Regular readers will know I love living near the sea. Ever-changing light, weather and waves fascinate me and provide camera fodder in generous measure.
The other morning I went down to the beach at Aldwick after a night of blustery weather. Endless ranks of waves were coming ashore, and as the crests broke the wind was just strong enough to whip the tops into spray.
A simple thought occurred to me. Nothing could turn back the waves: as every one threw itself against the shingle and rushed into its end, the next surge was following on. The stones and sand swallowed water and pushed back- each defeated wave drained slowly into the maelstrom, and added its weight to the incoming surge.
How like the endless mercy of God! A vast, measureless reservoir of grace flinging itself on to the hard stone of the shoreline. We cannot turn back the tide- it moves to a deeper rhythm and responds to the ceaseless wild wind. However hard our life, our circumstances, the mercy of God keeps pouring over our heads and hearts: we cannot control His love, but we can respond to it even in the storms.
There is a verse in Luke’s Gospel that I have never really noticed before today: a paraphrase of Luke 1:50 reads like this- “His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him.” It comes in the middle of Mary’s great song of exultant praise as she and Elizabeth rejoice in the children they will bear through God’s choice and miraculous action. These women face life changes of a huge scale, but can see the favour of God on them and towards the struggling world.
We cannot exhaust the mercy and grace of God. His love is more vast than any ocean. Think on that, and be at peace! Imagine yourself at the edge of the sea of compassion…
There are two kinds of solitude in the Bible. The good kind, where a person seeks God and in solitude discovers that the Lord Almighty is willing to engage with a sincere searcher.
Then the other solitude- the loneliness of exile, judgment and despair.
Owls feature only a few times in the Old Testament, and usually as a representation of the second kind of solitude. (This owl was in captivity… appropriately!)
The little-known message of Zephaniah is a message of judgment and encouragement with three major reminders:
- 1) God is sovereign over all nations.
- 2) The wicked will be punished and the righteous will be vindicated.
- 3) God blesses those who repent and trust in Him.
It seems that solitude is an inevitable part of life. Either we willingly seek out God, or we risk being “quarantined” and watching all our accomplishments be overrun by the wild.
Listening to world news and international politicians is worrying. It may be an over-simplification, but society has discarded its faith-roots and fallen into a moral decay. This is not unique to our time. Human nature throughout history has been a rollercoaster of civilisation and collapse. Our ultimate and only hope is that the Sovereign Lord God will deliver us; Christ “ushered in” the Kingdom of God and we wait and work for its promise to reach fulfilment.
What should we do? Pray with sincere hearts for our world and its leaders.
Secondly: decide personally whether we wish to choose solitude to discover God- or suffer the solitude of banishment. That could be considered the “naughty step” where we go to think about our conduct and attitude in the hope we might be forgiven and rescued.
Owls tend to be quite solitary creatures. They say owls are wise. What would they say privately in the ear of Presidents, Prime Ministers, and public servants?
Read Zephaniah in full- it is only short- and take in the promise of justice alongside the hope of mercy.