When The Heavens Declare Destruction


Nature Threatens Life, Compassion Protects It

by Eric Elkin

Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork…Of course, there’s no speech, no words—their voices can’t be heard—but their sound extends throughout the world; their words reach the ends of the earth.
— Psalm 19: 1-4

A news report published a day after Hurricane Florence made landfall highlighted stories of the storm’s impact on people. One of those stories was from a woman who now wished she and her husband had not stayed behind. At the time of the report, their house was surrounded by the ocean and was on the verge of collapse. They were desperate for rescue.

You are probably thinking what I was when reading about their plight. Why did these people stay? Were they just stubborn? Did they think they could ride it out? Maybe they were thrill seekers in search of a great story to tell friends?

The truth was a powerful witness to human compassion. Her husband was a doctor. After hurricanes, doctors are in short supply, but in high demand. They decided to remain so he could be accessible to offer emergency care to those in need. It was a commitment they had made for every other hurricane. But now their compassion was threatening their life.

A doctor is a leader. A person with the financial means to find very comfortable shelter in a safe place. Those who often remain during a hurricane are people who cannot afford to leave. People who do not have the financial resources to secure safety. It is a bold witness that a person of wealth would be willing to endanger themselves to help those who are poor.

...the wisdom of Psalm 19 declares that the transcendent quality of nature, indeed YHWH’s sovereignty over nature (and the whole creation) to be downright frightening. Yet, the Holy Scriptures are full of grace and promises of new life, not bondage to a higher power that is removed and inaccessible.
— Eric Matthis

When I first read this psalm, my mind immediately was drawn to a bright summer sky with pillow clouds floating over open prairie. Then I read a commentary by Eric Matthis. He pointed out how people love the beauty and power of sunsets and the “majesty of nature.” In these images they find a God to love. These same people often “find the Word of the Lord to be oppressive.”

Eric Matthis’ words turned my mind to Hurricane Florence. Nature is beautiful. It speaks to the depth of our soul. Yet, it is also quite destructive. Its power is relentless and indiscriminate. Storms do not care about your wealth or goodness. Nature tries to kill you in a multitude of ways.

In contrast, our neighbors often irritate us. Matter of fact, human beings can be incredibly abusive to each other. Yet, at the same time, they can be incredibly compassionate to each other. Caring to the point of risking their own safety. Compassion sometimes involves no words, but the sound of a motorboat rescuing a stranded family.

Psalm 19 is the Word of Lord. Perhaps you hear something oppressive in its words. However, the psalmist seeks to remind leaders, those who are strong, to be humble servants to their neighbor. These words are the power for abundant life.


Click to read Psalm 19

Reflection Questions:

  • When have you been threatened by a poor decision?

  • Who saved or helped you in this moment of need?

  • Where do you find the Word of the Lord oppressive?

  • Where do you find it gives you life?

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