Formations 06.08.2014: We Will Always Remember

Psalm 18:1-15

Bob Hill, a heavy mobile equipment mechanic with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District, surveys the tornado-stricken landscape of Joplin, MO.

Bob Hill, a heavy mobile equipment mechanic with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District, surveys the tornado-stricken landscape of Joplin, MO.

Three years ago, the deadliest U.S. tornado since 1947 slammed into Joplin, Missouri, killing 161 and injuring 1,100. It destroyed or damaged 7,500 homes and displaced 9,200 people.

Last month, on the third anniversary of this devastating tragedy, the people of Joplin said “thank you” in a six and a half minute video posted on the website

The video flashes images and statistics about the loss and destruction, but the focus of the video is on the outpouring of love and support the community received from volunteers who came to Joplin to help—1.5 million volunteer hours so far.

Schools, businesses, parks, and churches have been or are being rebuilt, and the Joplin community is eager to express its gratitude. The video shows older men tipping their hats and young children giving the thumbs-up. Many Joplinites are shown waving or using their hands to form hearts.

Along with the video, the site posted the following message:

On May 22, 2011, our lives were changed forever. We lost 161 of our friends and family members, thousands of homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed, and our reality was forever altered.

And then the volunteers came. As early as that evening, people flooded into Joplin to do whatever needed to be done. They assisted with clean-up, they provided food and supplies, and they were there for us at our most vulnerable.

Amazingly, they’ve never stopped coming. To date, more than 1.5 million hours of volunteer service have been reported in Joplin. That equals more than 175 years of service at a 24/7 pace since May 22, 2011.

To those volunteers, we say thank you. We will always remember the kindness you showed Joplin. This video is dedicated to all of you that worked with us, cried with us, and helped us survive. Thank you.

The story of Joplin reminds me of how much I should be thankful for. Sadly, we often have to lose practically everything before we can truly appreciate what we have.

Mostly, however, the story of Joplin reminds me of the times someone has come to my rescue, extending a helping hand when I needed it most. It may have been as simple as an encouraging word. It may have been a practiced application of medical skill, or a generous gift of hospitality, or an eager defense against rumors or false charges.

The psalmist could certainly relate. “In my distress I cried out to the LORD,” he writes, “I called to my God for help. God heard my voice from his temple; I called to him for help, and my call reached his ears” (Ps 18:6).

The psalmist remembers a time of great trouble, from which God ultimately saved him. Therefore, he remembers God’s mercy and gives thanks for his deliverance. Violent, warlike imagery throughout the psalm underlines the psalmist’s desperate situation and the aggressiveness of God’s intervention on his behalf.

For all that God did for him, he offers a profound word of thanks.

“On Third Anniversary of Storm, Joplin Says Thank You,” Springfield News-Leader, 22 May 2014


• When has someone come to your rescue in a time of trouble?
• When has God brought you through difficulty or hardship?
• What is it like to experience this sort of salvation?
• How can such experiences inspire us both to thank God and to share our stories with others?

Reference Shelf

The Theology of the Psalms

It is only natural that in religious songs like these the faith of the nation should be expressed in a very varied and rich manner.

First, God is presented as the creator in such psalms as 18 (7-15) and 29 (Ps 29 sounds quite primitive). The most powerful expression is found in Ps 33:6-9, where God creates merely by speaking his word, and there is no hint that there was matter before he created, a view found in Gen 1 and 2:4f. This psalm is the closed the OT comes to our modern doctrine of “creatio ex nihilo”—creation out of nothing.

Secondly, with all the great things said about God, he is not alone. Ps 82:1 states that he is supreme, “He rules in the midst of the gods,” and, according to Ps 139, even the kingdom of death is under him.

Thirdly, in this way the psalms are presenting the covenant God of Israel. There is a unique relationship between God and his people and this reality permeates most psalms. He is hailed in the hymns, he is implored in the laments; but he is always felt and understood to be their God.

Repeatedly Yahweh is presented as holy and righteous. His people rely upon his love (hesed) for them. And he is hailed as king, which, according to Pss 93, 95–99, means not only king of his covenant people Israel, but of the whole world that he has created and holds under his sway.

Reidar B. Bjornard, “Psalms, Book of,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 723–24.

Moving from Death to Life

Prayers of thanksgiving are essentially testimonies. Westermann calls them psalms of narrative or declarative praise. They narrate the story or declare to the congregation the story of how God has delivered them from a specific crisis and so encourage faith among those present to hear the story. The praise these psalms offer is thanksgiving for deliverance from trouble. They provide a link between the poles of plea and praise and speak of genuine hope for the faith community. The Psalter moves in that direction, and a number of the community thanksgiving psalms are in the latter half of the Psalter. As the speakers have moved from death to life, so the readers of the Psalter also move from the power of death to the power of life. Psalm 34:8 typifies these psalms’ exuberant thanks.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.

W. H. Bellinger Jr., The Testimony of Poets and Sages: The Psalms and Wisdom Literature, All the Bible (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1998) 39–40.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


For further resources, subscribe to the Formations Teaching Guide and Commentary.

Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email