The promise of the rainbow: Psalm 93

The 4th book of Psalms

Floods are becoming more widespread. It is to be expected as a a sign of global warming on a planet whose surface is 71% water covered: Warmer temperatures means that more vapour evaporates from the oceans and more rain condenses to fall on the land. At the same time, higher temperatures will cause land where there is no rainfall to dry up quicker, and when baked dry water will run off it. With global warming we can expect to hear about more floods and more droughts. Both will cause crop failures.

A single green but withering corn stands in a large field of brown withered corn plants and brown parched earth.
Parched earth

The 4th book of Psalms, those 17 religious songs between psalms 90 and 106, have a theme, God is above us.

The layout is like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

Book 4 answers the questions of Books 1-3 with the message that God is king.

1 The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
    the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;
    you are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
    the floods have lifted up their voice;
    the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
    mightier than the waves of the sea,
    the Lord on high is mighty!
Your decrees are very trustworthy;
    holiness befits your house,
    O Lord, for evermore.

Psalm 93 ESV UK

At the end of the story of the flood, where God saves Noah, his family and a selection of animals. God gives Noah a sign that the Earth will never be destroyed by flood again, the rainbow.

Now fast forward to when this set of Psalms was compiled, the restoration of Jewish worship after the exile in Babylon. God’s Temple has been rebuilt in Jerusalem by Zerubbabel. When this actual Psalm was written is unknown, it has neither a title nor an attribution, but we can be confident that it was used in the new temple by it’s inclusion in this part of the Psalms.

The waters, or rivers, that have risen up are probably the Tigris and Euphrates, the waters of Babylon, seeing as the return from exile is the context of these psalms. The Babylonians had risen up and conquered the land to be in turn overrun by the Persians. Under the Persian king Cyrus the Jewish exiles returned. This is a song of Joy that God is Lord over all, including the kings of Babylon and Persia.

God promised through Jeremiah the prophet that the exiles would return, and now having seen God’s trustworthiness in doing what he said he would do they sing a song of praise. God has saved them now not by preventing them going into exile but by being with them through it.

There is strength in this short song. There is a confidence in God here that comes from having been through trouble with him. They had stayed faithful despite 70 years without being able to worship at the Jerusalem temple. What we have here with churches having been closed for a short time and still closed to singing is minor by comparison.

Covid is an immediate problem, the first stage which requires lockdown is waning is some parts of the world whilst others, particularly India at the time of writing, and the cost in human suffering before herd immunity is acquired, especially where vaccination is difficult due to a scattered population or poor administration, will be vast.

There is another problem facing the world, and like a pandemic it hits the poorest the hardest: Global warming.

God often answers prayer with calling us to action. When the Greek Christians complained that the Jewish Christians were getting more than their fair share in charitable distribution God’s answer was to raise people up people to help in distribution from the Greek community. Acts 6:1-7. It is possible that when we pray about global warming we may be asked why we are driving such a large car, why there are empty seats when we drive to church or why out clothes are made on India. If we care enough to plead with God we should care enough to be called to do something. The third generation Babylonian exiles did not on hearing that they were free sit where they were and say, “It’s OK, God, we are comfortable here now. They did something. They sold their homes in order to return to Judah, despite having no home there.

God’s promise that he will not destroy the world again needs people who will cooperate with him.

< Psalm 92 | Psalm 93 | Psalm 94 >

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