Quakers & the Famine

quaker plaque.jpg

There were Quakers in West Cork since the seventeenth century, and there were once Quakers in Skibbereen, Bandon, Charleville and Youghal. Many Cork Streets and physical features are named from Quaker families, such as Penrose Quay, Beale’s Hill, Pike’s Lane, Newsom’s Quay. The names Baker, Wright, Harris, Beale, Newsom, Haughton and many more are still in popular memory.

The Quaker community is known historically as a Christian body, but lacking such typical features as clergy and liturgies. Its message was first brought to Cork by Elizabeth Fletcher and Elizabeth Smith. Some of the first Quakers were Cromwellians but became convinced that violence and fighting was inconsistent with the peaceable gospel of Jesus Christ. Quaker communal and egalitarian assumptions, as well as their pacifism, challenged  the political and religious establishment. William Penn (1664-1718), writer and statesman, started his Quaker career in Cork. He inherited estates in Shanagarry. Later on he organised Pennsylvania as a  state based on principles of tolerance and democratic discussion.

Cork Quaker families were very inventive and adaptable business people who  avoided monopolies and exploitation. They tried to be useful citizens.  Some became very wealthy, but that was not always good for their spiritual life which aimed at simplicity. Some Quakers owned big houses in what were then suburbs. ‘Bessboro’ was the home of Ebenezer Pike. There were Carrolls at ‘Hyde Park’ and the Penroses at ‘Woodhill’ and Harveys at ‘Tivoli’ and ‘Pleasant Field’ and other families could be named

Many Quakers lived around the centre of Cork. Some were big merchants and others small shopkeepers, trades people or clerks in offices. During the nineteenth century, Abraham Beale owned an ironmongery at Patrick’s Quay and a spade-mill at Monard.  Carroll’s Quay is named after the family of the same name. Penrose Quay commemorates another Quaker and the original office for the St George Steam Packet Company, initiated by individual Cork Quakers still exists.  In Patrick Street were the Newsoms, remembered for their grocery business, the Sikes and the Wrights. The Haughtons once owned an ironmongery in North Main Street.

Quaker Soup KItchen Cork 1847
A London Illustrated News engraving of the Cork Quaker soup KItchen in 1847.

Some Quakers, with their fellow citizens, tried to help the needy in the city. The name of William Martin, a baker, is remembered as one who encouraged Father Mathew to take up the teetotal cause that helped to improve the lives of millions. A Youghal Quaker Anna M. Haslam (1829-1922) (née Fisher) was a pioneering feminist. In 1846, during An Gorta Mór [The Great Hunger] (1845-48) the Quakers set up a relief committee. They hoped their example might give leadership to other citizens.  The Cork Auxiliary was the first to be set up and supplied substantial soup from Adelaide Street.  At centres where there were no Quakers, they worked on a strictly non-sectarian basis through both Catholics and Protestants. With their wide contacts they were able to collect money and import grain and food supplies.

Reblogged from http://www.corkpastandpresent.ie/history/ashorthistoricalaccountofthequakersincork/

Among books on the Quakers in Cork City Library are Merchants, Mystics and Philanthropists: 350 Years of Cork Quakers (2006)and A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Quakers (1997 and 2008 2nd ed) by Richard S. Harrison; Olive G. Goodbody, Guide to Irish Quaker Records(1654-1860)(1967) and Maurice J. Wigham, The Irish Quakers. (1992) .Cork City Archives has microfilms of Cork Quaker records and the Boole Library (UCC) has a significant collection of nineteenth and eighteenth-century  Quaker books.

“Until the hurricane blows over…”



Roy Ray’s sculpture, entitled ‘Where their footsteps left no trace ‘ was produced a few years back for Coventry Cathedral, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the city. It’s a powerful portrayal of the innocent victims of conflict, featuring five sections dedicated to places hit by mass destruction, Dresden, Hiroshima, Auschwitz and New York and  Coventry itself. Assorted fragments -a child’s shoe, the crushed remains of a mobile phone- reflect the human dimension to tragic events.

Because there always is one.

Since we are a human family, we are all connected. Why should it be any more complicated than that?

And this morning as I started my day with the book of Psalms (as I nearly always do), that sense of an individual  caught up in a collective ideology came to me afresh.

It’s in Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Psalm 57:

“Be good to me, God—and now!
    I’ve run to you for dear life.
I’m hiding out under your wings
    until the hurricane blows over.
I call out to High God,
    the God who holds me together.
He sends orders from heaven and saves me,
    he humiliates those who kick me around.
God delivers generous love,
    he makes good on his word.

I find myself in a pride of lions
    who are wild for a taste of human flesh;
Their teeth are lances and arrows,
    their tongues are sharp daggers.

Soar high in the skies, O God!
    Cover the whole earth with your glory!

They booby-trapped my path;
    I thought I was dead and done for.
They dug a mantrap to catch me,
    and fell in headlong themselves.

7-8 I’m ready, God, so ready,
    ready from head to toe,
Ready to sing, ready to raise a tune:
    “Wake up, soul!
Wake up, harp! wake up, lute!
    Wake up, you sleepyhead sun!”

9-10 I’m thanking you, God, out loud in the streets,
    singing your praises in town and country.
The deeper your love, the higher it goes;
    every cloud is a flag to your faithfulness.

11 Soar high in the skies, O God!
    Cover the whole earth with your glory”! (Psalm 57 Message)

The word translated  ” hurricane ” here may also mean a storm of “wickedness, or malignity.” (according to the Pulpit Commentary). It describes a huge, sweeping generalised nastiness,  that forces everyone to think the same way -like the crazed anti-German propaganda that filled Britain just prior to the First World War, so that even the owners of dachshunds were not safe against the belligerent rage of “patriots.”.

It’s like the hatred of foreigners, or the unreasoned fear of people of a different religion. All of them. “Let’s build a big wall and block them out.”

And the writer finds himself caught up in it, carried along in the middle of the mob:

“I find myself in a pride of lions
    who are wild for a taste of human flesh;
Their teeth are lances and arrows,
    their tongues are sharp daggers.”

The use of mixed figures of speech here, which speaks of both wild beasts (`lions’), and spears and arrows, along with the traditional phrases and stereotyped images make it difficult to reconstruct the personal circumstances of the psalmist. Was he being physically attacked, or falsely accused? Or both.

Or something more. An odd  twist of the second line can be translated “people-eaters.” That is to say: “I am being devoured by this storm of hatred.”

Just another day on Facebook then?

So what do I do?  What do I do when another blow-dried demagogue mounts the podium with an accusatory finger and a hundred placards scream out frenzied agreement in a torrent of hate?

I find a storm=sheleter, and quick.

In the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge The metaphor reminds us of the words of Jesus, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but you would not” (Matthew 23)

“Until these calamities be overpast.”   The psalmist was certain that they would indeed pass; but what he needed was support while they endured.

But this isn’t [mere] escapism. It’s a take-stock moment, a count-to-ten spot, so that you can avoid those kneejerk responses that always get you into trouble.It’s described in Romans 12 (in a more relective vein):

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

And that’s what is happening in this Psalm

There’s a counterpoint between the terror of what’s happening on “earth” and the triumph of how God is responding  and acting in “heaven.”

Here’s the NIV version, by way of a morning prayer:

“1 Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,  for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings  until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High,  to God, who vindicates me. He sends from heaven and saves me,  rebuking those who hotly pursue me –      God sends forth his love and his faithfulness. I am in the midst of lions;  I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts – men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.”

And then there’s a shift. It’s as if the Psalmist is saying, “This culture of fear is not what is going to define my thinking, Lord. I want to think your thoughts. I want to see things the way you do.”

And so he finds his storm-shelter. He looks above the tumult, to the God who is over all, who is “above the heavens” and “over all the earth.”

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

They spread a net for my feet –
    I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path –
    but they have fallen into it themselves.

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.



How to amplify the Grace of God


There are two choices on offer in Galatians 2: 15-21. The first is to nullify the grace of God in your life. The second is to amplify it.

Here’s the key passage:

For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.”

So that was Paul’s choice: “I do not nullify the grace of God.”

What did he mean?

The Confrontation

The bigger context is the confrontation between Paul and Peter that is recounted earlier in the chapter (“When Peter came to Antioch I withstood him to his face”). Paul  stood up against Peter, because was employing a double standard. When on his own at Antioch with the gang of new believers he had cheerfully joined in meals with them, but when a Jerusalem delegation hit town he went on his best Orthodox Jewish behaviour, eating kosher food separately.

But it wasn’t just a matter of hypocrisy (which might have been considered common courtesy or respect for distinguished visitors); it was rather the fact that Peter’s behaviour  undermined the very core of the Gospel that Paul was preaching. In fact it nullified the whole concept of grace itself.

So Paul explains the point at some length:

“We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.

But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor…

You either NULLIFY or AMPLIFY Grace…

“The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.”

To put this issue in its simplest terms: You nullify grace through  LEGALISM; You amplify grace by LIVING BY FAITH…

According to Paul, he and Peter were on the same page. “We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…”  We know this stuff! Peter had learnt it at Joppa and at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10-12). It’s as if he’s saying:

“You and I, Peter, we were both brought up as law-keeping Jews not as law-neglecting Gentiles, but now both of us have come to “know” that no one can gain a just standing before God on the basis of efforts to keep laws. We have a shared theology. And ” … even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified …” We have a shared faith too.

The simple point is that if you try to work your way to heaven, you will fail. “By works of the law no flesh shall be justified!”

Is Christ the Agent of Sin?

“But if in our endeavour to be justified in Christ we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not!“ Notice what Paul is admitting and what he is denying.

He is admitting, first, that he and Peter and other Jewish Christians are seeking justification not in works of law but only in Christ. And he is admitting, second, that in doing this they become “sinners”, if he chooses to neglect the dietary laws in order to eat with Gentile brothers and sisters. That’s what he admits.

But he denies emphatically that this makes Christ an agent of sin. Why? Because it is not sin to be a “sinner” in this sense. It is not sin to free yourself from the ceremonial Jewish laws in order to walk in love toward Gentile Christians.

What Paul Has Torn Down

For if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor.” What had Paul torn down in the preceding verse? It’s clear, isn’t it? In seeking to be justified in Christ, Paul had torn down the law as a means of justification.

God gave the law originally as a railroad track to guide Israel’s obedience. The engine that was supposed to pull a person along the track was God’s grace, the power of the Spirit. And the coupling between our car and the engine was faith….

The rail track had been turned into a ladder of achievement, going up higher, rung by rung, by dint of self-effort.

This ladder is what Paul tore down. He tore down the legalistic misuse of the law. And he says (v. 18), “If I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor.”

You transgress the law of God when you try to erect the law as a ladder to heaven on which you will demonstrate your moral fitness for salvation.

 There are two possibilities in religion: you can think of your ability, God’s demand, and the ladder of law; or you can think of your inability, God’s demand, and the free gift of justification by faith.

The old self that loves to boast in its ability to climb ladders must die.

Or you can amplify GRACE….

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?

First, that the gruesome death of the innocent, loving Son of God for my sin is the most radical indictment of my hopeless condition imaginable. The crucifixion of Jesus is the open display of my hellish nature.

And, second, when I see this and believe that he really died for me, then my old proud self dies. Self-reliance and self-confidence cannot live at the foot of the cross. Therefore, when Christ died, I died.

What remains?

First, Christ remains. He rose from the dead, and he took over where the life of pride and self-direction had died.  “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!”

Second: “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” There is a new “I”—I do still live but it is no longer an “I” who craves self-exaltation.

“If justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.” No, I do not make Christ the agent of sin, but you make him the agent of folly. I take my stand beneath the cross of Jesus. I do not nullify the grace of God.  I amplify it!

And when the grace of God is amplified, it has three  consequences.

According to Romans 5: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”

The three consequences are  peace with God, a grace-standing in Christ, and an exultant boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Peace. Grace. Glory.


Watch your load

Are you sure you can carry that load? truckload.jpg

“Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low;
    their idols are borne by beasts of burden.
The images that are carried about are burdensome,
    a burden for the weary.
They stoop and bow down together;
    unable to rescue the burden,
    they themselves go off into captivity.” (Isaiah 46:1-2)

Isaiah is painting a picture – a rather sad sketch- of his beloved nation trailing off into the distance as captives to a foreign power. He sees a long,weary line of refugees evicted from their own country, carrying their prize possessions on ox carts into an uncertain future.

And what are these prize possessions? What are these valuable objects that coudn’t be left behind?

Or to put it another way:if you were forced out of your house today and allowed one van load, what would you put in it?

Genesis 31 contains the odd little story of Rachel taking her “household gods” with her on her camel when she and Jacob left Laban for the long journey home. Something of the same is going on here. And why not? These idols would be valuable, beautifully crafted, and held in high esteem. You couldn’t just leave them, could you?

So “Bel” and “Nebo” go on the ox-cart. They are expensive foreign idols (we encounter  them in the names Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar).

It’s easy to miss the rich irony of Isaiah’s words. These were names relating to the very empire that had brought Israel into slavery. The people had trusted in a totally false power base which had not only brought them low but now simply added to the burden of their own misery.

The false gods were being carried away on  ox-carts already loaded with household stuff, further burdening the weary animals.The gods stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, and now they only add to it.

So what would you have put on your van? After clothes and bedding, food and utensils, you’d look at that big TV in the corner, computers, game consoles, sports stuff, fishing gear… what are the things that you would cling to in the day of trouble, that you wouldn’t want to leave behind?

Now, most of us when we hear the word “idol,” we think of wooden or metal objects on a shelf that people worship. And because we entertain that idea, we often skim over those warnings in God’s Word against worshipping idols. But  idols are just as current and contemporary as your favorite football team, your favorite hobby, or your favorite TV show.

An idol is anything that supplants God in your life.

Joni Eareckson Tada put it like this:

“When I’m in pain, I can either take it to God, or over-medicate it. When I’m bored, I can either expect the Lord to surprise me, or entertain myself with a little online shopping. When I’m speaking, I can either bask in the spotlight, or give the glory to God. When I’m in a discussion, I can either hog the conversation, or defer to others in the room. When I’m depressed, I can either run to the Lord or run to the refrigerator. When I can’t sleep at night, I can either quiet my mind with scriptures, or I can run mental movies of past successes. When I’m working, I can either ask Jesus for His guidance, or become frantic about deadlines. When I’m relaxing, I can either think or read about God, or I can veg out in front of the TV. And this is just the short list.”

We all worship something. We’re just made to do it. Worship is built into our DNA. We are hard-wired to look up and venerate. The only question is: “Who receives that veneration?”

Do we worship God or do we worship the idols of our preference?

Thaere’s no other choice.

And God detests idolatry. He won’t not tolerate it in our lives because He knows that these material things supplant Him as an object of worship. We run to them for comfort and encouragement. But the truth is, as Christopher Wright once said, “The worst thing about idols, as the Hebrew Scriptures so tirelessly point out, is that they are utterly useless when you need them most.”

Jonah 2:9 is powerful: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

When you cling to idols; you know, the little habits, the entertainments and so on, when you cling to them the Bible says you forfeit grace from God. You lose it, you give it up, you surrender it, you part with the grace that could be yours.

But Isaiah isn’t done. If the first two verses show the inadequacy  of idols, the next two show the sufficiency of God. 

The false gods do not support you in the day of trouble.In fact, they weigh you down and make your situation worse. But The LORD, the true God, will carry His people.

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb: Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

Look at the sequence of verbs: upheld, carried, made, bear, deliver. They all refer to a parent-child relationship! This is the living, nurturing reality compared to which our idolatry is inanimate fantasy -just a dumb forgery of the Truth.

And the parent-child relationship is life-long.  The false gods represented by dumb dead idols must be carried; but God carries His people. He carried them from before their birth, and He promises to continue to carry them as long as it takes (“Even to gray hairs I will carry you”).

I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry: This is the same Fatherly care Jesus spoke of in Luke 12:6-7: Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. When we understand that has made us, and we are valuable to Him, then we can trust Him to carry us.

So here’s the thing: do you have to carry your gods, or does your God carry you?


The God of the Storm


There’s something about a storm that shocks us with the sheer power of nature. And every literature in the history of the world has used the picture of a storm outside us to portray something of the storm within. A classic instance is found in Shakespeare’s King Lear (Act 3, Scene 1) where the King’s grip on a mind unhinged by the worst kind of treachery and deceit is pictured as being lost in a thunderstorm

“Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard: man’s nature cannot carry
The affliction nor the fear.”

Throughout the Bible the picture of a storm is connected with the presence and purpose of God. It wasn’t that the people of Israel identified or personified God with the storm, but that the storm was sign of paradox and mystery, and God’s power and control. He was not seen as a “storm god”, as those in the polytheistic mythologies, clutching thunder-bolts and dispensing arbitrary bits of capricious “justice.” Neither was God in the storm, in a pantheistic sense. Rather, the storm was indicative of the manifestation, the result, of His presence.

Think of the descriptions of thunder, cloud and lightening.

The “Pillar of Cloud” guided and protected the Israelites during their escape (Exodus 13:21, 14:19, and 16:10, among others). The Sinai-encounter occurred when the mountain was covered in a cloud (Exodus 19:16). The image of the cloud is connected to the Hebrew term for “glory” כבד.

The cloud hides God from the view of the people. This is in keeping with the ancient Israelite mentality that thought that to see God meant death (Judges 13:22, etc.).  In other words, as God approaches, the heavy clouds collect and shield the people from seeing his glory. His presence is signified by the heavy cloud mass or deck which reflects His all-encompassing and overwhelming power.

Thunder is, perhaps, the most fearsome aspect of the storm because it was seen as having a personal connection with God. There are two Hebrew words which are translated as “thunder”; ra’am  רעם  and kol ול. The term ra’am is connected to the word ra’ma, meaning “vibration” or “trembling”. It seems likely that the shaking felt with heavy thunder claps bolstered the association with earthquakes in theophanies. The term ra’am is an attribute of God’s presence  (Isaiah 29:6). It signifies the reaction of the cosmos at God’s presence  (Psalm 77: 18).

The other term, kol, seems to have a more personal connection to God. This is the term used for “voice” and, subsequently, thunder is often referred to as the “voice of God” (Exodus 9:23, Psalm 46:7). It contains the connotation of “sound” or “noise” of inanimate things, such as thunder.  This further illustrates that God was not seen to be in the storm or personified by it, but the “thunder symbolized God’s absolute sovereignty”.  One may draw a comparison to the term ruach רוח , which is translated “breath”, “Spirit”, or “wind”. In the concrete worldview of the Israelites, the wind was seen as the breath of God. Therefore, the anthropomorphic image of the thunder being thought of as the voice of God seems to reflect a similar imagery.

In both terms, the fearsome power that is connected with thunder is represented. The mere presence or voice of God is powerful enough to shake the heavens and earth. We see the power of the word of God in the first Creation narrative (Genesis 1), wherein all came into being by the spoken word of God.

Therefore, thunder, with its dramatic power, reflects the awesome might of God. The voice of God does not send thunder, thunder results from the voice of God

The Hebrew term for “lightning” is baraq ברק . The fourteen references all connect with God, so they probably form a polemic against Baal, the primary Canaanite nature deity and, (according to many artefacts), the god of lightning, fire, and rain. In inscriptions, Baal is depicted as brandishing a club in one hand and a stylized thunderbolt in the other.  In Israel, the elements of the storm reacted to the presence of their creator. Lightning bridged the gap between the heavens and earth in a tangible way. It indicated the judgment, anger, and will of God in awesomely powerful bolts that had deadly, as well as renewing, power.


But nature is not some kind of blunt instrument in the hands of the deity. Rather, the movements and reactions of the natural elements reveal a purpose that is connected to the presence of God and, therefore, is a response to His will and power. In other words, the created world responds to and gives testimony to the power of the Creator.

God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.[b]
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendour was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed –
but he marches on for ever.
I saw the tents of Cushan in distress,
the dwellings of Midian in anguish.

Were you angry with the rivers, Lord?
Was your wrath against the streams?
Did you rage against the sea
when you rode your horses
and your chariots to victory?
You uncovered your bow,
you called for many arrows.
You split the earth with rivers;
10     the mountains saw you and writhed.
Torrents of water swept by;
the deep roared
and lifted its waves on high.

11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens
at the glint of your flying arrows,
at the lightning of your flashing spear.
12 In wrath you strode through the earth
and in anger you threshed the nations. 
15 You trampled the sea with your horses,
churning the great waters.

16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound…”

The description of a theophany found in Habakkuk 3 is a powerful illustration of the created world responding to the presence of God. In Habakkuk 3:3-7, nature is doing the acting. This is in contrast to vss 8-15, in which God is more active, or rather, he acts more directly on things. The text of verses 3-7 illustrate the reaction to the sight, or presence, of God, whereas in the following verses God uses weapons to bring about the fearsome results of His presence. The purpose of narrating the theophany is to illustrate the awesome power of God and how the elements respond to His presence. It is a display of God’s sovereignty over nature, with little need of language to explain its significance. The purpose of the following text, 8-15, is persuasion. Words, filled with confidence generated from past saving deeds, are needed to prompt God into action, and the writer switches from third person, to second and finally to first, to make the point.

The fearsome power of God and the dramatic response of nature do not need words to explain them, but the event of the theophany prompts man to recognize the authority of God.

The theological significance of the Storm-Theophany moves beyond just a fearsome display of power. It shows the sovereignty of God over nature. The StormTheophany was the prelude to the Sinai Covenant. It illustrated the power which would protect the people of Israel if they kept the Covenant which was about to be bestowed.

This same power is seen in the mission of Jesus. Jesus calms the storm (Mt 8:23-27, Mk 4:35-40, Lk 8:22-25). At the death of Jesus, darkness came over the land (Mt 27:45, Mk 15:33, Lk 23:44). At the Ascension, a cloud took Jesus from their sight, as Jesus reunites with His Father (Acts 1:9).

Sovereignty over nature is a recurring theme, one of which that binds the Biblical testaments together. God controlled nature from above, transcendently, while Jesus showed mastery over nature while among the people, imminently- as Immanuel, the sign that “God is with us”.

Finally, the transcendent and the imminent, the givers of the two Covenants, the Father and Son are united by the ever-present, ubiquitous, cloud; the ultimate indication of the presence of God.

“At ease from the dread of evil…”

There are some things which are almost never faced. Instead, as the psychotherapist David Calof wrote, “They intrude in unexpected ways: through panic attacks and insomnia, through dreams and artwork, through seemingly inexplicable compulsions…They live just outside of consciousness like noisy neighbors who bang on the pipes and occasionally show up at the door.”

It’s a powerful and somewhat disturbing picture, isn’t it?  It’s what fear does,”intruding in unexpected ways,” and robbing you of joy in the present moment through the dread of some imagined future.

We lived in London when my lovely young daughter began to spread her wings a little, to go out with friends and so forth.It didn’t matter that she was cautious and sensible (and much tougher than I gave her credit for), whenever she was away I would cringe with a nameless fear for her safety. My attitude was not really good parenting (though I would have called it that) so much as a disabling anxiety that inhibited my enjoyment of her flowering into adult life.


“When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you….” (Proverbs 1:27)

The gist of Proverbs 1 is an encouragement to face that anxiety through a God-given wisdom, whereby “He who listens to me shall live securely and …be at ease from the dread of evil.” 

But how do you find that “ease from the dread of evil“?  Augustine said “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” And the only real reassurance that I have found is a Person who is stronger than me, that can take up the load that I am unable to bear. And that Person says:  “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)

That doesn’t mean “Don’t care about things (or people)”; it means “Trust me with your life.” It’s the whole theme of Psalm 27, which the New American Standard titles: “A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God”! 

Which is where I’d like to be.

So every morning we listen to this Psalm and embrace its truth as we go into the day.Here it  is:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?
When evil people come to devour me,
    when my enemies and foes attack me,
    they will stumble and fall.
Though a mighty army surrounds me,
    my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
    I will remain confident.

The one thing I ask of the Lord
    the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    delighting in the Lord’s perfections
    and meditating in his Temple.
For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
    he will hide me in his sanctuary.
    He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.

Hear me as I pray, O Lord.
    Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
Do not turn your back on me.
    Do not reject your servant in anger.
    You have always been my helper.
Don’t leave me now; don’t abandon me,
    O God of my salvation!
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me,
    the Lord will hold me close.

11 Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path,
    for my enemies are waiting for me.
12 Do not let me fall into their hands.
    For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
    with every breath they threaten me with violence.
13 Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness
    while I am here in the land of the living.

14 Wait patiently for the Lord.
    Be brave and courageous.
    Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
    And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

A small town is the world