As you know, last time we started to look at the book of Haggai – I gave a bit of an introduction, and today I was going to have a look at chapter one. However …. in the meantime there has been a bit of a shakeup and all my preparation was on a computer which didn’t work because there was no electricity. Furthermore, with those intervening events, I felt that a message of rebuke was not really appropriate. We have been through a bit, so I thought that I’d bring a word of encouragement. Please turn to Psalm 46 [P]. On the evening of the quake I read this Psalm to Hannah – we are doing a survey of the books of the Bible, but I thought that a personal word was more fitting. Those who were here last week will know that I read this Psalm and Robin expounded it, bring out some precious things – notably how full of God it is. It is a lovely Psalm, let’s read it:
God the Refuge of His People.
For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
1A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
7 יְהוָה of armies is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
8 Come, behold the works of יְהוָה,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 יְהוָה of armies is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
We love our Bible and love to hear what the LORD has to say to us, especially when we are in difficulty or in a time of crisis – but, as always, we must see the context first before we apply it, otherwise it may not be applicable. You can come up with totally contradictory advice if you just take verses at random, out of context. Of course this Psalm had application and meaning to the sons Korah who wrote it – it was written for the choir director, it was a song to be sung by the temple singers. But the Psalm is quite evidently prophetic. It is a prophecy referring to the end-times [P]. What makes me say that? How do I know? 1/ Great earthquake: [P] [Psalm 46:2] speaks of “the earth changing” and “mountains slipping into the sea”; [Psalm 46:3] talks about “mountains quaking” and describes a tsunami. Evidently there is a mighty earthquake. When I spoke about the earthquake I mentioned that earthquakes are particularly associated with the end-times, there are 5 in Revelation, there is a huge one prophesied in [Zechariah 14:4 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. Zechariah 14:10 All the land will be changed into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem] This, I believe is the same one prophesied in [Revelation 16:18-20 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, It is done.” And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.] It sounds very much like Psalm 46 “the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.” – I believe that all three are prophesying the same end-time event. 2/ River of life: [P] In [Psalm 46:4] we read of a “river whose streams make glad the city of God” – this is a description of the millennial temple prophesied by Ezekiel in [Ezekiel 47], where a river flows from under the temple eastward to the rift valley and then into the Dead Sea, bringing it life – fish will be caught there. You remember the vision of the prophet being told to ford the river, it getting deeper and deeper the further downstream he went. It is also mentioned in: [Zechariah 14:8 And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter.] This same river of life, or one that it symbolizes, is seen in the new Jerusalem in [Revelation 22:1-3 1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him.] Here is this same river in this Psalm bringing joy to the City of God, the restored Jerusalem. 3/ United armies of the nations vanquished by יְהוָה’s direct and personal intervention: [P] Then in [Psalm 46:6] the nations make an uproar and יְהוָה raises His voice against them. From [Psalm 46:9] it is evident that they were arraigned against Him and His city with a mighty army, but in [Psalm 46:8] יְהוָה destroys them and in [Psalm 46:9] brings an end to war. This is the context of the beloved [Psalm 46:10]: “Be still and know that I am God!” יְהוָה is actually saying “STOP! CEASE!” – stop your fighting and rebellion. Man is not God, he is not mighty – יְהוָה is! יְהוָה is exalted over all the nations. He rules, He is in charge, not man. This is exactly the same end-time scenario that Zechariah and John describe: [Zechariah 14:2-3 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. 3 Then יְהוָה will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. ] [Revelation 19:11-21] 4/ Millennial peace: [P] Fourthly there is the picture of millennial peace – the rule of Jesus. In verse [Psalm 46:9] there is that image of the instruments of war being destroyed – we see them being turned into agricultural implements in [Isaiah 2:2 Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of יְהוָה will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. 3 And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of יְהוָה, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of יְהוָה from Jerusalem. 4 And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. ] Jesus is ruling, He stops the fighting, He will not allow the strife, He rules with a rod of iron, exalted above all. This Psalm closely parallels what is portrayed in the last chapters of Zechariah and Revelation – there are four solid reasons that show that this is end-time prophecy. That is the context; that is what the Psalm refers to. It is prophesying end-time events, right near the end when Jesus returns. We long for Jesus’ return but it is a scary time, a time of upheaval and trouble. We are not in those times, but they are getting nearer. We are experiencing a foretaste of it. The Psalm speaks about the earth changing, mountains quaking – there is trouble around BUT God is our refuge. Though speaking of end-times there is an application to us. Now we understand the context, we can apply it. [P]
Is it relevant for us to do so? Well, we are in end times – not as far on as this Psalm is speaking about. But there is an end time earthquake – and we have experienced an end-time earthquake, so it is particularly appropriate for us at this time – that is, if He is our God and we are His people. Because let us be clear that this is spoken to God’s people, the sons of Jacob – the twisting striving man who had a life changing encounter with God and became Israel. So what is the message for the people of God in the end-times? Let us be clear, it is a time when they encounter unsettling times, severe trouble: earthquake, war, desolation. It is enough to make the boldest tremble. What can you do when faced with such things? But where is the terror, where is the fear in this Psalm? There is none – rather there is supreme confidence and safety. Everyone else is running around in fear, fleeing the city. But not the people of God! How can this be?! Are they super heroes, are they strong, are they unaffected, are they immune? No, they go through it. But they are not afraid, they are confident, at peace, assured. WHY? It comes down to what Robin said last week: this Psalm is full of GOD! He is the reason!
Refuge: [P] God is our refuge! Hallelujah! Refuge is a place of safety. Isn’t it wonderful to have a place of safety?! But implicit is that there is a very real danger that needs to be escaped. Refugees find refuge in another country because there is danger in their homeland. We are familiar with wildlife refuges, where animals are safe from poachers; or women’s refuges where they are secure, knowing that their violent husband cannot get at them. I was reading this week in Numbers 35 about the cities of refuge – where you see the concept of refuge. If you killed someone in Israelite society, the nearest relative had the right to exact vengeance by killing you in return. But, if it had happened inadvertently, there were places of refuge where you could flee and be safe from that relative – he could not get at you. And here in this Psalm there is trouble around – earthquake, war – but there is a place of safety where you can flee and none of the trouble can touch you! Hallelujah! We have a place of refuge! Bless the LORD! Where is it? It is יְהוָה Himself! God is our refuge – we run into Him and are safe [Proverbs 18:10 The name of יְהוָה is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.] In these times of trouble and difficulty around us, it is wonderful to have God as our refuge.
Strength: [P] Not only is God our refuge, He is our strength. Praise the LORD! How do you face the crisis? You come to an end of yourself. All those things we rely upon, are shaken. No power, water, communication, the earth shaking, house cracking up. What do you do? How do you cope? We are not superheroes who get through because of our grit, our determination, our resourcefulness, our strength. God’s strength is revealed in weakness. We are weak, we don’t have the capability. But we have a God who is strong! He is our strength. How are we going to get through, by the strength of the One who is Almighty! Who has all power! Glory to His Name! Tell me how come little Israel survives today when Assyria, Babylon, the Hittite empires have all crumbled and gone? They were mighty, Israel was weak – but she has a God who is Almighty! Maybe you are strong and capable and can handle it – well I’m not! But I praise the LORD that I have a God who is mighty. Remember that verse we looked at in [Zephaniah 3:17 יְהוָה your God in the midst of thee is mighty!] Paul said to the Philippians, in terms of being able to face whatever circumstance he encountered: [Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.] I could go on with examples but just one more from [Habakkuk 3:17-19 Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in יְהוָה, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord יְהוָה is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.]
Help: [P] We are facing difficult times – there is plenty of help available, and people have been wonderful. We had people come around and give us phone numbers where we could access help – trouble was we didn’t have a phone! No, people have been marvellous, it blows you away, the kindness that people have shown. But wonderful as it is – man’s help is not what we need, it doesn’t meet our need. Well-meaning it may be, but ultimately it fails. But we have help that never fails. God is our help! Hallelujah! It says it again in [Psalm 46:5]: “God will help her when morning dawns”. Paul said in [Romans 8:31 If God is for us, who is against us?!] A youth group came and cleared up our elderly neighbour’s liquefaction – that was tremendous – but how wonderful to have God helping you! [Hebrews 13:5-6 He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”] Look at the mighty help יְהוָה has been through the ages to His people – Samuel (1 Samuel 7:12) called Him Ebenezer: “thus far יְהוָה has helped us.” He brought them through the Red Sea, defeated Egypt, killed the Assyrian army that surrounded them, delivered them multitudes of times. Do you not believe His promises that He will come to deliver and save His people?
Present help: [P] Yes, we believed that יְהוָה helped in the past, we believe that He will deliver in the future – it says “God will help her when morning dawns” [Psalm 46:5] – that is future – but the Psalm says that He is a present help! Hallelujah! That is what we need. We need help now. I have no power, Orion says they will help – what I want is help NOW! יְהוָה is not just a God of the past and a God of the future – He is a present help. יְהוָה is with us now in our situation. We need His help now – I encouraged Hannah to pray, I read her a verse we all know well: [Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.] God is a present help – call upon His aid now. Jesus in (John 15:26) spoke about the Helper that He would send – God, the Holy Spirit, Himself – God Himself alongside to help us. [John 14:16-18 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another 1Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.] We have a Helper, God Himself, with us now and abiding with us.
Help in trouble: [P] Not only do we have God helping us right here and now in the present – He is help in trouble! Bless His Name! And isn’t that when you need help? Have you ever noticed that people are willing to help until it gets too difficult, then they can’t be found. We don’t want a helper that gives up when the going gets tough but who sticks with us there in adversity. [Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.] [Proverbs 18:24 A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.] God is there with us in trouble [Psalm 9:9-10 יְהוָהalso will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble; and those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O יְהוָה, have not forsaken those who seek You.] I have seen people in despair – what are we going to do? It is all too overwhelming! Let’s face facts – we are facing a serious situation – big trouble. But that is just where יְהוָה’s help excels. Man’s is in adequate but we have a Helper who has not abandoned us. Who not only knows the situation but engineered it and is in control of it. When is the power going to be connected? Where is the water going to come from? Will I have a job? How can I pay the mortgage? A thousand and one worries will assault you – Am I going to try and sort them out or trust the One who is my Helper? I have needed to exercise some mental discipline, take some thoughts captive and fix them on the One who is my Refuge, Strength and Helper. Who am I trusting? Where is my faith placed? When I come to Him; His peace, which transcends understanding, floods in. He hasn’t abandoned me but, on the contrary is WITH ME! Hallelujah!
God is with us: [P] There can be nothing more wonderful and wondrous than this! God Himself! – יְהוָה, the Creator and Sustainer of all things. The One with all power, all authority, the One in absolute and total control of every single thing. Helper and Strength, He is with us! Hallelujah! That is His Name: “Emmanuel” God with us! I can think of nothing more mind-blowing – not just comforting, pious words, but reality and truth! Not “may God be with you” – some weak but nice sounding words – but the GOD who is transcendent and supreme with us – He has made His dwelling in us. We are facing some things – but we are not alone! Praise God! I read it before: [Hebrews 13:5-6 He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”]. Look how the Psalm emphasizes this point: [Psalm 46:1 “a present help” – He is with us; [Psalm 46:5] “God is in the midst of her”; [Psalm 46:7] “יְהוָה God of armies is with us”; and again in [Psalm 46:11]: “יְהוָה God of armies is with us”. Four times it states that God is with us. We are in Christchurch, the ground is shaking, everything seems to be collapsing around our ears, but God is with us! I would rather be in the crisis with God with me, than to be in comfort and ease without His presence. The cry of Moses was: [Exodus 33:15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.] That was all that mattered: having יְהוָה with them. The Psalmist said: [Psalm 73:25-28 Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord יְהוָה my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.]
Therefore we will not fear: There is a consequence to all this. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. יְהוָה is with us! “Therefore …” [Psalm 46:2] – as Derek Prince says – “Find out what it is there for.” The logical and inevitable consequence is that “WE WILL NOT FEAR!” [P] Though this happens and that happens; though the earth shake, though the mountains fall into the sea. No matter what happens – WE WILL NOT FEAR! Because, no matter what happens; יְהוָה is still God. We still have a refuge, a place of safety. We still have One who is supremely strong right there with us in the trouble to help us. He is equal to the situation! Glory to His Name! We need to cease striving and trust in Him. There are desolations in the earth, here in Christchurch – it is יְהוָה who has wrought them. It is His doing! He is in control. It says is [Isaiah 43:1-5 But now, thus says יְהוָה, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am יְהוָה your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honoured and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you.] You know, I have been reading in Matthew 10, Jesus was speaking to His disciples telling them the trouble that they would encounter, being arrested, betrayed by family to be killed [Matthew 10:26-31 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.] It is a command of Jesus not to fear – three times He repeats it. Fear is a sin – straight disobedience. Fear is a sin – it is a living demonstration that we don’t trust God. A living denial of Him – saying that we don’t really believe that He is in control, has power, knows and cares. It is a lack of faith, a failure to believe what He says about Himself. And whatever is not of faith is sin [Romans 14:23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.] God is our refuge and strength, He is a very present help in trouble. He is with us. He has not abandoned us, nor forsaken us; nor ever will. Therefore we will not be afraid. He will keep us in perfect peace, if we trust Him. [Isaiah 26:3-4 The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in יְהוָה forever, for in YHWH the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.]
1 Or Abundantly available for help
1 Gr Paracletos, one called alongside to help; or Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor