While reading in Psalm 106:4-5, my heart agreed with the psalmist’s apparent perspective on God’s people. This could be my pride showing up, placing myself as a spiritual leader or community advocate… Wherever this is true, I ask God for His humbling grace to soften my pride. While soaking on these two verses, I couldn’t help seeing Merced, CA as a key community where God’s favor is going to show up more and more in the coming months and years.
There was a wrestling in my heart, however, as I thought about this. It’s interesting how we have hopes for wherever we happen to be, and we can sometimes make statements about what God is up to based on what we’re up to and want in life. God isn’t nervous about what we might want or hope for, however, and I’m comforted by the realization that so long as we are wanting what He wants for His created humanity, we’re good to go. We simply get to desire His glory and the community’s good, praying for the community God has placed us in, and yearning for her prosperity where it is most important: That all men and women would come to an intimate and saving relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. Of course we hope for Merced’s ground water to return, for the economy to explode, for the government to favor agriculture, for jobs to rise, for leaders to work together to see really good things happen in our town… Yet, more important than all of this is a humble people worshiping and enjoying the Living God, entering into and seeing a sustaining of that relationship through the Person and work on the cross of Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior!
The psalmist here is looking in on God’s people with a hope to witness God’s favor as He pours it out on the community of believers, the Jews, whom he was part of leading at that time. In the same way, but in a much less central role, I stand on this seemingly God-forsaken soil looking into the eyes of the residents of Merced County. I meet person after person that seems to truly believe this town is God-forsaken, that it would truly be better to move to Texas or Oregon or get out to the Bay Area or what not. Yet, there is an advocacy that comes up in my soul. What about Alexis de Tocqueville’s commentary on the American virtuous farmer – SEE LINK TO WIKI BIO ON HIM. This is an “ag town” first and foremost, even though the UC Merced and other focuses are helpful in keeping industry for the population. With being an ag town comes some of the timeless blessings of agrarian people’s perspective on life.
Yesterday I spoke with a cattle woman who runs a lot of cattle in this region. She loves what she does and talks to her cows as she walks in the field. People think she’s funny for loving her work so much, but it’s part of who she is. There is a calm about a slower pace of life and living off of industry that spreads people out a little. There is a bit of a shepherd’s perspective on life and getting by and stewardship. There is a slower judgment of people because you yourself have to sweat a bit and you get beat up from the long hours in the dirt.
One of Merced’s distinctives that has been pointed out to me, not being from this town, is that there are a lot of older growth trees here. These trees provide a bit of a wind break and give us fresh air, the trees acting as oxygen-producers. Visually, as a pastor type of dude, I think too of Psalm One and the vision of deep roots and arms raised to the Living God. May our community be deeply rooted in God’s Word and God’s ways. May we dig deeper wells of hope and joy in the Lord alone, and may we see Him as the source of our Hope in a dry and weary land. Remember Jeremiah 2:11-13:
“Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But My people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for My people have committed two evils:
“They have forsaken Me, the Fountain of Living Waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Praying for believers and then non-believers here in Merced, CA. Join me, friends, and may we see God’s favor poured out on our town as we turn and repent and find our rest and joy in the LIving Water’s Source, God Almighty!
In His pleasure,