Stephen Caswell © 2004
Always The Path Out
A distinguished painter was conducting a class for aspiring artists. He was speaking on the subject of artistic composition. He emphasized that it was wrong, for example, to portray a woodland, a forest or a wilderness, without painting into it a path out of the trees. When a true artist draws any kind of picture, say a landscape, he always gives his picture an out. Otherwise the tangle of trees and the trackless spaces depress and dismay the onlooker. In the same way God encourages His children by providing a way out of trials.
Today, we live in perilous times. The attack on the World Trade Center, the Bali bombings and recent terrorist attacks in Indonesia and Russia highlight this. In the light of these recent events I thought it would be good to look at God's sovereignty. Is the Lord able to watch over His people? Is He a refuge for His people? Or does He abandon us in difficult situations? Surely not! The Psalmist reflected on this very thing in Psalm 46. His Psalm just oozes with confidence in God. There are three things I would like to look at in this Psalm. They are God's Shelter, God's Salvation and God's Sovereignty.
Firstly, God's Shelter
a. The Facts
Psalm 46:1: God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Firstly, God is our refuge. The word refuge means a shelter, hope, trust. It speaks of a place of safety. When someone committed manslaughter he could flee to a city of refuge to escape the avenger. Yes, trouble comes into all of our lives, but we can seek refuge in the Lord. He protects us in times of trouble. Proverbs 18:10: The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. This idea is expressed many times in the Bible. David always found refuge in the Lord when his enemies sought his life. Saul pursued David for many years, yet God always protected him. David knew that the Lord was watching over him.
Psalm 18:2-3: The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. David found the help that he needed from the Lord. Do you run to the Lord when troubles come? You should!
Secondly, God is our strength. The word strength means power, might, boldness, to be mighty. When trials and trouble come, our strength is drained from us. Yet at these times God is able to strengthen us and help us to stand. We only need to ask Him for strength.
Isaiah 40:28-31: Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
It doesn't matter how strong or weak we are, we all need God's strength. Only He can sustain us in the trials of life! Psalm 73:25-26: Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. One time, David returned to Ziglag with his men and found it burned down and their families carried away as captives. What did he do? His men blamed him for it all. 1 Samuel 30:6 tells us: Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. When trials come do we strengthen ourselves in the Lord? Or do we try and make it on our own? God is always ready to strengthen us.
The third provision that God gives to His people is help. The word help means to succor or assist. God provides refuge and strength to His people. But He also helps us in our trials. What's more He doesn't do this from a distance. He is right there with us to help us in our trials. Hebrews 13:5-6: For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me? God doesn't expect us to make it on our own. In fact, He knows that we can't. It's only our pride and fear that keep us from seeking His help.
Will you determine to seek God's help each day? Will you allow God to take control of the trials in your life? God is always waiting to answer your prayers. Psalm 34:17-19: The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
b. Our Faith
Psalm 46:2-3: Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
In light of God's provision how should we respond to uncertainty, trials and conflict? We should respond in faith, not in fear. If God is our refuge, strength and help shouldn't we trust Him to take care of us? If calamity takes place on the earth, hasn't God caused it or allowed it to happen? Therefore, we must respond in faith when turmoil comes into our lives. This is exactly what Job did when wave after wave of calamity broke upon him. He trusted in God's goodness. He knew that the Lord would not let him down. The Psalmist said that even if the world was turned upside down he knew that God would take care of him.
Setting The Sails
Hudson Taylor, first went to China, in a sailing vessel. Very close to the shore of cannibal islands the ship was becalmed, and it was slowly drifting shore ward unable to go about and the savages were eagerly anticipating a feast. The captain came to Mr. Taylor and besought him to pray for the help of God. I will, said Taylor, provided you set your sails to catch the breeze. The captain declined to make himself a laughing stock by unfurling in a dead calm. Taylor said, I will not undertake to pray for the vessel unless you will prepare the sails. And it was done. While engaged in prayer, there was a knock at the door of his stateroom. Who is there?
The captain’s voice responded, are you still praying for wind? Yes. Well, said the captain, you’d better stop praying, for we have more wind than we can manage. Hudson Taylor responded to this trial with faith not fear. We must do the same. Fear comes from Satan not from God.
2 Timothy 1:7: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Paul was confident in God. Romans 8:38-39: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. At the end of verse 3 the psalmist says selah. This word means to pause a moment, to think it over and let it all sink in.
When life becomes uncertain what do you do? What do I do? When world events threaten to change our lives how do we handle it? Do we have a shelter for life's storms? Is the Lord our refuge? Does He give us strength to stand? Or do we try and make it on your own? When your world is turned upside down how do you respond, with fear or with faith?
Secondly, God's Salvation
a. An Example
Psalm 46:4-6: There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
Even though the seas may rage and the earth be shaken, God's people are secure because He is with them. There is a clear parallel between verses 1 and 5. In verse 1 the Psalmist says that God is our refuge. In verse 5 he says that God is in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. God makes the city a refuge. His presence brings security. In verse 1 he says God is our strength. In verse 5 he says that the city will not be moved. This is because God gives Jerusalem the strength to stand. In verse 1 he says that God is a very present help in time of trouble. In verse 5 he says that God will help her. In verses 4 to 6 the Psalmist backs up his claim that God is a shelter to His people.
He cites an example that they knew about. Scroggie rightly points out that this fits the invasion of King Sennacherib from Assyria. He came to Jerusalem and boasted that he would destroy it. But King Hezekiah called on the Lord to deliver them. God protected Jerusalem from this raging king. In fact the Lord destroyed the Assyrian army in the early part of the morning just like it says in Psalm 46 verse 5. The nations raged against Jerusalem and then the Lord spoke to defend them. The earth melted before the Lord. Isaiah 37:33-36:
Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, 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, says the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. Then the king returned to Assyria in shame!
Man can plan and scheme. He can even bring some of his wicked works to fulfillment. But God has the final say. Men have learned this throughout the course of history. King Sennacherib conquered many nations before he threatened Jerusalem. When he attempted to overthrow Jerusalem God destroyed his army. King Nebuchadnezzar boasted about his great accomplishments only to be humbled before God. He was made to live like a beast in the field until he acknowledged God's sovereignty. This is what one of the most powerful kings in the world said after God had humbled him.
Daniel 4:34-35: And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, what have You done?
Currently world leaders are making threats against each other. But God is still sovereign. His plans will surely come to pass. We must choose to trust Him! The book of Esther doesn't mention God even once. Yet all the way through, the Lord is working quietly to save His people.
The Rev. John G. Paton and his wife served as missionaries for many years in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters intent on burning it down and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed continually during that terror filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see the attackers unaccountably leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ, and Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them.
The chief replied in surprise, Who were all those men you had there with you? The missionary answered, there were no men there, just my wife and I. The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard - hundreds of big men in shinning garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station, so the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did the Rev. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them. The Lord is Sovereign over all the earth. The armies of heaven serve Him continually.
b. Our Testimony
Psalm 46:7: The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
The Psalmist says that the Lord of Hosts is on our side. He is fighting for us. This title the Lord of Hosts, refers to God as being commander in chief of the heavenly army. The Lord is a mighty warrior and more than able to vanquish the enemy. He is in charge, and He defends His children. Surely, we are safe in His protective care. The Lord is with us and He fights our battles. How should we respond to God's salvation? We must tell others about it. We should share our testimony of God's providential care with the lost. We should encourage them to trust in the Lord and run to Him too! God is still on the throne and He will take care of His own. Do you believe that? Do you trust Him to look after you?
When times of trouble come into your life, how do you respond? Do we become afraid? Or do we respond in faith? Do we trust God and seek His help? Are you terrified by current world events? Don't be! God is still sovereign. Can you recall how God has helped you in the past? Are you confident that He will help you in the future? Will you share God's faithfulness with others? Will you determine to ask Him for help and stop worrying?
Thirdly, God's Sovereignty
a. God's Works
Psalm 46:8-9: Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.
In light of the current trials and turmoil we endure we must focus on the Lord. The Psalmist reflects on God's sovereignty and so should we. In fact He commands us to behold the power of God to execute judgment. The wicked may stir up strife for a time, but God is ultimately in control. He will have the final say. Verses 8 and 9 clearly refer to the Day of the Lord when God defeats His enemies. The Lord will judge the wicked with an enormous upheaval on the earth. We saw this in the morning service. He will bring an end to all warfare. The Psalmist says take a good look at who is really in control of the earth. God is sovereign. He will conquer evil and establish universal peace. Behold the greatness of God's works!
b. God's Worship
Ps 46:10-11: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
How should we respond to God's mighty works? What should we do in response to God's justice and sovereignty? We should worship at His feet! The Psalmist commands us to be still. To recognize that the Lord is God. This was the response on Mount Carmel when God answered Elijah by fire. They said the Lord He is God, the Lord He is God. Firstly, we must recognize this. We should stand in awe at the greatness of our God. Secondly, we should worship the Lord. In light of who God is and what He has done we should exalt His Name. We should praise Him in song. We should magnify His name throughout all the earth. After all, our God is with us. Our future is secure because of the Lord's promises to us. He will protect us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is our God and our refuge. Let us not fear but have faith. Let us not worry but rather let us worship Him.
When you think the world has gone mad, reflect on God's sovereignty. Think about the promises and prophecies in God's Word. Behold the mighty works of the Lord. Who made the world in the first place? Who rules it with great power? Who gives life to all including terrorists? Who is going to have the final say and establish an eternal kingdom? In light of this we should be still and recognize the greatness of our God. Only He is sovereign. Then we should stand in awe of our Savior and King. Finally let us worship Him and exalt His Name in all the earth. God uses trouble and pressure to make us lean on Him. He wants us to be people of faith not fear.
Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length,
Pressed so intensely it seems beyond strength;
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll;
Pressure by foes, and pressure by friends,
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends,
Pressed into loving the staff and the rod;
Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
Pressed into liberty where nothing clings,
Pressed into faith for impossible things;
Pressed into living a life in the Lord,
Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured!
Tonight we looked at three things in Psalm 46. They were God's Shelter, God's Salvation and God's Sovereignty. We may not see God, but He is still there watching over His people just like He did in Esther's time. This gives us great confidence in perilous times. Will you determine to respond in faith and not fear. Will you worship the Lord and not worry about the future.
Numbers 6:24-26: The LORD bless you, and keep you: The LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance on you, and give you peace.