Psalm 125 (NRSV)
A Song of Ascents.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time on and forevermore.
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
so that the righteous might not stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts.
But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways
the Lord will lead away with evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel!
Trust makes us strong because it starts with our need, which implies a certain weakness without the one we trust. God surrounds us. He is like an exoskeleton which fortifies us and protects us from evil.
God's promises are strong and, therefore, we are strong.
1 Kings 18:1-18 (NRSV)
After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year of the drought, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab; I will send rain on the earth.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. The famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Now Obadiah revered the Lord greatly; when Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets, hid them fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water.) Then Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the wadis; perhaps we may find grass to keep the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” So they divided the land between them to pass through it; Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.
As Obadiah was on the way, Elijah met him; Obadiah recognized him, fell on his face, and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” He answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.”
And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ahab, to kill me? As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom to which my lord has not sent to seek you; and when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would require an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. But now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here.’ As soon as I have gone from you, the spirit of the Lord will carry you I know not where; so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have revered the Lord from my youth. Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the Lord, how I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets fifty to a cave, and provided them with bread and water? Yet now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord that Elijah is here’; he will surely kill me.”
Elijah said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.”
So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah.
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” He answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but you have, and your father’s house, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.
What strength and courage Elijah had at that moment to stare down Ahab and speak truth to such brutal power!
None of us can know if he had butterflies in his stomach or trembling hands, but he spoke with boldness.
Elijah's reputation proceeded him as troubler of Israel. What is your reputation?
What will make us strong for the words we must speak and the deeds we must do?
Ephesians 6:10-17 (NRSV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.
Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.
As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Over this last period of my life, I have come to of Advent seasons in weakened physical condition. Surgeries, illnesses, life crises has sapped me of strength and vigor. It is at those times I have found renewed spiritual strength.
Being strong in the Lord and the strength of His power has made the difference. It is more than coping; it is overcoming,
God's armor protects us.
God's provision of specialized clothing equips us to meet any challenge.
God's shoes are fashioned to aid in our gospel travels and make us swift of feet.
We are shielded by faith and armed with God's word even as our minds are protected by His Spirit.
That kind of strength cannot come out of a workout or a protein smoothie.
That is Advent strength. He has come and made us strong to face whatever lies ahead.