The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you.” (Psalm 87:6-7)
God’s Pandemic Grace
As I remember back just one month ago, we were looking forward to hours of March Madness and Major League Baseball; we were still going to concerts and restaurants, still worshiping together in our churches; there were spring breaks and summer plans just over the horizon; and the endless drone of politics dominated the cable news.
That has all changed.
In truly devastating ways, March 2020 may have come in like a lamb, but it is going out like a lion. More accurately perhaps, what we thought was a lamb was really a wolf in sheep’s clothing all along! And now, as we enter the month of April, one thing is clear: the coronavirus pandemic is REAL, it is EVERYWHERE, and it is DEADLY SERIOUS.
Reading Psalm 87 this week, it appears we are getting a break from some of the gloom and doom of our current situation. This song by the “Sons of Korah,” who served in the Temple, begins with strong words of celebration—God has founded His city on the holy mountain, and He loves it more than any other place (vs. 1-2). It’s all anyone can talk about…it dominates the news! “Glorious things of Thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God!” [Yes, this is where that great 18th-century John Newton hymn comes from.]
It sounds like a victory lap for the people of Israel! Yay, God really does love us best!
But then, the focus shifts away from Jerusalem and toward Israel’s neighbors. Now it’s God’s turn to speak. And surprisingly, he doesn’t CONDEMN Israel’s adversaries or promise their destruction…he INCLUDES them! Egypt (Rahab), Babylon and Philistia were Israel’s sworn enemies for centuries; Tyre and Cush were her economic rivals; but God says of these foreign nations, “I will count them among those who know me…I will write their names in family registry…children of the Most High!” (vs. 4-6) Amazingly, this “city on a hill” called Zion isn’t just a home for the people of Israel…it is a kingdom for all the multi-ethnic, multi-racial people of God…for those who were born into the family and those who were adopted. Yes, All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir!
Whether you were part of the old family or the newly adopted, this was truly good news! But when these “glorious things” were first sung by the Sons of Korah, none of it was true. Egypt and Babylon were still Israel’s mortal enemies, Tyre and Cush still their fiercest competitors. And yet, Psalm 87 looks forward prophetically to the day when the whole world acknowledges that our one true God is REAL, He is EVERYWHERE, and He is DEADLY SERIOUS about establishing His eternal, heavenly kingdom (Philippians 2:10-11). Even in the middle of their driest deserts, all God’s people can sing “All my fountains are in you” (vs. 7).
We are living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic—a word that literally means “all people.” And next week all people—Christians around the world—will celebrate Holy Week together. Once again we will journey with Jesus from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to his betrayal and crucifixion on the cross, to his glorious resurrection on Easter. Sadly, it will be a Holy Week marked by social distancing, so most of us won’t be gathering in our “glorious cities” to celebrate together. After all, the presence of “fountains” doesn’t somehow suggest the desert has disappeared.
I hope that remembering those amazing Holy Week events will give us some respite from the gloomy news of COVID-19. But I pray they also remind us that we, as a world, share more than a pandemic of fear and death. In Christ Jesus, God makes a way to spread a pandemic of grace and life—to enemies as well as friends, to “them” as well as to “us.”
We celebrate the Savior who entered into Holy Week as a sacrificial lamb and who burst out of a tomb as the Lion of Judah! He is the Living Water…all the fountains for a dry and desert world are in Him. Stay safe, stay connected, and stay thirsty for Him.
“If all my fountains are in God, then let all my streams flow to God. All the rivers run to the sea, because they all came from the sea. It was from the sea that the sun drew up the clouds which fed the rills which filled the rivers; and so the rivers run back to the sea. Let us do the same. What we have had from God must go back to God.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)