Monday, August 27, 2018

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

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

Text: Ps 46:1-11


Introduction:   A Mothers Bad Day.  It was one of the worst days of my life: the washing machine broke down, the telephone kept ringing, my head ached, and the mail carrier brought a bill I had no money to pay. Almost to the breaking point, I lifted my one-year-old into his highchair, leaned my head against the tray, and began to cry. Without a word, my son took his pacifier out of his mouth and stuck it in mine.- Clara Null of Oklahoma City, OK, Christian Reader, Sept/Oct 1995, p. 85.

Sometimes we all need a place of refuge, a time of peace and assurance. Psalms 46 tells us that God is a refuge and in Him there is safety, peace and hope. 

Background: 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 not at that city walls, taunting Jerusalem and their King Hezekiah. Already the raider nation had taken the northern half of the land and the entire northern kingdom of Israel, rebellious sister of Judah. Sennacherib sent an emissary, Rabshakeh, who mocked God the King and the people’s trust in both. Hezekiah went into the temple in sackcloth, fasted and prayed. Then God sent Isaiah the great prophet of the most high God with an answer to that prayer. God said, “I will defend this city.”

God fulfilled his promise 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: 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.” We will probably never face an army of over 100, 000 Assyrians, but for the enemies we do face, for the battles I must fight, I want to be able to say, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Troubled Waters Ps 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.
From this declaration of trust comes the natural conclusion, “therefore will not we fear.”
The Psalmist talks of terrible earthquakes and powerful floods. Like a drowning man being swept away in a flood, the psalmist is powerless to save himself from his troubles and his sorrows, but in the midst of the catastrophe, in the grasp of storm,  he reaches out his hand and God plucks him from the flood.  In God he has found his place of refuge.

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. Sometimes it is our church in turmoil and pain even division one from another. In these days of social upheaval our nations is certainly being swept away by a flood of immorality, perversion and ungodliness.

Just like Hezekiah we can hear the enemies outside the gate, mocking us, ridiculing our faith, and telling us to quit believing because God can’t deliver us.

At those times, at these times we need to listen to the voice of God’s word. Listen to God’s promise, given to Judah and to us. “God is our refuge and strength.”

It is not a promise that the trouble will cease, but a promise of a of protection, shelter, and hope. It is the promise of God himself being 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 our nation is founded upon, we will not fear.

Illustration: Has it come to that!?!

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!"

Transition: How does God act as our place of refuge?  Look at vs. 4-7

Living Water  Ps 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 living waters of hope.
He says, “There is a river whose stream shall make glad…” He looks to the presence of God for peace.

He 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.)
There is power vs. 6
There is assurance vs. 7

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.

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.

Illustration: 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 from God, through Jesus Christ.  If you want to see and experience it one day, then you need to accept the Lord’s gift of living waters today.

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

Still Waters 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 Our Power

To the author of this Psalms, God was is more than just a place to hide.  He was also the sustainer and the creator of all.  He is the righteous and 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.

God Himself speaks in vs 10 and 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 means to quit trying in your own strength. Quit fighting, quit worrying, quit fearing. Just be still, and fully know that I am God.

Can we Just Be Still?

Here is the mistake we often make, we try to find peace, we try to still the wars, we try to right the wrongs ourselves.  In our power, we try to be stronger than our problems and our sorrows.  We cannot keep trying in ourselves and know the presence of God. In order to know Him, God himself says, “Be still.”

Illustration: We make the same mistake that the United Nations has made.

The motto of the United Nations is 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 any more.”

But you see it will never be true for the United Nations  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 can experience God.

Illustration:  Elijah in the Cave 

2 Kings 19:11-12  And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:  And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

Conclusion: Jesus Lover of My Soul

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.

Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

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.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

James: Faith In Action Lesson 2: Faith Testing

Faith Testing James 1:1-18

More about the man James:

James was elected the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. Paul called him "a pillar," in Galatians 2:9. James moderated the church conference in Acts 15. When Peter was delivered from prison, he sent a special message to James (Acts 12:17); and when Paul visited Jerusalem, it was to James that he brought greetings and the special "love offering" from the Gentiles (Acts 21:18-19).

Tradition tells us that James was martyred in A.D. 62. The Pharisees in Jerusalem hated James and had him cast down from the temple and then beaten to death with clubs. The story also relates that James died, as did his Saviour, praying for his murderers, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." - Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Mature (James).

Salutation 1:1

What can we learn about James from the words he uses to greet the brethren?
He uses the word servant (bond-slave) showing his humility and gratitude to God for salvation. He names Jesus as Lord showing adoration. He writes to the twelve tribes showing his identification with them ethnically.

He uses the same phrase that was used in the letter to the churches in Acts 15:23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:
Trial of Your Faith

What does James mean by temptation? Is this limited to temptation to sin or does it have a broader meaning?
The word for temptation comes for the Greek word πειρασμός peirasmos 
Translated in the AV-temptation 19, temptations 1, try 1; 21x. It means an experiment, attempt, trial, proving, or an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances

When you look at the context of the entire first chapter, it is plain, that James is talking about the trials which are a temptation to quit or to blame God.

According to James what knowledge will help us to be joyful even in the midst of trials?
Trials bring us to patience. We grow through the trials if we allow God to use them to mature us. We are to have joy in the trail not necessarily because of the trail but because of the maturity and growth that trails through patience can bring in us.

What kind of patience is James saying will bring us to completeness and maturity?
He is speaking of endurance. This is the ability to hold on and trust God in the midst of the worst difficulties.

What is the perfect work of patience working us?
Bringing God’s children to perfection, entirety and wanting nothing. Christian maturity is gained primarily through trials in this life.

Just as the temptation James speaks of is dealing with trails, so also the word wisdom is understood through the context of this passage. What specific kind of wisdom is James saying they should ask God for?
The wisdom to understand how trails can bring patience, and patience will have its perfecting work. This wisdom will bring them to be able to count it all joy.

1:6-8 In telling us to ask for wisdom James also teaches about faith in our prayers. What does James teach us about faith in our petitions before God?
That we must be single-minded, not wavering between doubt and fear. If God has promised it, then believe it and you shall receive it.

Why does the metaphor of the wind tossed wave fit so well in the admonition about trials and faith?
It gives us a picture of the trials which toss us up and down like the wind driven waves, while our faith acts as the anchor that turns us toward God, believing that He hears and answers our prayers.

1:9-11 How are trials the great equalizer between the rich and poor?
The poor or lowly man rejoices, exalts because he has been counted worthy to suffer for Christ. The rich because he has been humbled and learned to trust in God rather than have faith in his wealth.

1:12 James closes this section with a beatitude, (blessing), again echoing his big brother Jesus. Why is the man who has endured trials blessed?
He shall receive a crown of life, promised to him by the Lord.

What is the ultimate reason James gives for being able to withstand trials?
We will endure because of our love for Him. Our love for Jesus will give us the strength needed to endure unto maturity.

Inward Temptations

Vs. 1:13 Now James moves from the outward trials the Hebrew Christians were dealing with to the inner trials and temptations.

What is James warning those who are going through trails to be careful of?
He is telling them not to blame God in these areas of trial and temptations.

What are his proofs that God is not the one behind their trials or that God is the creator of evil since He created all things, including Satan?

Vs. 13 - First, He cites God’s holiness. God cannot be tempted, nor does He tempt us.

Vs 14 -15 Second, He cites our sinful nature. Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.
Who then is to blame when our trials or temptations bring us to sin?
We are. The lust within us and our own choices are responsible for causing us to sin, never God.

Finally, James cites God’s love. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Vs. 16 James points to the nature of God using two distinct words for gifts, good and perfect. One looks at the giver the other at the gift. How does this help us to understand God’s role in trials?
It shows God as the one who constantly gives (present participle) us blessings. He keeps on giving and by his constant gifts He enables us to make it through the trials and temptations.

Vs. 17 reinforces James proof of God’s nature by the title and description of God as the giver not the tempter. What is the title and description?
God is the Father of lights, (looks to God as creator of all lights in creation) with whom there is neither variableness (the possibility to change) nor shadow of turning.

“Shadows from the sun shift, but not the One who made the sun!” - An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty.

Vs. 18 What is the greatest example of God’s gifts and proof that He does not tempt us?
By His own will He chose to save us, begat us by truth. He gave us the gift of eternal salvation.

What did James mean by calling them first fruits?
The Jews who were first saved during the earthly ministry of Jesus were the first fruits of God’s coming salvation to all others. They themselves were proof of God’s love.


James, in this opening section of his epistle, deals with a timeless and universal problem that we all face. How do I reconcile the sin and trials of life with a loving and holy God? His answer is direct, even blunt, but it is still elegant in its logic and proofs.

Trials are a tool that God uses to bring us to maturity. If we allow them to work we will gain the strength of endurance. If we don’t understand this then pray in faith and God will give us the wisdom needed to see how He is working.

In the midst of these trials be careful not to fall into error by blaming God for sin, sorrow and temptation. God is the giver of all good and all perfect gifts. He is the Father of lights, not of darkness, there is not even the hint of Him being able to change from goodness to evil. The gift of our salvation should be all we need to understand He loves us and is helping us though the trials we face