The Fog, The Fire and The Shadow
“O Praise His Name forevermore!” In spite of circumstances.
There have been times in my life when I feel like I can’t see through the fog, I can sense the enemy uncomfortably close, and the knowledge of impending danger is looming large. Just imagine the Israelites in the wilderness as they found themselves facing the red sea with Pharaoh and his army breathing down their backs. They were in a deep haze as a pillar of cloud stood behind them coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.” (Ex 14:19) That would have been pretty crazy to hear their whispers, feel the ground slightly tremble at their footsteps, even stand potentially so close that you could almost taste the salt of their sweat.
But what if the haze is God’s grace? What if we could see through it with eyes of faith? What if in the moment we could choose to rest? Sleep even? What if instead of a fog of battle, we bask in a cloud of glory?
“Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other so neither went near the other all night long.” (Ex 14:19)
I see the truth of this idea played out in Psalm 23 with a beautiful invitation from God. Just think. Right there in the middle of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, God “makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:2) God seems to get a kick out of humiliating the enemy based off of Col 2:15 that states that He made a public spectacle of him (the enemy). Why else would God choose to throw a picnic in the middle of the enemy’s choice haunt if not to humiliate him and teach us he is nothing to fear?
He is teaching us to trust Him. To not panic. It’s what a good Parent does. He doesn’t permit us to remain afraid of anything that He has handled. Generally, a good Parent will put you right into the middle of what you believe could kill you in order to make you master of it. It’s why most of us know how to swim. It’s why we know how to handle fire.
Ponder for a moment those ancient Israelite boys that find themselves in such a hot mess in Daniel 3:19-27. It’s a fairly simple story. They loved God. The enemy of God hated them for it and tried to kill them. That’s the same old tale. It’s all he’s got. He’s so uncreative. God on the other hand, turns that stale story into a breathtaking wonder. Those boys got thrown into a fiery furnace just for being faithful. But as The Story unfolds, we see them basking in the glory of God, Emmanuel, with them in the fire. Those who threw them in, however, fell into their own trouble (Psalm 35:7,8). Imagine that. It will really never be a question of whether or not the fire will come to us. It will. It’s a question of which side of it we are on and Who handles it. The only thing about those faithful men that burned were the cords that had them bound as they went in. Scripture records that they came out not even smelling like smoke. That’s our God!
So what is it that makes the difference between the fog of battle and the cloud of glory? I believe it’s in the beholding. I believe it’s in Who we see.
We can choose to stare at the fire, the fog, and the shadow, or we can stare at God. We can rest in the middle of what could kill us (like floating on your back), or try and fight our own way out only to sink in anxiety. We can let fear keep us from experiencing the thrill of a miraculous adventure.
We can panic or we can praise the Lord.
Scripture urges us approximately 250 times to praise the Lord. Psalm 149 suggests that we sing aloud on our bed as a starting point for war and overcoming battle. The old hymn, “Count Your Blessings” renders strong wisdom.
We have everything good to rest upon, remember and count:
I cast my mind to Calvary
where Jesus bled and died for me.
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet.
My Savior on that cursed tree...
His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph's tomb.
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone...
Then on the third at break of dawn,
The Son of heaven rose again
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King...
He shall return in robes of white,
The blazing Son shall pierce the night.
And I will rise among the saints,
My gaze transfixed on Jesus' face
There is every reason to “praise the name of the Lord our God, O praise His name forevermore!” We do not need to fear, with such a great Savior; such a beautiful and complete salvation.
Our hearts can actually and confidently experience and love to say, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” and enjoy the moment as a miracle or we can panic, but “surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:5-6)” regardless. Because God is good. Because He will not leave us or forsake us.
O Praise His Name forevermore!