July 30, 2017
Have you heard about Nury Chavarria? She recently took refuge inside the Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal church in New Haven, Conn. Nuri has been in the United States for 24 years working as a housekeeper. She has 4 children ranging in age from 9-21. The children are U.S. citizens. Nuri was going to be deported to Guatemala and that is why she sought refuge. The church is serving as her only place of refuge, offering protection and safety.
Have you ever needed refuge? The word appears 91 times in the Old Testament, and 1 time in the New Testament. In Heb.6:18 it refers to believers who have fled to Jesus for refuge. Today we are in Ps.46. And in this psalm we see that in troubling times, God is our refuge.
I. GOD IS OUR ETERNAL REFUGE. Ps.46:1-3
This psalm begins with God because God is the most important person in the psalm. It is a bit like Gen.1:1. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God is our Creator and here we see that God is our refuge, strength, and help in time of trouble. And I am adding the word, eternal. God is our eternal refuge. Let me explain.
When we look at v.2-3 we read about things that seem permanent. The earth has existed from the time God created it. Think about the mountains. If you go out west to the Rocky Mountains, it is an awesome sight. Talk about permanence! Nothing is going to move those mountains. So strong and immovable are these mountains that our country has a military installation deep within their protection. The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is located inside Cheyenne Mountain near Colorado Springs. It is built under 2,000 feet of granite, covering about 5 acres. There are 15 three-story buildings in the complex. It is built to deflect a 30 megaton nuclear explosion. That sounds pretty secure to me. That sounds like a safe refuge. But in v.2-3 what seems permanent is not permanent at all. The earth gives way. The mountains are moved into the heart of the sea. The sea waters are roaring and foaming and even the mountains tremble.
Genesis 1:2 tells us that after God created the heavens and the earth something happened. It says, “and the earth was without form and void and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Here in Ps.46 it almost looks as if creation is being undone. Creation is being uncreated. The waters are again swallowing everything up. So much for permanence!
From time to time we see the uncreation of creation. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and tornadoes bring great destruction. Chaos ensues. Those kinds of events bring fear into our lives. They are overwhelming. But there are other things that bring fear and chaos into our lives. Cancer, heart disease, brain tumors, mental illness and depression, joblessness, rejection, divorce, car accidents, financial loss, death! All of these things breed fear. They are demoralizing and overwhelming. In fact just thinking about them can bring fear to our hearts. In addition to this, we must recognize that all of the things that cause us fear are tools in the hands of the devil, who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. None of us are immune from these kinds of difficulties. Those who seek to find security in this world will eventually see that nothing in this world is permanently secure. And this reality calls us to look to a greater reality.
God is eternal and because he is eternal he is able to be our permanent refuge in time of need. Over and over again we find in the Bible that God is a present help for those who trust in him. Trusting in the Lord is the way to experience his protection, strength, and help. When we speak of the Lord as our refuge we do not mean to suggest that the Lord makes our lives easy or always removes the things that cause us to fear. Rather we mean that God secures our lives in him and strengthens us to bear up under the difficulty and sorrow. I don’t know what fears are threatening your life right now. But I do know that God is our eternal refuge. Flee to him. Cast all your care upon him for he cares for you.
II. GOD IS OUR PRESENT REFUGE. Ps.46:4-7
Here our attention is focused on Jerusalem, Zion, the city of God. His presence resides in his city. Of course, a city is a place where people live. So we are also talking about the people who live in the city. Is the psalmist really talking about Jerusalem? Well yes and no. Jerusalem is the city of God, but as far as I know there is no river that flows through Jerusalem. As far as I know, Jerusalem was moved. It was destroyed by Babylon and then Rome. So it seems that Jerusalem is used here to refer to the kingdom of God and the people who dwell in his kingdom.
In the kingdom of God, God is fully present and he is the source of every blessing. That is what the river is all about. Listen to Rev.22:1-2. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.” I believe the river in Ps.46 refers to the blessing of life-with-God in his kingdom.
In the Old Testament, Israel is the people of God. Israel was meant to be the visible expression of what it means to live under the rule of God in his kingdom. But when we come to the New Testament we see that the church is the new people of God. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God has done something brand new. He has established a new covenant that includes Jews and Gentiles in his church.
The only way to enter into the kingdom of God is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh. Life in the kingdom of God is eternal living given to us by Jesus who has conquered sin and death. It is through Jesus that our sins are forgiven and eternal living is received. It is by embracing Jesus as Savior, Lord and King that we are brought into relationship with God in his kingdom and become part of his people, the church. The church is the current expression of the kingdom of God on the earth. And we see here that the kingdom of God, including the church of Jesus Christ, shall not be moved because God is fully present in his kingdom and in his people. God is the source of our life and strength. Jesus told us that he is building his church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And it’s a good thing because notice what happens in v.6. The nations rage. What are they raging against? They are raging against each other and raging against God and his kingdom. And since the church is the primary expression of God’s kingdom on the earth, the nations are raging against the church of Jesus Christ. The church is being assaulted through oppressive governments like that of N. Korea and organizations like Isis. We have seen intense persecution of Christians. The church is being assaulted by secular society and atheistic attacks. And the church is being pushed out onto the fringes of society. We are losing our voice, and if the latest social research is correct, we are losing many young people who no longer want to be part of our churches.
But notice in v.6 that as the city of God goes out to fight, the earth melts. Wait, is that what it says? No. It says that God utters his voice and the earth melts. How does the church effectively exist as the people of God in a world that rages against God? I believe we must rely on God who is our present help and source of life. God is the one who gives us our voice.
Think about the ministry of Jesus. Jesus did not try to win a culture war. He certainly did not pin his hope on the Roman Emperor. Jesus did not try to force people to follow him. Instead, Jesus lived the gospel. Jesus embodies the gospel. He served others by showing the goodness and love of God. He spoke the good news about forgiveness and life in the kingdom of God. He called people to follow him. Then he gave his life on the cross and rose from the dead. There was no fighting. He died to himself and he died for everyone else, bearing our sin and all the violence and evil this world inflicted upon him. That is how Jesus won the victory over sin and death, and destroyed the works of the devil. He died and rose again.
I believe the same is true for us. Jesus taught us to bless those who curse us, to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who abuse us. This command is fully consistent with the character and way of God. As followers of Christ, our primary goal in life is to embody the gospel as we follow in the selfless, joyful, and loving way of Jesus. Our strength is not found in political parties and power. If you find that you get angry at what goes on in Washington, or at the LGBTQ agenda, or the ACLU, let it go. James tells us, “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” While we must use discernment and judge between right and wrong, it is not for us to judge and condemn others. We cannot speak with the voice of God using the voice of this world.
Along with this, the more we as Christians embrace the ways of our society, the weaker our gospel voice will become. When sexual immorality, divorce, materialism, apathy for Christ and the local church defines our lives, we discredit the gospel. Obviously the gospel is not transforming our lives.
But “there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God…God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God will help her at the first light of dawn.” What are we to do? We need to attend to the presence of God. We need to attend to the presence of God in corporate worship and fellowship with one another. We need to attend to presence of Jesus at his table, drawing upon his life. We need to go out and make disciples of Jesus, teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded through the example of our own obedience. The Lord is with us always to the end of the age. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
III. GOD IS OUR ONLY REFUGE. Ps.46:8-11
These verses point us to a future day when God is fully reigning. Basically I want us to see that at the end of the day, God, and God alone is exalted.
In v.8 we are called to consider the works of the Lord. And as we consider the works of the Lord we see that God has things well in hand. While he gives great latitude for people to make all sorts of decisions, he nevertheless is bringing things to a wonderful conclusion. And notice that the conclusion is peace. God will make wars to cease. The weapons of war will be shattered. Certainly one way this is accomplished is found in v.6 as nations rage against each other. God allows evil and violence to destroy itself.
Recently I read something that struck me. In Eph.6 Paul tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. Instead we wrestle “…against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” And then this author pointed out from 2Thess.2 that the Holy Spirit, the restrainer, is holding these satanic forces back. The devil’s delight is to steal, kill, and destroy. It was suggested that God will not have to resort to violence in order to make wars cease. If he removes his restraining hand evil will destroy itself. And we know that the devil has already been defeated by Jesus Christ.
In v.10 the nations are called be still, to stop what they are doing in order that they might know that God is God, that God is exalted among the nations, in the earth. The day when God reigns over all is coming. But until that day comes how will the nations come to know that God is exalted among them in the earth?
Jesus told us to go into all the world. He told us that we are his witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth. In Rm.10:13-15, Paul writes, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
God alone is God. He utters his voice and the earth melts. We are his people of peace sent out to bring the good news to the nations that rage against him. We give voice to the gospel in hopes that the hearts of men and women will melt to embrace Jesus Christ. The task is not easy but we have a refuge. God alone is our refuge.
In his hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God, Martin Luther captures the truth of this psalm. 1) “A mighty Fortress is our God, A Bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.” 2) Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle. 3) And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us; The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him. 4) That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth; Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever. Amen