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The River Whose Streams Make Glad

The River Whose Streams Make Glad
By Dr. John Oswalt
Former Wesley Biblical Seminary President

There is a River

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
– Psalm 46:1-5 ESV

There is a device in the theater called a “scrim.” A scrim is a curtain of cheesecloth hung across the stage opening. Something is painted on the scrim fitting the story of the play; perhaps a landscape, or the exterior of a house, or whatever. When the play begins, the house lights are shining on the scrim and the stage lights are out. The scrim appears to be a hard surface. But as the action continues, the stage manager begins to dim the house lights and raise the stage lights. At some point, the audience begins to see dimly that something is going on behind the scrim. Finally, when the stage is fully lit and the house lights are completely out, the scrim is virtually invisible. At some point when the audience is engrossed in the action, the scrim is swiftly and silently raised, and most are not even aware of its going.

That is somewhat like what the Psalmist is saying. In the night an earthquake comes; the seemingly solid mountains are like Jello, quivering and sliding into a tsunami that comes roaring onto the shore. All our comfortable certainties are sliding away! What to do?

Is that chaos reality? Yes, to some extent, the Psalmist says, but it is a scrim. Behind the raging sea and the slip-sliding mountains, there is a deeper, truer reality: a mighty River majestically and quietly flowing through the city. “God is our refuge and our strength.”

Are the virus and all the upheavals it has brought to pass reality? Of course. But it is not all there is to reality. Behind all this “standeth God within the shadows, keeping watch above his own.” (James Russell Lowell) We can look through the chaos, indeed we must look through the chaos to the mighty River who is the true reality. We do not know how long the night will last, nor what it may cost us in the end. But we do know that through the night he will carry us quietly along, and that when the morning comes, he will be seen in all his unending glory – and we will know that he is for us. Keep the faith!

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