Psalms 46: Be Still Be Still And Know God
Text: Psalms 46:1-11
Introduction: 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 the author of these 3 Psalms was King Hezekiah and he wrote them after Israel’s great victory over the Assyrians recorded in 2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chron. 32 and in Isa. 36-37.
You would remember the story, Judah was besieged and utterly helpless, Assyria the greatest power in the Middle East, had invaded and was now at the city walls, taunting Jerusalem and their King Hezekiah. Assyria was known as a raider nation, it invaded and then stripped the conquered nations of wealth, food and people who they then beat into slaves. They were known for their cruelty, killing all those who could not march, those too young, old or sick. They delighted in ingenious ways to kill, like throwing scores of captives from cliffs or driving farming equipment and oxen teams over them as they lay bound on the ground. They would place large hooks through some of the captive’s jaws and then drag them behind their chariots. Assyrian had already taken the northern kingdom of Israel and all the northern cities of Judah when they finally came to the walls of Jerusalem.
Sennacherib, their king, sent an emissary, named Rabshakeh, who mocked Jehovah God, the King and the people’s trust in both. After hearing Rabshakeh’s message, 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 told Hezekiah, “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.
The theme of this Psalm as well as Psalms 48 and 48, is “Praise God who has delivered us.” That theme is clearly seen in Psalm 46 at the beginning of the Psalms, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.” It is also seen in the two refrains in vs 7 and vs. 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
I want to present Psalm 46 in three scenes from the Assyrian Crisis and three metaphors drawn from the descriptions of water in this Psalms. The first scene takes place inside the besieged city of Jerusalem and is described by the Psalmist as troubled waters.
Troubled Waters Ps 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
This first stanza of Psalms reflects the faith of the King as he received the message from Rabshakeh, the slanderous emissary of the Assyrian King. As he ridiculed their trust, the psalmist redoubles the truth, “God is our refuge and our strength.”
From this declaration of truth comes the declaration of faith, “therefore will not we fear.”
The Psalmist describes the vast army of the enemy like a terrible earthquake and a powerful flood. Like people at risk of being swept away in a flood, they are powerless to save themselves but in the midst of the catastrophe, God shelters and protects them, he is their refuge, He is their strength.
Our Troubled Waters
We may not face what Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem faced but we cannot be in this world and not face “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 pandemic and social upheaval our nation 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 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. God is our refuge and strength!
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: Next the Psalmist uses the metaphor of a river of living water that will sustain the people of God. Look at vss. 4-7
Living Water - Ps 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 Our Peace
The psalmist looks away from the troubled waters of despair in the first three verses to the living waters of hope, the river of life. This scene of the poem could be set inside the walls of Jerusalem, where the people are safe and being refreshed by the waters, pools and wells that gave life to the city, no matter what was happening outside the walls.
He says, “There is a river whose stream shall make glad…” That river that makes glad, that river that gives hope is the presence of God with his people. The Psalmist looks away from the difficulties of the present situation and sees God’s presence like a river flowing through and he knows that because God is in the midst of Zion, then Zion shall not be moved.
Where God is the psalmist says:
There is help vs. 5 God shall help her, and that right early (the words “right early” lit. mean at the turn of the morning.)
There is power vs. 6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
There is assurance in vs. 7 we hear the refrain of the Psalms, “The 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 the singers of this psalm would shout the refrain, “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 troubled soul. She was a sinner, an outcast, alone and living on the edge of 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 would 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’s Holy Spirit 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
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 scene and one more comparison to waters, not a pool or a river but now sweet, still waters.
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
This scene takes place on the battlefield as the people of God look upon the victory God has wrought and upon the destruction of 125,000 of the world’s troops. “Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.” To the author of this Psalms, God was 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 to act in His holiness and react in His righteousness. By that great power He destroyed the Assyrian army and made war and strife to cease. He broke the bow, he cut the spear and burned the chariot.
God Himself speaks in vs 10, “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 their own strength. Quit fighting, quit worrying, quit being afraid. Be still, and in that stillness know God.
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, troubles and sorrows. But, we cannot keep trying in our own power and know the power of God. In order to know, truly know Him, God himself tells us, “Be still.”
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.
God spoke to Elijah through stillness and he makes himself know to us today, though our stillness. If we can’t be still, emptied of our strength and trusting only in God, then we won’t experience God’s power and we won’t know the still waters of peace.
Be still. It is in the stillness of our hearts that God is known, not in the rage of our emotions or the rush of our actions but in our stillness, that we will experience God.
Conclusion: The Martyrs Hymn
We sang “Be Still My Soul” to introduce this sermon. That same tune is also used in another hymn, “We Rest In Thee”. In 1956 this hymn was sung by five missionaries before taking off in a small plane to begin Operation Auca. Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Jim Elliott, Roger Yoderian, and Peter Fleming landed their small bush plane on a large sand bar and made contact with a young man and woman from the unreached and hostile Auca Indians. The two went back into their village and because they were afraid of getting in trouble for being physically together against the tribe’s law, they said the white men had molested the girl. With spears and arrows, the Ecuadorian Indians slaughtered them on that sand bar in the bend of the Curaray River. A rifle was within easy reach of the men, but they never took it up. A line from the hymn's final verse provided the title for Elisabeth Elliot's book about the incident, Through Gates of Splendor
"We rest on Thee"
4 We rest on thee, our Shield and our Defender!
Thine is the battle, thine shall be the praise;
when passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
victors, we rest with thee, through endless days;
when passing through the gates of pearly splendor,
victors, we rest with thee, through endless days.
It would have seemed as those men died and their families were left with no husbands, no fathers and the mission to the Auca Indians was destroyed that the raging flood of troubled waters had overcome the people of God, but it did not. Years later the very same Indian warriors what had driven spears through those five men, sat beside the wives and children of those men and sang hymns of praise to the God they all now trusted in. God had done what only he could do and as those men passed through the gates of splendor, He took over the battle and destroyed the stronghold of Satan that held that village in death and sin.
Jim Eliot, who died on that sand bar, kept a dairy in college. This is one of his entries, I think it speaks of stillness and knowing god. “I walked out to the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious. To stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and to give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask?
Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth. I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him. Mayhap, in mercy, He shall give me a host of children that I may lead through the vast star fields to explore His delicacies whose fingers' ends set them to burning. But if not, if only I may see Him, smell His garments, and smile into my Lover's eyes, ah, then, not stars, nor children, shall matter--only Himself.” - Jim Elliot in The Journals of Jim Elliot; entry of January 16, 1951. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 7.