Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
There are days when one must turn off the news and go to the prayer closet. Current events sometimes make us uneasy, and the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” type of yellow journalism permeates the twenty-four-hour news cycle. And while I sit here and write, the big story is the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s pretense is that Ukraine is committing genocide against the “ethnic Russians” living in Ukraine. There has been no evidence produced supporting this claim, of course, but there is evidence that pro-Russian militants have committed crimes, some violent, within Ukraine.
In 2014, for example, Pro-Russian militants seized the building housing the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine in Horlivka. Armed men gave the brethren of the congregation assembling in the same building as the Central church of Christ three hours to remove those contents from the building the members wanted. Thankfully, no one was injured.1 But as I think of the location of the current branch of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine2, about 50 miles southwest of Kyiv, I cannot help but be concerned for my Christian brethren impacted by the specter of war in Ukraine. After all, Russia has already bombed the Ukrainian capital.
Then there are the less important factors than human life that produce potential anxiety. For example, what is going to happen to the price of petroleum? Authorities say it is going up. WSB in Atlanta reported that “experts” believe that the sanctions placed on Russia will cause gas prices to increase to a national average of $4 a gallon by March or April.3 Higher gas prices lead to higher transportation costs, which causes the costs of goods to increase. In a country already hit by the highest inflation in 40 years, we might view such painful side effects from trying to rein Putin as too much.
Plus, one wonders if we now hear the renewed drumbeats of global war. Some pundits lay the blame for this at the feet of the current U.S. President, whom they claim looks weak to foreign leaders. Thus, neither Putin nor Xi Jinping may refrain from acting upon imperial ambitions. Ukraine is one thing, but what if Putin desires to reconstitute the former Soviet Union? Eventually, that would mean that Putin would invade a NATO country. We would be obliged by treaty to intervene.
Meanwhile, soon after Putin invaded Ukraine, nine Chinese fighter jets violated Taiwan’s airspace.4 This is not the first Chinese incursion into Taiwanese airspace, but the timing is unsettling. China still believes that Taiwan belongs to China. Since 1954, we have been in a bilateral treaty with Taiwan.5 Therefore, if China invades Taiwan, we would be obliged to respond to China’s actions. Granted, we are assuming that the United States will keep the word that it has given to its treaty partners. Possibly, our leaders may try to do so economically rather than placing boots on the ground.
During this time, when the waters of the sea roar and foam and the mountains shake, it is marvelous to know that God is our refuge. This truth is the assurance the sons of Korah provide in Psalm 46. Commentators believe the author wrote the psalm when the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites moved to attack the kingdom of Judah (cf. 2 Chronicles 20.1ff). King Jehosophat prayed for God’s intervention, and God replied by confusing Judah’s enemies. Those enemies ended up killing one another. When Jehosophat rose to face them as God commanded, he found every one of them dead. Thus, God was Judah’s refuge.
Turning our attention once more to Psalm 46, we note three quick points. First, God is our place of refuge when everything around us seems insecure (1-3). Thus, we are told not to fear (2). When we look at the boisterous sea rather than our Lord, we will quickly sink as Peter when he joined Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14.30). Therefore, we must increase our faith (Matthew 14.31). So, there is no reason to feel insecure when the God of peace is with us (Romans 15.33).
Second, God provides us with a walled city (i.e., stronghold) secured by a flowing river of life (4-7). There is debate whether this is a picture of Heaven. Indeed, Heaven has its River of Life. But it was a tactic of siege warfare to cut a walled city off from food and water sources. One such siege by Sennacherib led Hezekiah to construct a tunnel to bring water to Jerusalem (2 Kings 20.20; 2 Chronicles 32). Despite Sennacherib’s bravado, Hezekiah knew that his people would not cry out from thirst. Providence would spare them. Martin Luther, reading Psalm 46.7, was moved to pen the hymn “Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott” (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”). Yes, we find in God that bulwark that is never failing.
Third, God will provide us with what man cannot (8-11). Sometimes we try and solve things on our own. When we feel exasperated, we might even look to our fellow man for answers. It seems that we look around everywhere but to where we should. To this practice, God tells us, “Stop!” The NASB1995 renders it, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (46.10). God will be exalted! And indeed, we see His mighty works that attest to His great power. The sons of Korah tell us in conclusion that God is with us.
Our world feels like a crazy place now. I recently commented that it feels more like 1938 than 2022. In 1938, Adolph Hitler annexed Austria to reabsorb the “ethnic Germans.” In the United States, Americans were still struggling to overcome the Great Depression. So, current events do seem comparable. But, by God’s help, we survived that turbulent time, and we will also live through an uncertain future. God is in control, and He tells us that He will provide us with refuge. So, we must cease our striving and enter it.
1 Tryggestad, Erik. “Church Building Seized (Updated).” The Christian Chronicle, The Christian Chronicle, 25 May 2014, christianchronicle.org/pro-russian-militants-seize-church-of-christ-building-in-eastern-ukraine-during-sunday-worship/.
2 “Ukraine.” Bear Valley Bible Institute, Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver , www.wetrainpreachers.com/ukraine.
3 “Experts Say to Expect Gas to Hit at Least $4 a Gallon over Ukraine Invasion.” WSB, Cox Media Group, 25 Feb. 2022,www.wsbtv.com/video/local-video/experts-say-expect-gas-hit-least-4-gallon-over-ukraine-invasion/9fa41005-9f2f-400e-a20f-5ce2a25d2b75/.
4 Olson, Wyatt. “Chinese Fighter Jets Sortie into Taiwan’s Air Zone on Heels of Ukraine Invasion.” Stars and Stripes, Stars and Stripes, 24 Feb. 2022, www.stripes.com/theaters/asia_pacific/2022-02-24/taiwan-fighter-jets-airspace-chinese-aircraft-ukraine-russia-5134525.html.
5 Ward, Alvin. “67 Countries the U.S. Is Obliged to Go to War For.” Mental Floss, Mental Floss, 7 Feb. 2015,www.mentalfloss.com/article/65816/67-countries-us-obliged-go-war.