God is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46)

17 September, 2017

Read Psalm 46 (NIV)

1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.

5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.

6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46

INTRODUCTION – It is unquestionable that we will all experience times of pain and suffering.
Psalm 46 is a beautiful song of hope in times of trials, with the truth that God is with us and is our strength and refuge.

The Psalm opens with “God is our refuge and strength” (vs 1);
God [alone] is our strength, – God’s strength is a recurring theme throughout the whole bible, mentioned in one way or another over 360 times; not necessarily of physical strength (e.g Samson), but a strength to battle through times of hardship:
Isaiah 40:29 – “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak”.
Isaiah 40:31 – “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Cf: Irene’s perspective this week!!!
Psalm 28:7-8 – “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me…. The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.”

Our strength is not of the world, but rather found in Christ. As Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
In other words, there is no other source that gives us the strength to overcome the world with its trials, its temptations, it’s self-gratification, desire to sin.

God [alone] is our refuge – I love the term ‘refuge’. “the state of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or difficulty”.
E.g. Purpose of Embassy’s for people seeking political asylum.
In God, you are safe!!

Both ‘Strength’ and ‘Refuge’ speak of God’s ‘provision’ right from the start of the Psalm (contrasting other Psalms).
Vs 1 finishes with “an ever-present help in trouble”.
Interestingly, it is in times of trial/tragedy that we so often call out, ‘God where are you? Yet it is in these times that God’s presence is often so evident!

One of our family readings, we read Psalm 139: 7-12 which says “where can I go from your presence?” and concludes there is NO PLACE to escape the presence and love of the Lord…. He is “ever-present”.
Analogy – ‘Footsteps in the Sand’.
God is here, right now, with you!! – unlike all other religions!

What are the implications of vs1?
Vs 2-3 begins with “Therefore, we will not fear”…
Therefore = When we know the Creator and Sustainer of all, the great I AM; is with us, is our refuge and strength, THEN we need not be afraid!

And there is plenty to fear in this world. Vs 2-3; speaks of the earth giving way, mountains falling – which undoubtedly would be scary.
But God is so much bigger, (Elijah on Mt Horeb; 1 Kings 19:11-12):
11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
God was not in the wind, fire or earthquake; but rather in a quiet, gentle voice!!

But there are ‘greater’ things that so many more of us may fear, things that seem a real possibility (unlike the ocean falling into the ocean?!), such as:
loosing a job (current problem at UOO – 182 jobs loss),
farmers with crops or livestock,
our health,
having food on the table or a roof over our head, etc.

Yet, in Psalm 46 we are comforted with the knowledge that God is bigger and stronger than all these things.
It does not mean that these things, i.e. your needs, are not important; they are!! And God cares about you in these difficult times. But we are to
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
i.e He will be your refuge and strength!!

How do we experience God’s strength and refuge?
PAUSE………. – BY BEING STILL!!

The Psalmist could have simply written “Know that I am God”.
After all, vs 4-9 speak of God’s amazing Sovereignty!
God has everything under control!

But the Psalmist precedes it with “Be still” – and I believe this is one of the biggest challenges that we face and, in doing so, often miss out on experiencing God’s intended strength and refuge!!

We hear the words “be still,” and immediately we think of getting quiet. We think of solitude and silence.
And in a world so full of noise…. silence can be one element in helping us to be still, but the Hebrew literally means “cease and desist”—stop what you’re doing.
Stop being afraid. Stop worrying. Trust me. Acknowledge that I AM.

Easier said than done….
e.g. describe white noise – when we stop everything, our minds are never fully ‘still’ – there is always [white] ‘noise’ in the background!! – the only time you will stop thinking is when you are dead! (quote from TV3 ‘Project’).

Being still before God is NOT having a ‘blank’ mind, and trying to think about nothing…. that is known as empty meditation!
Rather being still has a definitive purpose and that is to focus on God; to “know that HE is God”.

Part of being ‘still’ in God’s presence is being comfortable in His presence. E.g. being comfortable around my wife – I can be still; but sometimes anxious around strangers (especially “uncomfortable silent periods”).
OR perhaps LEARNING to be comfortable in His presence.

The way to learn to be truly comfortable around God is start practicing ceasing all that you are doing, and simply marinate in His presence.
e.g. demands of a child are never ceasing (Asher – either food or bottom wipe),
But occasionally, Asher will come and sit on my knee, not wanting anything, just finding comfort in being with me.
And this is how we can approach God – simply to be still in His presence
i.e no agenda, no requests, no list; simply enjoying God.

Being still before God is NOT about
“putting in my time” – it is not about quantity, but rather quality!
“going thru a ritual” – there is no magic formula you must follow!

You need to be deliberate in “being still before the Lord”
– finding a time/place where you can divorce yourself from the busyness and loudness of everything going on around you and simply coming before God with NO agenda.
– E.g. you could come to church early?

Things to avoid
Don’t put yourself in a position where you will be distracted (e.g. work)
Or where you know your concentration will drift. e.g. in bed late at night when you are sleepy [and in bed] – dosen’t work for me!!

The Psalm finishes the way it began.

Compare vs 1 with vs 11.
Vs 11 – “The Lord Almighty [strength] is with us [ever-present];
    the God of Jacob is our fortress [refuge]”.

Be still and know God…..

Lets pray.