Monday, August 8, 2022

Praise, Power and Peace in the Psalms #9 God’s Refuge Psalms 46:1-11

Praise, Power and Peace in the Psalms #9 God’s Refuge

Psalms 46:1-11


Vance Havner, a Baptist evangelist, related the story of an elderly lady who was greatly disturbed by her many troubles both real and imaginary. Finally, she was told in a kindly way by her family, "Grandma, we've done all we can do for you. You'll just have to trust God for the rest." A look of utter despair spread over her face as she replied, "Oh, dear, has it come to that?" Havner commented, "It always comes to that, so we might as well begin with that!"

Psalm 46, 47 and 48 form a trilogy of praise. They were probably written after God had delivered Israel in a mighty and miraculous way. Some believe it was the great victory over the Assyrians found in 2 Kings 19

Judah was besieged and utterly helpless, Assyria the greatest power in the Middle East, had invaded and was now at the city walls. Assyrian was known as the raider nation, invading weaker countries just to steal their riches and make slaves of their people. They had already taken the northern half of the Promised land and the northern kingdom of Israel, the apostate sister of Judah. Sennacherib 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. The King then went into the temple in dressed in sackcloth, fasted and prayed. In response to Hezekiah’s prayer, God sent Isaiah, the great prophet of the most high God, with an answer to that prayer. God, Isiah 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.

This Psalm may have been written after such a victory with the theme. “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble.” Now I really doubt and hope that we ever face an army of over 100, 000 Assyrians, but we still have very real enemies and for the battles we still face, I want to be able to say along with the sons of Korah, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

The Psalms has three stanza or stophes, and in each of them is the theme of water, a flood, a river or still waters. Look at the first stanza of the Psalms which runs from vss. 1-3 and speaks of faith during a time of …

Troubled Waters - 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 Our Refuge

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.

From this declaration of complete trust comes the conclusion of faith, “therefore we will not fear.”

The Psalmist describes the troubles as terrible earthquakes and overwhelming, apocalyptic floods. He is like a drowning man being swept away. In this deluge, the psalmist is powerless to save himself, but in the midst of the catastrophe, in the full power of storm, he reaches out his hand and God plucks him from the flood.  In God he has found a place of refuge from the flood.

Our Troubled Waters

We may not face what Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem faced but we cannot be in this world and not know our own “troubled waters.” Sometimes it is our family caught up in the flood of illness or sorrow. Sometimes it is our church being swept away in a flood of turmoil, sin or even division. In these days of social upheaval, it seems our nation is being swept away by civil strife, immorality, perversion and ungodliness.

Like Hezekiah we can hear the enemies outside the gate of our family, 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 when I am overwhelmed, it is then that I need to hear the voice of God’s word, the surety of God’s promise. “God is our refuge and strength.”

The flood may still be raging around us, but we have found our place of protection, shelter, and hope. That place is there, 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”

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 we stand on, we will not fear. God is our refuge and strength!  

Charles Albert Tindley, was born the son of a slave in Maryland 1851. His mother, Hester was a free woman, but she died while Charles was very young. Though he was free, he spent his early life working with slaves, hired out by his father. He saw the Civil War and its aftermath, through those young eyes and after marriage he taught himself to read, took correspondence courses and became a Methodist preacher and a hymn writer. He was a well know preacher and he often used his a hymn of his own writing to introduce his sermons. You may not remember his name but I know you remember his songs, we sing them often in our church.

He wrote “Nothing Between My Soul and My Savior”, “Leave it There” and “We’ll Understand it better by and by.” The one I want to call your attention to now is “Stand By Me.” For almost as though Bro. Tindley were writing it today, it illustrates this first point.

When the storms of life are raging,
stand by me; (stand by me)
when the storms of life are raging,
stand by me. (stand by me)
When the world is tossing me
like a ship upon the sea,
thou who rulest wind and water,
stand by me. (stand by me)

In the midst of tribulation,
stand by me; (stand by me)
in the midst of tribulation,
stand by me. (stand by me)
When the hosts of hell assail,
and my strength begins to fail,
thou who never lost a battle,
stand by me. (stand by me)

If a son of slavery, a self-taught preacher in the aftermath of the Civil war could write that song and sing it as true, then whatever you and I may face in our storms of life can also be faced and conquered when God is our Refuge.

The next stanza of Psalms 46, Tells us How God works in our life to be our place of refuge  Look at vs. 4-7 and the ….

 Living Water  - Psalms 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 Our Peace

The psalmist moves from being swept away by the troubled waters of despair in the first three verses to the hope and confidence of the living waters.

He says, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad…” That river is the presence of God, it is the Holy Spirit of God in the midst of his people. In that presence, just like sitting beside a gently flowing river, there is peace. Isn’t that a beautiful metaphor? 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 bring peace to Israel. John the last apostle saw it in the book of Revelation.

Here the Psalmist looks up from the difficulties of the present to see the eternal dwelling of God.  Though he may feel swept away, God is in the midst of Zion and because God is there, Zion shall not be moved.

Where God is the psalmist says:

There is help vs. 5 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 also 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.”

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 you would ask me for living water. If we only knew, who Jesus truly is, what Jesus has done,  what he can give, then we will ask him for living water. Living water to wash away my sin, my fears and my guilt. Oh, have you sought and tasted the water of life?  Are you now depending upon that well of water springing up within you in the time of your deepest troubles knowing that because God is in your heart, you will not be moved by the floods of trouble and strife. You have a place of 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 the 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

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 peace of the pure river of water of life, then you need to accept the Lord’s gift of living waters today.

There is one more aspect of praise from this Psalms in the last 4 verses.

Still Waters - Psalms 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 Our Power

To the author of this Psalms, God was more than just a place to hide.  He is the sustainer and the creator of all things.  He is the righteous and all Holy. He is the judge of all and He has all power. By that great power one day He will cause all war and strife to cease. He will break the bow, cut the spear and burn the chariot.

Now listen for God Himself speaks in vs 10 and He tells 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! It means quit working and trying in your own strength. Quit fighting, quit worrying, quit fearing. Just be still, trust, have faith and fully know that I am God.”

Can We Be Still?

Here is the mistake we often make, we try to find peace, we try to calm the waters, we try to right the wrongs ourselves. In our power, we try to be stronger than our problems and more hopeful than our sorrows.  But what we see in God’s word is that we cannot keep trying in ourselves and then know the presence and power of God. 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 with an engraving 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 raging waters, if we don’t ask Him for the waters of life, if we can’t be still, then we won’t experience God’s power in our own 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 raise 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 from sweeping down upon them from behind. All they could do was “Stand Still and See Salvation.

In the salvation of our souls or the deliverance from despair we must hear and obey the same command, “Be still, and know that I am God.

Conclusion:

The refrain of the Psalms sounds once more to bring 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 our service 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.

Jesus Lover of My Soul

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.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Misinterpreted, Misunderstood and Misapplied : Lesson 2 - Thou shalt not kill

Misinterpreted, Misunderstood and Misapplied : Lesson 2


Matthew 22:23-20 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

Today there are many religious leaders, like the Sadducees who are pushing a personal agenda by misusing the Bible as a proof text for their own personal beliefs or worse to con people and misuse them for the false leaders own profit.

The Sadducees were one of the three main schools of religious thought in the time of Christ. Not as popular as the Pharisees, and not aesthetic like the Essenes. We know little about them other than what the Bible says. Mainly we know that they did not believe in bodily resurrection, angels or spirits or that the soul itself continued after death. This is why they tried to trap Jesus with the foolish question about the woman who had been married 7 times but never divorced. They were trying to create a scenario that would show how impossible a resurrected life would be. Jesus shut them down by telling them they were in error because they didn’t know scripture or the power of God. A terrible combination of a condemnation.

Jesus’ answer. Matthew 22:30-33 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

Lets look at some oft misused, misapplied and misinterpreted scriptures that we will try and properly exegete over the next few weeks. We may not cover all of these and we may add others and they come to mind. The following are very well know passages that are often, if not most of the time completely removed from the original meaning of the passage.

Old Testament Law Mistakes

Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not kill.

Misapplied. – God does not want you to kill anything, even a murderer should not be put to death. God is against the death penalty and God does not condone war. You cannot fight in a war if you are a Christian.

Exegesis – Context The context of the verse is the 10 commandments a compacted summary of the law of God that the nation of Israel was to keep as His people and nation. The rest of Exodus and Leviticus gives the full extant of the law from 10 to over 300 laws.

Word usage: The word for kill used here is רָצַח: rāṣaḥ. , It means to kill (a human being), especially to murder. – translated it other places as manslayer, and murderer. New translations use the word murder. So we can see the command is not against killing any human being, but an injunction against killing an innocent human being. You shall not murder.

Analogy of Scripture: If we let scripture interpret scripture by looking up other passage about murder and its punishment we can see that instead of being opposed to capital punishment, the Bible explicitly states it is the only just way of dealing with the crime of murder.

Capital punishment predates the 10 commandments and goes back to the commandments given to Noah after the flood. Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

This commandment is further expanded in Exodus 21:12-16 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death. And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die. And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

It is also reconfirmed by Paul in the New Testament in Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Summary - The passage is clearly stating that God prohibits murder. Any spilling of innocent blood brings the condemnation of God and under God’s rule of law, the murder must pay with his own life for the life he has taken. This is equitable because all men were made in the image of God. We are not animals but humans and that means within us, all of us is the divine spark that brought us to life. Therefore, only the payment of the life of the guilty is just.

Exodus 21:23-25 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Misapplication: Vengeance is justified and it should be applied in the exact same way as the crime. Take an eye for an eye, a hand for a hand, etc.

Ghandi speaking of this passage with that view, said of this passage, “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Jesus quotes the passage in Matthew 5:38-39 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

The phrase also found Leviticus 24:19-20 And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.

In Deuteronomy 19:16-21 we gain a broader perspective of the meaning of the commandment, “If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

The Bible Knowledge Commentary says of this passage, “If … a pregnant woman delivered her child prematurely as a result of a blow, but both were otherwise uninjured, the guilty party was to pay compensation determined by the woman’s husband and the court. However, if there was injury to the expectant mother or her child, then the assailant was to be penalized in proportion to the nature of severity of the injury. While unintentional life-taking was usually not a capital offense (cf. vv. 12–13), here it clearly was. Also the unborn fetus is viewed in this passage as just as much a human being as its mother; the abortion of a fetus was considered murder. A person’s physical loss by injury was to be punished by a similar loss to the offender (vv. 24–25), the law of retaliation (cf. Lev. 24:19–20; Deut. 19:21). This law was designed to restrict the exacting of punishment to what was equitable.

Summary - This is not a barbaric punishment. It is not comparable to the Islamic Sharia law that advocate the cutting off or hands for a thief. This law is exactly the opposite and insures that such punishment will not be allowed. What God codified here and in the other OT passages is that “The punishment must fit the crime.” It is not about vengeance; it is about justice. Taking a hand for theft is not justice, but having the thief pay back that which was taken as well as a fine is. Killing a man for injuring your wife or unborn baby is not justice, but if that man killed them then after he was tried by the judges, the taking of his life was and is just.

Conclusion

 The power of God’s word when correctly interpreted and applied is incredible. When those who hate God’s word or those who would try and use it to their own purposes, take the Bible out of context or ignore proper word definition or usage, you can make the Bible say anything you want. But when correctly interpreted the power and timelessness of God’s word speaks to the heart of us as people and as a nation. Never settle for less than what God’s word is really saying, its not just a mistake, it is foolish and robs us of the truth He meant for us to hear.