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