Psalm 46: Two Sermons, One Message of Hope

cross.jpeg God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
— 
Psalm 46:1–3 —

In a(n election) season of great consternation, the Christian’s hope and joy does not change if she keeps her mind fixed on the Lord. This is the promise of the prophet Isaiah and our Lord Jesus.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

For followers of Christ, peace is not gained (or kept) by a calm and consistent world. Rather, steadfast communion with our Lord secures our peace and overcomes our anxieties.

With that in mind, I preached yesterday a message from Psalm 46 at Castleview Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. What a joy it was to gather with God’s people to remind ourselves that our God is with us and our God is working for us. At the same time, I was even more encouraged when on my way home I listened to Dave Ross—not the World Series catcher, but one of our elders at Occoquan Bible Church—hit a home run as he preached Psalm 46.

In preparation for the Sunday before Election Day, he and I collaborated on our messages, only he opened his message with a powerful retelling of 1 Corinthians and how it calls the church to retain its focus on Christ and the gospel. A very powerful and timely reminder. In both our messages we preached to ourselves and others about the Lord’s sovereign purposes and his gracious promises.

This week, if you are feeling overwhelmed with fear going into tomorrow’s election, let me encourage you to listen to his message (“Election Daze vs. Kingdom Praise“) or mine (“God with Us, God for Us: Two Truths in Troubled Times“).

On that note, you may find help in few other reflections too.

In this uncertain world, may God enable you to put all your trust in the prince of peace, so that you have wisdom and power to walk by faith in this world and not by sight.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

How ‘Be Still and Know’ Is a Call to Arms: Five Ways to Labor from Rest

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[This post depends largely on yesterday’s exegetical consideration of Psalm 46.]

If the first step in troubled times is to take refuge in the Lord, it is not the last step. Only by reading Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God”) in isolation from the historical context of the Psalter or the whole counsel of God found in the rest of Scripture could we walk away from Psalm 46 and believe passivity is proper.

Rather, the best reading of that classic devotional verse is to see that it is a word spoken by God to the nations that he will subdue them (cf. vv. 8–9). For us, in other passages then he tells us to take up arms—the sword of the Spirit and the prayers of faith (Ephesians 6)—to engage in the battle we find all around us.

Indeed, to believe in God is not “nothing.” Rather it is the foundation of all good works (see Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 2:8–10; James 2:14–26). Likewise, Word-inspired intercession is not “nothing.” To the world, prayer seems like pious but powerless chore. Yet, James 5:16 rightly corrects us: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Therefore, as we abide in the shadow of his wings, we find that abiding in his Word and prayer are two powerful actions. Still ,such Godward devotion is not a cul-de-sac but a rest area that leads God’s people from the church gathered to the church scattered, from worship to work in the community, the state, the nation and beyond.

Indeed, with that centrifugal framework in mind, we are ready to move from the safety of God’s refuge into a sin-cursed world desperately in need of redemption. And to help us think about how to move into the culture from the firm foundation of refuge in the Lord, let me suggest five ways to labor from rest. Continue reading

Two Truths For Troubled Times: A Meditation on Psalm 46

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Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10  “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11  The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
— 
Psalm 46:8–11 —

Has the election season of 2016 brought unusual stress? If so, consider the words of Psalm 46, a psalm which gives us to truths for troubled times.

In that passage, the Sons of Korah — a people whose own existence depended on the sheer grace of God in the face of cataclysmic judgment (see Numbers 16) — speak of fearlessness in the face of a crumbling world. They write,

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

My question: Where do they find the grace to say “we will not fear though the earth and that is in it gives way”? To most of us when the foundations shake and the rafters rock, we tremble. And in that trembling we look for cover, yet hasty searches for safety in tremulous times often leads to devastating results.

The answer comes to us in verse 1, “God is our refuge and strength.” Because he is a refuge, we don’t need to look for another. And because he is present with us in the chaos of this fallen world (“a very present help in trouble”), therefore we will not fear. Still, such fearlessness takes more than the right answers to theology exam; it takes personal knowledge of a God who is with us and for us. Continue reading