Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mighty to Save

Last night, like most of the region, we got caught in a storm. The picture above is one my daughter took with her cell phone just before the storm hit. Twenty minutes earlier, we were listening to WCCO (which usually does a great job with weather stuff) and they were saying this was a fairly minor system, should be passing through the Twin Cities during the evening, and the big question was, would the fireworks in Maple Grove have to be postponed?

We looked to the west at that point and watched a wall cloud sweeping up out of the west. We ended up pulling off the highway at Menard's in Elk River. Just as we drove into the parking lot the storm hit in fury -- rain lashed the parking lot in sheets, wind had vehicles swaying and bouncing. We abandoned the cars and ran inside the store, through the front door that had been thrown off its track by the wind. Four store employees who should have known better were wrestling with the plate glass door, trying to get it fastened down and closed so the rain wouldn't blow in like a firehose, but they were not successful. We hunkered down with the rest of the patrons over by the restrooms, far from windows, and listened to the giant building creak and groan every time there was a gap in the ear-splitting thunderclaps. Forty-five minutes later, the storm had moved east and we drove home past traffic signs bent to the ground, trees and branches littering the highway, and a general swath of destruction that covered the whole northern end of the Twin Cities region last night.

I was thinking about scripture and some of what it says about God:

Nahum 1:3 and following says

His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
and clouds are the dust of his feet.

He rebukes the sea and dries it up;
he makes all the rivers run dry.
Bashan and Carmel wither
and the blossoms of Lebanon fade.

The mountains quake before him
and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence,
the world and all who live in it.

In 1 Kings 19, when Elijah goes to Mt. Horeb to meet God, God sends three "appetizers" that prepare the way for his coming -- a mighty wind that breaks the rocks in pieces, an earthquake, and a fire.

In the classic hymn, "O Worship The King" one stanza declares,

"His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form / And dark is his path on the wings of the storm."

I'm always amazed at how lightly we take God. I keep him around, sort of like my car keys -- when I need access to something, when I need help getting myself from here to there, when I need a temporary shelter, he's right there and I can take advantage of him.

This all-powerful God who dwells in lightning and thunder, who sends storms that shatter the foundations of buildings, and I treat him like a key ring, forgetting him or remembering him as it serves my purpose.

But this God, whom I glimpsed last night in the wall cloud and the lashing rain, who tears oaks limb from limb, is so far beyond me. If I begin to contemplate his power, his strength, the capability of what he can do, I should rather be terrified ... except for one thing.

God chooses to be merciful.

He is powerful beyond my comprehension, yes. But he harnesses that might and turns it toward saving, not destroying, me. Like the song says, he is "Mighty to Save." His wrath lasts but for a moment, but his mercy is for a lifetime.

Luther said that apart from Jesus, the face of God is hidden and God's character is indistinguishable from the devil. If all I knew was the God of the storm, it would be impossible to trust him. But thanks be to God, in Jesus I meet the God who heals, who washes feet, who raises the dead, who forgives sinners. I meet God at the cross and the empty tomb.

I need to remember that though Jesus is merciful, that in him I meet God who loves me, that doesn't change his power or his authority. His mercy, his love, give me all that much more cause to fall at his feet and worship him.

This picture was taken about an hour after the first one as we drove home into the brilliant sunset:


  1. thank you for posting this! i have found myself (more times than i care to admit) seeing only "the God of the storm" because when the scary stuff hits i tend to close my eyes, or hide. but by doing this, i miss the "brilliant sunset". or in the case of my household, the beautiful rainbow. the promise to be with us, to heal us, to love us, and to forgive us. He IS mighty to save.

  2. I love the way Psalm 46 puts this all together -- both the terrifying power of God and the safe refuge that he longs to be for us. Thanks for your comment! (That was a pretty spectacular rainbow, wasn't it? We didn't get any pics, unfortunately.)