord and his strength and power. So too do people glorify those with positions of power in government instead of recognizing the One who allows them to rule for a while. “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1 RSV).
The call in Psalm 29 to ascribe to God both glory and strength is echoed in Psalm 96:
“Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; . . . Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth” (vs. 7-9 RSV).
” . . . tremble before him. . . . There will be more reason than ever before to tremble in the last days. For, mixed in with man’s might and wrath will be the might and wrath of God. We are told in numerous places in the Bible that there will unheard of and frightening paroxysms in nature.
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon” (Ps. 29:3-5 NIV).
Picture a little child cowering in a thunderstorm, as the loud peals of thunder and flashes of lightning threaten the child’s little world of peace and plenty that it is used to. That is what the whole world will experience in the storms that will soon sweep across this world. Certainly we can all sympathize with the prophet of old who saw what was to come upon this earth:
“Therefore groan, son of man! Groan before them with broken heart and bitter grief. And when they ask you, ‘Why are you groaning?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that is coming. Every heart will melt and every hand go limp; every spirit will become faint and every knee become as weak as water.’ It is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezk. 21:6,7 NIV).
“The swift will not escape, the strong will not muster their strength, and the warrior will not save his life. The archer will not stand his ground, the fleet-footed soldier will not get away, and the horseman will not save his life. Even the bravest warriors will flee naked on that day,” declares the Lord” (Amos 2:14-16 NIV).
Those who look to the might of their military and the power of government to save them will all lose courage in that coming day; so, too, those who trust in their money and wealth.
“They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them in the day of the Lord’s wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin” (Ezk. 7:18,19 NIV).
All the things of man that people trust in to save them will be shown to be useless when the strong shout of the Lord tears them down and strips them of their former glory. “The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.”
The cedars of Lebanon were huge, glorious trees, sought after even by Solomon for building the temple of the Lord. But the psalm here uses them to represent the tearing down in the last days of all that man glories in and trusts for strength: government, money, 401k, self–anything of this world rather than in God and his strength.
“The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh” (Ps. 29:8 NIV).
The end times is a time of shaking, so that all that is not strong enough to withstand the testing of the Lord will be shaken out and discarded as unworthy of the new, strong world that will replace the old, weak one.
“He has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire'” (Heb. 12:26-29 NIV).
The fire of God will consume all that cannot withstand its heat, the searching and searing fire of God’s holiness and presence. That fire “will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Cor. 3:13-16 NIV).
The mention of ourselves as the temple of God in this passage harks back to the words of Psalm 29, where, after describing some of the stressful and frightening events that will occur when God tests with his fire the earth and those who dwell on it, it goes on to show the other side of this frightening time, the glorious side, where those with eyes to see give glory to God for his coming to this world in power:
“The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!'” (Ps. 29:9 NIV).
This is the key verse in all this. Both Psalms, 29 and 96, contain references to fearful judgments falling upon the earth–judgments so awesome that even the strongest hearts of men will fail them. Yet in the midst of all this calamitous judgment and catastrophic events in nature, there is a people who calmly rest in the temple of God, praising him for his glory in the midst of all this frightening destruction. As the Lord “strips the forests bare, . . . in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!'”
What a dramatic difference between these two groups of people. Those who trust in this world and manmade sources of strength are in terror, as they see those sources shattered and destroyed, while those who trust in the Lord find peace and shelter, even as those same destructive forces rage all around them.
“Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain” (Is. 4:5,6 NIV).
“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the wrath of the Lord” (Zeph. 2:3 RSV).
“This is what the Lord says to me: ‘I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest'” (Is. 18:4 NIV).
Just as the Lord will not be bothered by all the commotion and wrath of men and nature in that time, so will his peace dwell within the hearts of those who love him and trust him, for they are the true temple of God, where his Spirit dwells. And in that temple, they will find shelter and peace that can survive all the tumult around them.
“1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
8 Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.
10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’
11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Ps. 46 NIV).
“Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’ The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
12 let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy;
13 they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth” (Ps. 96:10-13 NIV).
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Ps. 29:10,11 NIV).
When the flood of the evil of man and devil sweeps over this world at the end, we must not give in to fear and despair.
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk. 5:21-28 NIV).
So it will be that many will tremble in great fear such as they have never known before in their lives, because they are not ready to meet the true Lord of all that is, while those who love him and look for his coming will rest in peace, despite being in the midst of the same terrifying events. For them, the shaking and dissolution of the world is turned from a time of fear and ending to one of joy and new beginning. For them, the trees that had been stripped and shattered by the voice of the Lord will sing for joy.
“Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’ The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth” (Ps. 96:10-13 NIV).
That judgment has already begun to fall upon this earth. Wild weather that is described as unprecedented and frightening is becoming more commonplace upon this earth. Unusual signs in the heavens above the earth likewise are increasing in frequency, and will continue to do so. Economic collapse, first in individual nations and then worldwide, is also coming. Then there will follow wars also of unprecedented scope and intensity. The list could go on and on–all with no need to be categorized as wild, fanatical fear mongering, for anyone with eyes to see will be able to discern what is happening.
What, then, are we to do? Well, what did our spiritual ancestors do when the original flood came upon this earth and destroyed it? They got into the ark. God warned those few still loyal to him about the coming destruction and told them to provide for themselves an ark that would save them.
Once again God has warned us of coming destruction, and he himself has provided for us the ark that will save us. That ark is his Son, Jesus Christ. To be saved from the coming destruction we must enter into that ark; we must be in Jesus. How do we become in Jesus? By faith, by trusting in what he has done for us on the cross and his resurrection to save us. This is the “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Ths. 1:10 RSV).
This does not mean that we will necessarily be removed from all the frightening events that will soon take place upon this earth. It does mean that we do not need to fear if we should find ourselves in that situation. For no matter how severe the physical environment, our souls are safe. For God has given us both a command and a promise. The command is to preach the gospel, whether by actual preaching or by the example of our lives. If we do this, God will be faithful to his promise:
“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:11,12 NIV).
Like Paul, we too may be called upon to suffer. But also like Paul, we should entrust our souls to safekeeping in the midst of that suffering. For “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Ths. 5:24 NIV).
With such a promise from One who cannot lie and who is faithful and will watch over our souls and protect us no matter how difficult and frightening may be the world around us, we can have peace. We have his Word on it.
“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11 NIV).
Thank you, Lord, for this promise of peace, as we see the beginnings of the collapse of this world. Grant that we may be faithful to you and be a witness to a dying world of the new life that can be found only in you. May the peace that you give us be a powerful witness to those that so desperately need it. Alleluia! Praise the Lord!