Summer Psalms 4 Stillness in God's Refuge Psalm 46
Text: Ps 46:1-11
Psalm 46, 47 and 48 form a trilogy of praise. Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 47:1O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. Psalms 48:1 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
They were probably written after God had delivered Israel in a mighty and miraculous way. Some believe it was this great victory over the Assyrians found in 2 Kings 19.
The city of Jerusalem was besieged and unable to help herself. Assyria, the greatest power in the Middle East at this time, was now at the city walls. Assyrian was known as a raider nation, invading weaker countries just to steal their riches and make slaves of their people. They had already taken the northern kingdom of Israel, the apostate sister state of Judah. Sennacherib, the King of Assyria then sent an emissary, named Rabshakeh, who stood outside the walls of the Holy City and mocked the God of Israel, King Hezekiah and the people’s trust in both. After all these things happened, the King then went into the temple dressed in sackcloth, he fasted and he began to pray. In response to King Hezekiah’s prayer, God sent Isaiah, the great prophet of the most high God, with an answer to that prayer. God, Isaiah told the King, God will defend this city.”
And God fulfilled his promise as recorded in 2 Kings 19:32-35 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand (185,000): and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
Now I really don’t think you and I will ever have to face an army of 185, 000 mad for blood and loot, Assyrians. No, but face some real enemies and in our life. When those times come and they will, then I want to be able to say as Psalms 46 states, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
The Psalms has three stanzas, and in each of them is a metaphor using water. One is a flood, one is a river and one is the still waters of a peaceful stream. Let’s start with the first stanza of the Psalms, vss. 1-3 and listen as it speaks of faith in God during a time trouble.
The Troubled Sea - Psalms 46:1-3
Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
God, A Refuge In the Storm
The Psalms begins with this statement of faith, God is our refuge and strength. In Him we find a place of safety, of hope and ultimately of victory. It is the theme of the Psalms it is found in each of the stanzas. Vss. 1, 7, and 11.
From this declaration of complete trust, this understanding of who God is, comes this conclusion, “therefore we will not fear.”
The Psalmist describes the troubles he faces as terrible earthquakes and overwhelming, apocalyptic floods. He is like a man being thrown about by the moving of the earth or swept away in an powerful flood. In all this, the psalmist knows he powerless to save himself, but in the center of the catastrophe, in the full power of storm, he reaches out in faith and God pulls him out of the troubles. In God he finds his place of refuge from the pain, sorrow and suffering in life.
Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Our Own Troubled Waters
We may not face what Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem faced but we will know our own “troubled waters.” Sometimes it is our family caught up in the flood of financial problems, illness or disfunction. Sometimes it can be our church being swept away in a flood of turmoil or even division. In these days of social upheaval, it seems our nation is being swept away by a flood of civil strife, immorality, perversion and ungodliness.
Like Hezekiah we can hear the enemies outside the gate of our homes, our church, mocking us, ridiculing our faith, and telling us to quit believing because there is no God that can deliver us from what is coming.
At those times, when I am overwhelmed by the troubled waters of this world, it is then that I need to listen and hear the voice of God’s word, the surety of God’s promise. I need to remember Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength.”
The flood may still be raging around us, but we have a place of protection, shelter, and hope. That place is in the promise of God Himself. He is our refuge, He is our strength, He is with us. He is that “very present help in time of trouble.” That means when I need Him, He is there. When trouble is present, God is there in the midst with me.
I must state and stake my faith in God as my place of refuge. It matters not what circumstances are sweeping me away or what forces are shaking the very ground I stand on, I will not give in for God has promised that He is our refuge and strength!
Psalms 9:9-10 9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.
Psalms 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not
dismayed; for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Be Still My Soul
We know little of the song author, Kathrina von Schlegel,
but we do know she was born in 1697 and she died in 1797, 100 years later. She
lived most of her life in Kothen, Germany or back then, Saxony. During the 100
years of her lifetime there were…42 major wars, rebellions or uprisings. There
were 9 famines, the two worst saw 1/3 of all Bengal, and 10% of all Ireland die
from starvation. There were terrible uncurable plagues, that killed 100s of thousands
and struck without warning. Mt. Loki erupted in Iceland and almost the entire
island had no way to grow food or live. An earthquake in Persia killed 40
thousand, another earthquake in Lisbon created a tidal wave that killed 60
thousand. Mt. Fuji in Japan erupted for the first time in over 1000 years. The
volcanic ash in the air diminished the sun’s warmth and the little Ice age
began making the 18th century the coldest in over 500 years.
Politically, the world was changed by The United States
Revolutionary War, which broke the power of England and established democratic
rule. But then French Revolution also began. The saw the worship of God
forbidden and a cult of reason adapted as the state religion. Then the Cult of
Reason began the Reign of Terror in which 40,000 French citizens were killed in
less than a year. From that chaos, Napoleon came to power and the whole world
plunged into a war than killed hundreds of thousands and lasted for decades.
In the meantime Katherine Van Schlegel lives in Saxony and leaves the world with only the dates of her birth, her death and one hymn. In the midst of all the terrible events of her lifetime she wrote…
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
in every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
In the next stanza of Psalms 46, the psalmist moves from being swept away by the troubled waters of despair to the hope and confidence of the Joyful river of God.
The Joyful River - Psalms 46:4-7
Psalm 46:4-7 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
God’s River of Joy
He says, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad…” The psalmist is using the river as a symbol of the presence of God. As the river flows through a city bringing help and hope so also the Holy Spirit of God flows in his people. In His presence, just like sitting beside a gently flowing river, there is joy. Ther is peace. Such a beautiful metaphor. The river of the presence of God. It’s used over and over throughout God’s word.
Psalms 36:8-9 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.
The Prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah both saw in a vision the river of life flowing from the throne of God bringing life and peace to Israel.
Here the Psalmist looks up from the difficulties of the present to see the eternal dwelling of God. Though he may feel swept away today, God is still in the midst of Zion and because God is there, Zion shall not be moved.
Where God is the psalmist says:
There is help Psalms 46:5 God shall help her, and that right early. The words “right early” lit. mean at the turn of the morning, the breaking of the dawn, at the darkest of the night light breaks forth and God’s deliverance is seen. Right early. It also means that whoever wrote this psalm was from East Texas, so we can claim it as our own. And you might want to do that “right early”
The Psalms tells us that where God is there is power vs. 6 “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: but he (God) uttered his voice, and the earth melted.”
We also know that where God is there is also assurance vs. 7 he LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
The meaning of the word Selah is lost to us, but most feel it was a musical notation. Much like our notation crescendo it might have meant to raise the voice. And if so on this phrase in vs. 7 the singers of this psalm would shout the promise. “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge!”
Have You Been to the River?
The Bible often uses rivers, springs and water as a metaphor of salvation. We see this especially in the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.
Turn with me to John 4:10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman at the well needed living water, for her soul and for her world. She was a sinner, outcast, alone and living on the edge of her society, but then Jesus came and offered her “living water springing up into everlasting life.”
Listen to me. We are all like the woman at the well. We are sinners, outcast from the love of God and living on the edge of eternity. Like her we need the living water that only Jesus can give. Without Jesus there is no refuge, no assurance, no hope, but with him there is peace in the midst of the fiercest storm.
Jesus told her if you only knew me, you would ask me for living water. If we only knew, who Jesus truly is, what Jesus has done, what he can give us, then we would ask him for living water. Living water, to wash away my sin, my fears and my guilt. If you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, then there is a well of water, a river of joy, springing up within you. Even in the time of your deepest troubles God’s presence is in your heart. You will not be moved by the floods of trouble and strife. You have a place of refuge, safety, and peace because God is with you.
Like the Psalmist and the woman at the well if we have been to the river, if we have drunk of Jesus’ water of life, then one day we will experience another river this one the greatest of all eternity.
The River of Life Revelation 22:1-5
Revelation 22:1-5 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
That is the future reality of our present promise through Jesus Christ. If you want to see it, if you want to experience the eternal joy of God’s crystal clear river of life, then you need to accept the Jesus’ gift of living waters today.
There is one more aspect of praise from this Psalms in the last 4 verses.
The Stream of Stillness - Psalms 46:8-11
Psalm 46:8-11 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
God’s Still Stream
To the author of this Psalms, God was more than just a place to hide. He was the creator and sustainer of all things. He was the righteous and Holy God of war and of peace. He was the judge of all, and He was God of all power. By that great power one day He would cause all war and strife to cease. He will break the bow, cut the spear and burn the chariot.
Now listen closely for God Himself speaks in vs 10 and He tells the psalmist and in turn us, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
“Be still” literally means take your hands off! King Hezekiah could do nothing but be still. He and Jerusalem had to quit working and striving in their own power. They could not fight they could only wait and see the salvation of the Lord. They were to stop the worry, stop the fear, stop the hopelessness and just be still. Trust, have faith and fully know that I am God.”
Can We Be Still?
Here is the mistake we all make. We try to find peace, we try to calm the waters, we try to right the wrongs ourselves. We work in our power; we try to be stronger than our problems and more positive than our sorrows. But God does not tell us to get stronger in ourselves. He tells us to be still and know what only He can do. We cannot keep trying in our power and then know the power of God. In order to know His power in us, in order to know Him, we must “Be still!”
It is a mistake that mankind has always made. If you go to New York and stand in front of the United Nations building you will see a sculpture gifted from the USSR in 1959. It has an inscription taken from Isaiah 2:4, it says “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
But that will never be true for the nations of the world, because they left out the first part of that verse which says, “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. They left out God and without God’s power, the UN will never succeed in finding peace.
And on a much smaller but even truer scale nor can we. If we leave God out of our lives, if we don’t reach for Him in the storms, if we don’t seek him beside the river of life, , if we can’t be still beside God’s steam of peace, then we can’t experience God’s power and we can’t know the difference God’s power could have made in our life.
We must be still. It is in the stillness of our hearts that God is known, not the rage of our emotions or the rush of our actions but in the stillness of our soul, that we experience God.
Is there a better illustration of this than what we find in Exodus 14. We are studying this in a really well produced and video series in our Sunday afternoon services. As Moses and the Hebrews found themselves blocked by the Red Sea in front and the chariots of Pharoah behind God spoke to Moses and he spoke to the people and in Exodus 14 :13 we read, “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.”
The people of God couldn’t part the Red Sea until it stood like the walls of a giant canyon, they could not dry out the land, they could not stop the chariots of Egypt from sweeping down upon them. All they could do was “Stand Still and See the Salvation of the Lord.”
In the salvation of our souls or the deliverance from despair, we must obey the same command, “Be still, and then you can know that God is God.
The refrain of the Psalms brings the Psalms to an end.
Psalms 46:11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
It is the truth, the promise, the hope that each of us needs to take with us as we leave today. The Lord of the armies of Heaven stands with us. The God of the Ages, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who protected, guarded and never failed them, He is also our place of safety, peace and hope. He will never fail us in our time of troubled waters.
Jesus Lover of My Soul – Charles Wesley
Mrs. Mary Hoover, of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, whose grandmother was the heroine of the story, has related to her pastor this family tradition: Charles Wesley was preaching in the fields of the parish of Killyleagh, County Down, Ireland, when he was attacked by men who did not approve of his doctrines. He sought refuge in a house located on what was known as the Island Barn Farm. The farmer’s wife, Jane Lowrie Moore, told him to hide in the milkhouse, down in the garden. Soon the mob came and demanded the fugitive. She tried to quiet them by offering them refreshments. Going down to the milkhouse, she directed Mr. Wesley to get through the rear window and hide under the hedge, by which ran a little brook. In that hiding-place, with the cries of his pursuers all about him, he wrote this immortal hymn. Descendants of Mrs. Moore still live in the house, which is much the same as it was in Wesley’s time.
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.