Monday, September 18, 2023

Summer Psalms #4: Stillness in God's Refuge - Psalm 46


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.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Summer Psalms #3: Sovereign – Psalms 33:8

Summer Psalms #3: Sovereign – Psalms 33:8

Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 

There’s something wrong with our nation and you can hear a lot of enlightened from mainstream media about racism or capitalism or how we need to stop global warming. You hear government leaders tell us that big oil is bad, while big pharma and bigger and bigger and bigger government is good. You can hear lots of reasons outside a Bible believing, local church, but inside a church that actually teaches and preaches the Word of God, there really is only one explanation why we are having riots in our streets, unprovoked attacks against the most helpless, protests for the right to kill unborn babies. There is a reason drug dealers and criminals are made into heroes while the police who protect us are made into killers. There is a reason why shoplifters, rapists, murderers and pedophiles are getting get out of jail free cards in major cities across our nation. There is a reason why traditional families are an endangered species, why the worst forms of perversion are now promoted as a family. There is a reason why our schools are instructing children in the most destructive life choices, while outlawing anything that might save them. 

There is a reason. And it isn’t about any freedom, social, political or economic issue. No, the reason is a spiritual one. The reason is the most basic necessity of any individual, any family or any nation. We as a nation have forgotten who God is. We have turned our back on the only hope we have and we are suffering the terrible consequences of that choice.

That brings us to the 33rd Psalms.
The is a Psalms about praising God because He is the Sovereign, the ruler, the sole arbitrator of creation and history.

It is a Psalm exhorting the people of God to rejoice in their omnipotent, sovereign God. It is specifically speaking of Israel’s relationship to God and before we can apply the Psalms to our own relationship to God, we must understand it original meaning or the application may be false. We must understand that no other nation has ever been or will ever be God's nation but Israel. God will not allow anyone to steal Israel's relationship with Him. In His sovereignty He chose Israel through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But we can and should take Psalms 33 and after understanding its proper interpretation, then apply its exhortations and encouragements to any people or nation who also have a relationship to Israel’s God. 

You can't ignore or neglect Israel, but you can rejoice with Israel through the New Covenant relationship with we share with them as believers.

Praise Jehovah – Psalms 33:1-3

Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise.

Rejoice In The Lord

Israel, the people of God, are exhorted to rejoice and praise the Lord Jehovah. They are told to magnify their praise with the harp and with the psaltery which most commentator say was a special harp with 10 strings which gave it more range and more beauty.

They are told to sing a new song and to play skillfully with a loud noise. Most of the Psalms and especially ones like this were sung outdoors by large choirs or male only singers. (Ladies take it up with the Lord if you don’t understand why. I don’t understand why I have to be bald while my little brother has a full head of hair either) The sound of the choir, harps, psalters would rise as they sang this song and the sound of their praise could be heard all over the Old Testament city of David.
During the feasts and holy days of the Lord, as pilgrims with their sacrifices would make their way up Mt. Zion towards the Temple, the sounds of voices singing and harps ringing would echo from the walls and fill the streets of Jerusalem.

And throughout all would be the wonderful sense of joy. Joy because they were God’s people, and He was their God. They knew they did not deserve the blessings they had received from Him, but they also knew that He had chosen them by His grace and sovereign will. They may not ever understand why but they could absolutely understand what it meant in their lives. It meant joy and joy should bring praise.

Rejoicing Still

And here is the place where we can make the first application to our own lives. Some things are common to all of God’s people, whether they be of the 12 tribes of Israel or the highland clans of Scotland. Whether they descend from Abraham or MacDonald, MacEntire or O’Donnel. Rejoicing is common to all of God’s people, Old Testament or New Testament they are God’s people, and they should rejoice.

If they are the people of God and share a covenant relationship with him, whether that is Old Testament or New Testament they are God’s people and God’s people are blessed and they should express thankfulness for those blessings by rejoicing.

Praise Him

I use a website called Hymnary when I’m searching for a hymn and I searched the site under the topic “praise,” there were 6487 songs about praise on this site. I think it would be worth it if I read all 6487 at this time. (Some of you woke up right then and asked, “What did he say?)Well, I’m not going to read them all, in fact I’m not even going to read the titles, but I am going to read the titles of the first few that came up sorted by popularity.

Ready? Praise Him! Praise Him! By Fanny J. Crosby. (382 hymnals) Praise to the Lord, the Almighty by Catherine Winkworth and Joachim Neander. (374) Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow by Thomas Ken. (1024 hymnals) To God be the Glory by Fanny J Crosby (203) and Come, thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson is the most popular praise hymn it is in 2121 hymnals.
All of these familiar hymns were written not by David, or Asaph or the Sons of Korah but by New Testament Gentiles in a New Covenant. A covenant of Grace established through the death of Jesus Christ and we can enter into that covenant by the same grace from the same God that blessed Israel.
Listen to this verse of Come Thou Found and you realize why it is in so many hymnals.

Come Thou Fount

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it
mount of God's redeeming love.

Now the Psalmist, we are not told who wrote this Psalms, it is one of the “orphan psalms” since it has no named author, now that anonymous Psalmist gives reasons to rejoice in the Lord God, Jehovah. First in vs. 4, Praise God For His Word.

Praise His Word – Psalms 33:4-9

For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

The Wonder of His Word

The Word used here is not speaking of the scriptures or the Bible. Word here is used of the expression of the power of God, this is the voice of God as he created the earth and universe.
Genesis 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

In this Psalms we read from vss. 6, and 9; 6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.
But it is not just the word of God in creation, it is the word of God in all things.

Vs 4-5 says,  For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth. 5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
God’s word is power but it is not force without reason, or power without purpose. God’s Word is power that is right, it is power that is true, it is power that is love in righteous and judgment. It is power that shows to God’s people the goodness of God.

These things the attributes of who God is. He is all powerful, he is all truth, he is holy, he is just and aren’t you glad, that He is love and He is good.

The Word Of God Still Has Power

So, Israel, is exhorted to rejoice in power of their God. And listen Christian, child of God today, you should rejoice because that is our God, the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is our God not by the Abrahamic covenant but by a much greater, much wider, all-encompassing covenant, The New Covenant of Grace. And the word of God still has power!

The same power that spoke the universe into existence, is the same loving, righteous, true, holy, just and forgiving God whose power opened a new covenant of grace to us and we rejoice in that loving power bestowed upon us.  

Romans 3:21-29 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

Yes, He is our great God and we can rejoice with the same heart and understanding when we sing 

Fanny J. Crosby’s Praise Him, Praise Him, as those Israelites who walked up to the temple and heard the praises of God being sung by those ancient Levitical choirs. He is the same God, and it is the same sovereign will, the same eternal power that opened a relationship with Him and Yes, we should rejoice because we are included in that great family of faith.

Now we come to what is the heart of my message this morning in vss. 10-12. Here is another reason for rejoicing. Rejoice in the Counsel of the Lord.

Praise His Counsel – Psalms 33:10-12

The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

Blessed Is The Nation

The psalmist says the people of God should rejoice because their God is greater, wiser and more powerful than the nations that do not know Him.

He says their plans are reduced to nothing by God, their schemes and traps have no effect, they will not stand, but in contrast the Lord’s counsel stand forever, the thoughts of his heart, the plans, the providence, the purposes of God, those will continue to all generations of God’s beloved people.
Then we come to a very familiar verse, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”

This is a summation of the reasons to rejoice in the Lord to this point in the Psalms. Israel was a blessed nation because their God was the Lord, Jehovah. They were blessed as a people because God chose them for His own inheritance.

Israel as a nation and as a people should no longer be in existence. The world’s nations under the influence of Satan have tried to destroy Israel, from the time of Egypt drowning Hebrew babies in the Nile, to Assyria, Babylon and Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem and deportation of the people. Even to the Medieval kings of Europe who banished and drove the Jews from their kingdoms, to the armies of Islam who occupied their homeland and tried to make them slaves once again. Even a few decades ago Hitler tried in all his Satanic influenced power to destroy every Jewish man, woman and child in all of Europe. Even today in the Middle east radical Islamics are still trying to drive out and kill God’s chosen nation, Israel.

The Jewish nation should not exist. Satan has done everything in his power to wipe it out, but still, it is here.

In 1948 they reentered their homeland and became a nation again among the nations of the world. After all that was meant to destroy Israel, once again they exist as a separate nation, not just a lost people among the other nations. It could not have happened and yet there is Israel. There is only one reason. They were God’s nation, they possessed God’s promises and God never deserts His own. He never made a promise He did not keep. His counsels, His will stands eternally.

Blessed Is Our Nation?

I’ve already said that this Psalm is about Israel, and we cannot take that away and be able to understand it properly. But once we do understand that truth then we can apply that truth to others who share a relationship with God. That is true of people and in an indirect but very real way it is true of a nation.

Can we apply Psalm 33:12 to the Unites States? Can we honestly say that we are or at least we were a nation whose God is the Lord?

I think the evidence is throughout our history. It is written into the documents that brought us to life and now sustain that life. The Declaration of Independence speaks of being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." The Colonial Congress and the Constitutional Convention were opened daily in prayer.  The motto of our country, imprinted upon our coins is "In God We Trust."  We pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God.”

Evidence of Our Nation and God

The Colonies
Eleven of the first 13 States required faith in Jesus Christ and the Bible as qualification for holding public office.
November 3, 1620 - King James I grants the Charter of the Plymouth council. "In the hope thereby to advance the enlargement of the Christian religion, to the glory of God Almighty."
November 11, 1620 - The Pilgrims sign the Mayflower Compact aboard the Mayflower, in Plymouth harbor. “Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia;

The Revolutionary War
Summer 12, 1775 - Continental Congress issues a call to all citizens to fast and pray and confess their sin that the Lord might bless the land.     "And it is recommended to Christians of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and to abstain from servile labor and recreation on said day."

Our Constitution
At least 50 out of the 55 men who framed the Constitution of the United States were professing Christians. (M.E. Bradford, A Worthy Company, Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1982).
James Madison who was the primary architect of the Constitution. Said, “We have staked the future of government not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions on the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

The Presidents
George Washington’s Inaugural Address, “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency . . . We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained. 

(Historical note to above: Washington added the pledge, "So help me God," to his inaugural oath. He then kissed the Bible to affirm his submission to the King of Kings.

Thomas Jefferson, our third president and one of the principle framers of the Constitution: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?" --1781

Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation for a National Day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer should be reissued today.
April 30, 1863 “ We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven.  We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the ascended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.- Proclamation of Thanksgiving, October 1863

Gerald Ford, our 38th president, quoted a 1955 speech by Dwight D. Eisenhower on December 5, 1974 (Two presidents at one time, saves time.) "Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first--the most basic--expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God's help, it will continue to be." -1974

Yes, as improbable as it may seem today, we were once without a doubt, a nation whose God is the Lord. And having begun on that foundation it is no wonder that the blessings that grew from that planting are no longer evident. It is no wonder why we are seeing chaos and riots and anarchy in our streets, corruption in our government and brokenness in our homes and even perversion in our churches. We as individuals and as a nation have cast aside the beliefs of our forefathers. We as a people have quit believing that foundation of scripture and faith in the sovereign God of creation, the Bible and all people are the only hope we have. The only One who can bless and restore is the Lord, Jehovah, God above all.

Before we grow too pessimistic, we need to read the rest of this Psalm.

Praise His Watchfulness – Psalms 33:13-19

The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth. He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works. There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

Rejoice in Hope

Israel could rejoice because God did not just set them up and then let them go. He was still watching and working. He sees all the sons of men. He is the One who fashions their hearts alike. He is the One who judges al their works.
In all the nations, all the sons of men and all their power there is no hope, no king who can save them. It does not matter how vast the army, how mighty the heroes, no matter how powerful their warhorses. All these things are nothing compared to the strength of God.

Vs. 18 is where hope is found, “Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;
Israel as a nation still exists because God was and is still watching and working for those who honor and worship Him.

“O Israel, rejoice in Hope because God will deliver your soul from death and keep you alive.”

There is Still Hope

What is said here about Israel is true for all people. God is watching and we can have hope because His eye is on those who call out for his mercy. He will deliver us.

I know it is true for individuals for I have experienced it in my life. I know it is true, for I have seen God work miracles of deliverance in the lives of others.

I also believe it is true for a nation. This what I believe the Bible promises, that if there is a faithful remnant of God’s people who will faithfully pray for their nation and pray for their leaders then God’s blessing will continue. They may not be as great as they were in the past, but because of God and those who :fear Him and hope in His mercy,” we are not finished as a nation that God can bless.

Yes, we need to vote, yes we need to speak out, yes we share the Gospel to the lost because that is where real change, eternal change will start, but right now in the midst of all that is wrong we need to do this one thing right. We must do it every day, we must do it with hope in our hearts and faith in our souls. We as God’s people, must pray.
Let me bring in Ben Frankin here to support this point.
Benjamin Franklin at the Constitutional Convention.
In 1787, Our nation was in a crisis after the Revolutionary War. We were a nation ununited and each state was at odds with the others. If Britain had reinvaded we would not have been able to withstand them.

They met in Philadelphia to charter a new form of government, but it had bogged down with the same petty problems and selfish interest and it looked as thought America would fail. Then one day, Benjamin Franklin, asked to speak and this is what he said, and this moment changed everything.
He rose from the table where he sat and looking at George Washington the chairman of the convention, he said “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the  more convincing proofs I see of this truth: "that God governs in the affairs of man." And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in the political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little, partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war or conquest. I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business.

(Historical note to above: the convention was then adjourned for three days of prayer, Bible reading and special church meetings, following which the Constitution was discussed and adopted.)
It is never too late with God if we can still pray to God, then we still have hope in God. Hope for our nation, hope for our children, hope for our grandchildren, hope for the future.

The final two verses are a benediction, a closing prayer for Israel and I think for us as well. It is a final reason to rejoice in the Lord, because He is faithful and will not fail His own.

Praise Him His Faithfulness – Psalm 33:20-22

Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.

Is it too late for America? Is it too late for you, for your family, for your church? Is it too late for the blessings of God?  The answer according to the word of God is emphatically, No! It is never too late if we breath and pray it will never be too late, because God is faithful.

Our heart shall rejoice in Him!

Friday, September 8, 2023

Ezekiel and the Exilic Prophets Lesson 1 Introduction and Survey

Ezekiel and the Exilic Prophets

By Pastor Kris Minefee, Calvary Baptist Church

Ezekiel and a Company of Prophets
There are three major exilic prophets, Ezekiel, Daniel and Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was the last prophet of Judah before the exile and it is possible that Ezekiel and Daniel heard him preach.

Each prophet was called and used by God in different places and to different Jews during the Exile.

Irving Jensen writes - Daniel was taken captive in 605 B.C., in Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion of Jerusalem, and he began his prophetic ministry in that same year. Ezekiel was deported to Babylon in 597 B.C., along with King Jehoiachin and hosts of citizens, when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem the second time. Ezekiel was not called to prophesy until after he had been in Babylonia for about five years. Thus, Jeremiah was the lone prophet in the land of Judah for the last twenty years before Jerusalem’s fall.

The different ministries of the three contemporary prophets may be identified thus: 1. Jeremiah: prophet mainly to the Jews in Jerusalem, before the city fell.
    2. Daniel: prophet mainly to the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, in Babylonia.
    3. Ezekiel: prophet mainly to the exiles in Babylonia, before and after the fall of Jerusalem. Ezekiel was the prophet of the captivity. - Irving L. Jensen, Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament: Search and Discover, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 360. 

A comparison of the main themes of the four “greater prophets”:
  Isaiah: salvation of the Lord
  Jeremiah: judgment of the Lord
  Daniel: kingdom of the Lord
  Ezekiel: sovereignty and glory of the Lord - Irving L. Jensen, Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament: Search and Discover, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 364. 

The Man Ezekiel:

His Name: in Hebrew is Yehezqe’l and it means God strengthens. A name he would need as he stood strong for the Lord bearing the burden of being a Prophet of God.

His Birth: If the phrase “thirtieth year” of 1:1 refers to Ezekiel’s age at that time (593 B.C.), then he was born in 623 B.C., during the reign of the good King Josiah. Ezekiel was a child when the book of the Law was recovered in the course of renovating the Temple in 621 B.C. The years of his boyhood and youth were thus spent in the bright reformation period that followed that recovery. - Irving L. Jensen, Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament: Search and Discover, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978).

His Family: Ezekiel, like Jeremiah, was born of a priestly heritage. His father’s name was Buzi, a priest possibly of the Zadok line. Ezekiel was married, but it is not known if he had any children. The darkest day of his life may have been when the Lord announced to him two tragic events: the siege of Jerusalem (24:2), and the death of his beloved wife (24:15–18).

In Exile: When Ezekiel was about eighteen years old (605 B.C.), the Babylonians (also known as Chaldeans) made their first invasion into Judea, carrying away some captives, among whom was Daniel. Eight years later (597 B.C.) they came again, and this time Ezekiel was among the captives, which comprised the upper classes of Judah. Some of the exiles were incarcerated; others were made slaves; many were allowed to settle down in their own homes in various settlements of the exiles. It was of divine providence that Ezekiel was among those granted such liberties. His home was in Tel-abib (Ezek 3:15), a principal colony of exiles near the fabulous city of Babylon. Tel-abib was located by the canal Chebar (“Grand Canal”) which flowed from the Euphrates fork above Babylon through Nippur, winding back into the Euphrates near Erech.
Ezekiel’s home was a meeting place where the Jewish elders often came to consult with him. It may be that his home was open to any of the exiles who wanted spiritual help.

His Call and Commission: Five years after his arrival in the strange land of Babylon, Ezekiel received his call to the prophetic office, to minister to the exiles in Babylonia. What he experienced and heard in this call is recorded in the first three chapters of his book.
Twenty-two years later, when Ezekiel was around fifty-two years old, he was still prophesying to the exiles. It is not known how much longer his ministry continued.

His Character: Ezekiel the prophet was strong and fearless. This is what God made him, and this was his dominant characteristic. He had boundless energy, and a love for the simple, clear and direct. Though his disposition was firm, he had a shepherd’s heart for his countrymen.
Ezekiel’s book reveals that he was methodical, artistic, and mystic. With a deeply introspective nature, he must have studied the message of God a great deal as it applied to himself and his brethren. He was truly a practical theologian, and for this he has been called “the first dogmatist of the Old Testament” and “the prophet of personal responsibility.”

His Message: Ezekiel stressed three points in his preaching.
      1. It was sin which brought the people’s judgment of exile. The people must repent and return to God.
      2. The exile would last for seventy years, even though false prophets were preaching an early return. The people had a letter from Jeremiah which concurred with Ezekiel’s preaching. The seventy-year captivity began in 605 B.C., with the first deportation of Jews. Before the Jews could return to Jerusalem, they must return to the Lord.
3. There would be a future restoration of Israel, for a believing remnant. The general impression of these consolatory messages was that this restoration was in the far-distant future. Most of the adults of Ezekiel’s audience had no other hope than this, for seventy years of captivity precluded their returning to Jerusalem in their lifetime.

The tone of Ezekiel’s preaching was austere and impressive, for the prophet constantly stressed the Lord’s sovereignty and glory. The phrase “glory of the LORD” or its equivalent appears eleven times in the first eleven chapters of his book. The statement of God, “They shall know that I am the LORD,” or its equivalent, appears about seventy times in the book. - Irving L. Jensen, Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament: Search and Discover, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 363–364.

Survey of Ezekiel
Style of Writing

Ezekiel recorded the direct addresses of the Lord, but with his own lofty personal style. He used prose and poetry to convey God’s message. The book abounds with visions, parables, allegories, apocalyptic imagery, and various symbolic acts.

Ezekiel was very methodical about recording events and dates, especially in connection with the messages from God. There are twelve such dated messages in his book: 1:1–2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1; 32:17; 40:1.

Visions of Ezekiel

Ezekiel is known as “The Prophet of Visions.” The very first verse of his book reads, “The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.”

A vision in Bible days was a miraculous experience of a man of God on a special occasion, whereby God revealed truth to him in some pictorial and audible form. Visions were of all kinds, differing in such things as length, intensity, number of symbols, and whether the vision was perceived in the spirit (as in a dream) or by the conscious physical senses.

These are the visions recorded in Ezekiel:
    1.  Vision of the Cherubim (vision of God): Ezekiel’s inaugural vision 1:4–28
    2.  Vision of the Roll or Scroll 2:9–3:3
    3.  Vision of the Plain 3:22–23
    4.  Visions of Jerusalem
         a)      Four abominations in the Temple 8:1–18
         b)      Inhabitants slain 9:1–11
         c)      City destroyed by fire 10:1–22
         d)      The Lord departs from the city 11:1–25
    5.  Vision of Dry Bones 37:1–10
    6.  Visions of the New Temple and Associated Scenes 40:1–48:35

Symbolic Acts

Ezekiel taught by symbolic actions in order that God’s messages might impress the people vividly and intensely. God told Ezekiel, “I have set you as a sign to the house of Israel.”

Following is a list of the main symbolic actions of Ezekiel:

1. Sign of the Brick, - Jerusalem’s siege and fall, - 4:1–3
2. Sign of the Prophet’s Posture, Discomforts of captivity - 4:4–8
3. Sign of Famine, Deprivations of captivity - 4:9–17
4. Sign of the Knife and Razor, Utter destruction of the city - 5:1–17
5. Sign of House Moving, Removal to another land - 2:1–7, 17–20
6. Sign of the Sharpened Sword, Judgment imminent - 21:1–17
7. Sign of Nebuchadnezzar’s Sword, Babylon the captor - 21:18–23
8. Sign of the Smelting Furnace, Judgment and purging - 22:17–31
9. Sign of Ezekiel’s Wife’s Death, Blessings forfeited - 24:15–27
10. Sign of the Two Sticks, Reunion of Israel and Judah - 37:15–17


Allegories are stories intended to teach spiritual lessons. In Ezekiel the allegories have the same purpose as the symbolic actions. They differ in that the allegories teach by words; the symbolic actions teach by actual events.

The main allegories of Ezekiel.
1. The Vine, 15:1–8
2. The Faithless Wife, 16:1–63
3. The Two Eagles, 17:1–21
4. The Cedar, 17:22–24
5. The Two Women, 23:1–49
6. The Boiling Caldron, 24:1–14

Apocalyptic writings and prophesies. Told by means of symbols and imagery. Ezekiel’s apocalyptic passages. There are many resemblances between Ezekiel and Revelation.
36:8–15, 33–36

In Ezekiel the poems are lamentations, or elegies. They are found at 19:1–14 and 27:1–36.

Organization of the Book: Basically the book is made up of three main parts:
  Fate of Judah (desolation)
  Foes of Judah (destruction)
  Future of Judah and Israel (restoration)

The first three chapters could be considered a separate introductory division in the book, recording the call and commission of Ezekiel.

Prominent Subjects




The chief Messianic passages of Ezekiel, as listed by Anton T. Pearson in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, are:
1. The Lord, the sanctuary, 11:16–20
2. The wonderful cedar sprig, 17:22–24
3. The rightful King, 21:26–27
4. The faithful Shepherd, 34:11–31
5. The great purification, 36:25–35
6. The great resurrection, 37:1–14
7. The great reunion, 37:21–28
8. The overthrow of Gog, 38:1–39:29
9. The life-giving stream, 47:1–12


The attributes of God: His glory, sovereignty, name, holiness, justice, mercy
Man’s individual responsibility, corrupt heart
Israel’s idolatry, judgment, elect nation, hope
The Gentile nations’ accountability, judgment
The Last days a restored kingdom

Key Words and Phrase

“Son of man” appears over ninety times in Ezekiel. The prophet is the one so designated. The title was symbolic of Ezekiel’s identity with the people to whom he was sent, even as Jesus, the Son of man, was so identified. This title was Jesus’ favorite title of Himself. (It appears almost ninety times in the gospels.) Ezekiel has been called “The other Son of man.”
  “The word of the LORD came unto me” appears forty-nine times.
  “Glory of the God of Israel” or “glory of the LORD” appears eleven times in the first eleven chapters.
  “LORD God” appears over two hundred times.
  “I shall be sanctified through you” (or equivalent phrases) appears six times. Read 20:41; 28:22, 25; 36:23; 38:16; 39:27.
  “The hand of the LORD was upon me” (or similar phrases) appears seven times: 1:3; 3:14, 22; 8:1; 33:22; 37:1; 40:1. - Irving L. Jensen, Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament: Search and Discover, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 364–371.