Refreshing Rain

   Refreshing Rain

Some contend it is imperative for spiritual health that we experience the ‘peace of God.’  The final verse of Psalm 29 is either simple future or a prayer (RSV and ESV).  I like reading it as a prayer.

May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace! (Psalm 29:11, ESV).

Psalm 29, according to a note found in the Septuagint (LXX), was used by the Hebrews on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.  This celebration occurred in the fall at the end of the dry season.  A storm, such as depicted in this psalm, would be a welcome relief and a foreshadowing of God’s care.  Though the psalm ends by showing God’s power as the instrument of judgment (the flood, 10), it also portrays what I see as a prayer for salvation (strength and peace). 

The Imperatives

Happiness depends upon our circumstances.  Thus, you cannot be commanded to be happy.  Paul has no trouble, however, commanding us to rejoice.  In Philippians 3:1 and, again, in the passage below, Paul uses the imperative mood.  In essence, we are commanded to be joyful whatever the circumstances might be.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7, NIV)

In these four verses Paul indicates four ways in which we can posture ourselves in order to receive the promised guarding of the peace of God.  First, it is imperative that we rejoice.  As stated above, this is a repeated exhortation from Paul. Second, we are to ‘let [our] gentleness be evident to all.  I like the way that Kenneth Wuest explains this: “The exhortation is therefore, “Do not keep this sweet reasonableness in your heart. Let it find expression in your conduct. Thus others will experience its blessings also.”

The third imperative is to not be anxious.  The construction in the Greek is a prohibition which forbids the reader from continuing an action already habitually going on. The Christians at Philippi were habitually worrying. The command is to stop worrying about anything, literally “not even one thing.

The fourth command is in no way any less important.  We are commanded to pray!  It is imperative that (to keep from worrying) we “present [our] requests to God.”  Prayer is the means Paul gives us to stop worrying.  In fact, three different terms are used: prayer, petition, and requests.  We are to let God’s power address our problems.  And the scope for prayer: “everything.”

The Posture?

This great exhortation to rejoice catches another thread that runs through the letter – the ‘problem.’  Apparently, Paul saw joy as a key to resolving many of the Philippian problems.  Why else would he repeatedly introduce the idea?  Not only that, the sphere is repeated.  We are to posture ourselves “in the Lord.”  For the third time in just four verses (see vv. 1, 2) we find this phrase. Our relationship to the Lord gives us both reason and power to rejoice.  And as we begin to posture ourselves in line with Paul’s four imperatives – rejoicing, not being anxious, being gentle/reasonable in our conduct, and praying – we find ourselves more and more guarded by the peace of God!