Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
The weather is a common topic of conversation in our little island home and usually it could be described as ‘predictably unpredictable’.
What I mean is that it is, more often than not, quite changeable, unlike some parts of the world where each year the weather follows a fairly predictable course with dry seasons, wet seasons, monsoon seasons etc.
However, this year has been different, both in Ireland, and also in many other places. Here we have had an extremely wet spring, followed by weeks of unusually hot and dry weather and these conditions have caused big problems for many in the farming community.
But unusual weather has affected many other places as well, with much of Europe and Scandinavia and Japan, to name a few, affected by extreme heat. Very often now in our news we hear warnings of the effects of global warming, and how we may expect more extreme weather events if this continues. Here in the UK and Ireland the extreme temperatures of the past summer even caused the government to issue a health warning at one time.
But in the land of the Bible, high and dangerous temperatures in summer are not uncommon, and this explains some words used in Psalm 121:6 ‘the sun shall not harm you by day’. Usually in our climate this sort of phrase would be hard to understand, because our sun is not normally strong enough to do much harm; but not so in Israel!
Psalm 121 is sometimes called a ‘Pilgrim Psalm’ because the background was probably a time when Israelites travelled perhaps many miles on foot up to Jerusalem for one of the great annual Jewish festivals, like the Passover for example. Such journeys were not without troubles or dangers.
There could be robbers hiding in the Judean hills waiting to attack travellers. There was also the danger from the hot sun by day, or dangers from wild animals at night (v6). So the Psalmist thinks of these dangers as he asks the question, ‘where does my help come from?’ (v1). But he knew God, the Almighty ‘maker of heaven and earth’ (v2) and he knew that this God, who was his God, would care for him through all dangers and troubles, not just in this world, but even ‘for evermore’ (v8). And this last phrase takes us beyond this world, beyond death, and to eternity. This is a truly wonderful promise!
So here is a lovely Psalm full of hope for those who know Christ. But we also know that we live in a troubled world, where the Apostle Paul, in Romans 8:22, describes it as ‘groaning’ (groaning because of man’s sinful rebellion against his creator). And troubles come to us in many different forms, sometimes even through extreme weather conditions.
Now Christians are not promised freedom from troubles, but they know that God will give them grace and strength in their troubles, and they can look forward especially to the time when He brings them through the last trouble they will face, death itself, because they have the hope of heaven through Christ. God will watch over His people ‘for evermore’ (Psalm 121:6).
What a great hope to have, but we can only have it when we know Christ as our Saviour.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Patterson is a former GP who was ordained for the ministry in 1990. He retired in 2013 after 19 years as Minister of Castledawson and Curran Presbyterian churches in South Derry. Having worked on farms during his student days, before coming a minister, as a hobby he now enjoys restoring vintage farm machinery.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234