These days, most of us carry a camera in our pockets or purses—our cell phones have created a world where selfies, animal videos, and food pictures are ubiquitous. It’s strange to remember when every waking moment wasn’t catalogued and viewed by Facebook friends and Twitter followers. We take thousands of pictures, and while most remain on hard drives and memory cards, our favorites get printed and framed.
We’ve all heard the saying: “a picture’s worth a thousand words,” but words can also paint pictures. God chose the authors of the book of Psalms carefully, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, they created a multi-dimensional picture of the un-photographable God. As I read the Psalms with the eyes of my heart wide open, I see His portrait take shape.
There is the Powerful God of Psalm 18:7-15…I visited Mount St. Helens last summer, and the description of the big eruption of 1980 sounded a lot like this:
Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from Him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under His feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; He came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before Him hailstones and coals of fire broke through His clouds. The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And He sent out His arrows and scattered them; He flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at Your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.
I too often forget that God is terrifyingly strong. His command created the earth, and I can still see glimpses of His awesome authority exhibited in thunderstorms and earthquakes. But I confess that far too often I approach Him flippantly, absorbed in my own sense of self-importance and grandeur. It is good to be reminded by the authors of the Psalms that I serve a mighty God, and good to remember that as such, He demands my utmost respect.
The same God, however, whose power is greater than a volcanic eruption, is also a Protective Daddy, as I read in Psalm 37:23-24:
The steps of a man are established by the LORD; and He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
I remember my husband, Neal, walking carefully beside our toddlers, holding their chubby little hands. When they inevitably stumbled, because they were still learning to walk and still too small to be aware of each obstacle, his tight grip kept them safe from skinned knees and face-plants. It was no burden—he adored walking with his much-loved children. What a thought—my Abba Father delights in me walking beside Him as well, and longs to hold my hand and lead me with careful love.
The Psalms tell me that God is also a Guiding Shepherd…a Righteous Judge…a Good Listener…a Gracious Forgiver…an Everlasting King…a Strong Rock…a Consuming Fire…a Wise Instructor…a Tear Collector…a Steadfast Lover…a Life Redeemer…a Song Giver…a Prayer Answerer…a Faithful Savior…a Truth Defender…a Motive Revealer…a Patient Leader…a Battle Winner…a Promise Keeper…an Enemy Defeater…a Joy Restorer…a Beautiful Inheritance…a Name Knower.
As we read through the Psalms together, let’s make time to see each snapshot of God, to appreciate each beautiful angle of God’s character, and to allow our understanding of Him to expand with each purposeful description. Which descriptions are your favorites? Which portraits of Him have carried you through some of your most desperate times? Which pictures have you framed in your soul?