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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
Title:God is our refuge at all times
Text:Psalms Psalm 46 (View)
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing: Psalm 27: 1, 2, 6

Sing: Psalm 119: 44, 55

Sing:  Psalm 46: 1-5

Sing: Hymn 53: 1, 2, 3, 4

Sing: Psalm 47: 1, 2, 3

Read: 2 Chronicles  32:1–23 (preface with the words: This morning’s/afternoon's service is based on Psalm 46. It is not known exactly what the occasion was for this Psalm, but many scholars believe that it was the frightening time described in 2 Chronicles 32 where we read about the miraculous deliverance of God’s people in Jerusalem after Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invaded Judah and blasphemed the Lord God and threatened to destroy Jerusalem.

Text: Psalm 46 (Read the "selah's" out loud)

Sermon: God Is Our Refuge at All Times.

1. He is our Protector;

2. He is our Immanuel;

3. He is our Exalted God.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters,

As I stated, the background of this Psalm indicates that Judah and God’s people were in serious trouble. They were about to be annihilated by the greatest army of the time. The Assyrians had already invaded Judah and taken over the fortified city of Lachish. Now their troops were all around Jerusalem. Sennacherib, the King of the Assyrians, had previously defeated many other nations. There was no stopping him. He appeared invincible.

Can you imagine how the people would have felt like at a that time? It looked hopeless. They were about to lose everything: their city, the temple, their homes, their children, their very lives. Can you imagine? It’s a terrifying situation.

We also live in tumultuous times. Oh sure, nothing compared to what the Jerusalemites were going through at that time. There are no hostile armies standing at our borders. Our lives are not being directly threatened. But, there is a lot of unrest against God and his authority and the authority he has established on this earth. Furthermore, we are not safe from the various kinds of disasters that regularly occur all over the world right now as well.

Truth be told, that’s the way it has been throughout the ages. There is always constant political upheaval and uncertainty.

Right now we are in the midst of a viral pandemic. Frequently we hear about floods caused by tropical storms or hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes. Sometimes thousands upon thousands of people are killed in one fell swoop. At times like that there is much suffering and death.

People react to such disasters in different ways. But, how should we react? A better question is, how does the Lord teach us to react? That’s what the Lord God teaches us in Psalm 46 and what I want to preach to you about this morning.

This Psalm is divided into three sections, as indicated by the three "selahs", after verse 3, verse 7, and verse 11. Scholars are not entirely sure what that little word "selah" means, but it is generally believed that "selah" is a musical rest, in which the singers stop and during which time only the instruments were heard. It likely indicates a musical crescendo followed by a silent reflection. When you have a “selah”, then you have a pause, an interlude, a moment for meditation. We will follow this threefold outline as we listen to the word of God as found in Psalm 46. The theme is as follows:

God Is Our Refuge at All Times.

1. He is our Protector;

2. He is our Immanuel;

3. He is our exalted God.

God is our refuge, or fortress at all times. I chose that as the theme because it is that refrain that runs throughout this Psalm. It is repeated in vs 1, in vs 7 and in vs 11.

This Psalm was sung in the temple in Jerusalem. It is likely that the refrain “God is our refuge” or “fortress” was sung by women. For in the heading of this Psalm it says that the Psalm is according to Alamoth. Alamoth refers to women. When they sang that refrain, attention was drawn to those words, and in this way that central thought of God being our refuge is woven through all the other statements.

This Psalm is ultimately about the safety that the people experience within the city of God, which is, of course, Jerusalem. Indeed, Jerusalem was a fairly safe city for it was difficult to conquer. It was built on a hill and you could see the enemy coming. It also had strong walls to protect it.

But, unlike other cities in the ancient near East, such as Babylon which was built on the river Euphrates and the cities in Egypt which were mostly built along the Nile, and Rome which had the Tiber, and Edmonton which has the North Saskatchewan River, Jerusalem only had a well for the people to draw its water from. And that well was outside of the city. But, what did Hezekiah do? He built a water tunnel through the rocks to supply the city. However, that was the only source of water, for as we read, to thwart the enemy he redirected and stopped all the other wells and brooks outside of the city.

Water is important. You cannot live long without it. That is why they give water to survivors of earthquakes and other disasters as soon as they emerge from the ruins. When the water supply is cut off then you are in trouble.

And so, even though Jerusalem is a safe city, you are still vulnerable there. The water supply can still be cut off and disaster can easily overtake you.

Indeed, there is no city in the world that can consider itself safe from any harm. When an earthquake comes, the walls of the buildings come tumbling down upon you. And when tornadoes or tsunamis come then you and your property can be destroyed in seconds.

As we saw in the last few weeks in some of the major cities of the USA, your property can also be looted and destroyed, and your life put at risk.

Ultimately there is no safety in any city or man-made structure. You never know when God is going to take everything away from you, including your life.

Think about it… our earthly lives are hanging by a thread.

Does that mean then that we are not safe at all? No, not at all. It does not mean that. The author of this Psalm understood this and that was exactly his point. Listen to what he says.

He says that God is his refuge and strength. He doesn't depend on the walls of Jerusalem. He doesn't depend on the fortifications. He doesn't depend on the water supply. No, he says that God is his refuge. He depends on him.

The word translated “refuge” in verse 1 means a shelter which people seek to protect them from severe weather, or from dangers as they are travelling through the high hills. The word in the verses 7 and 11 means “a stronghold, a high tower, a fortress.” Both words refer to the same thing, namely that God is a safe haven, a shelter which is always there to keep them secure and protected, even when everything around them seems to be falling apart.

Brothers and sisters, that is also what God is for you and for me. No doubt there are many fears in your life. We know that some tragedy can also happen to us. We can get into an accident or become seriously ill. This can happen to us personally or to our children or other loved ones. And we worry.

And so what do you do? Well, at times like that you do what the Psalmist tells you to do, namely to go to the Lord for shelter. For listen to what God says to us in this Psalm. He tells you that he is a very present help in trouble.

A present help. God is not sleeping; he is alive right now. He never sleeps or slumbers and he watches over us like a mother over her child.

Brothers and sisters, God is always in control. Our heavenly Father is always on his throne with his Son beside him. He is the Almighty God who has a plan for his creation. And everything is worked out in that plan. Each and every one of you is part of God's plan. Your life is in his loving hands.

The psalmist says that he will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea. The author is imagining the worst calamity that could possibly hit his people as he describes earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, and mountains crashing into the sea.

He paints a picture here of chaos and tumult and terrifying noises. Which is what we witness every time there is a strong earthquake or tornado or flood or tsunami. When you are in the midst of such a calamity then you think it is the end of the world…. But it isn't. The world keeps on turning.

But I'll tell you what it is. It is God giving the world another chance to turn to him. That is what any calamity or pandemic calls for. That is what the Lord Jesus said in Luke 13:2-5, about some Galileans who were killed by the Romans. He said, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”” (ESV)

And then he goes on to speak about 18 Jews on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them. He says, “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”” (Luke 13:4–5, ESV)

And so, why do these things happen? They happen to warn us and to bring us to repentance. He wants us to bear fruit, especially the fruit of repentance. For the final destruction of this world is going to come. The whole world is going to be burned up and destroyed. That will happen on the last day.

But until that day comes, the Lord keeps beckoning us to call upon him and to seek shelter with him. He tells us that it is important for us to turn to him and to place our trust in him rather than the present circumstances of the world. We read in Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (ESV) Do you believe what it says there? You and I sang these words a moment ago. Did you mean it? Does it show?

Brothers and sisters, our security is not in the safety that we presently have. We may think that earthquakes will not happen to us, or any other calamity, for these are rarities and we are fairly safe because we live in well-built houses and have the protection of the police forces and the army and navy.

Well, think again. Anything can happen. Our security is not in our physical safety, but our security is in our faith, our faith in God. For you see security is never about safety here on earth.

There are many people who live in very safe surroundings, in gated communities with guards and security cameras all over. They have great wealth and can afford protection from all kinds of dangers. Yet their lives are full of worry and fear. Thoughts of safety consume them. They are deathly afraid of losing their abundant possessions. And they live their lives full of anxiety.

But we are told in Psalm 125:1, "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures for ever." Mount Zion refers to Jerusalem. It is the city of God where there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. It says, God is within her. In the Hebrew language it says Immanuel. God is our Immanuel. He is our God with us.

2. Think about that, brothers and sisters. We come here to our first Selah, and therefore to our second point. Pause. Let that sink in: God is always with us….

Isn't it strange that it speaks here about a river whose streams make glad the city of God? As we saw earlier, there is no river that runs through Jerusalem. There are no streams of water in Jerusalem.

And so what is the author talking about then? Well, the author means that symbolically. Water is the source of life. You cannot live without water. You need water to grow food. You need water to sustain your physical functioning. And so you need to regularly drink it. For our bodies are comprised mostly of water. There are many other things that you can do with water. You can bathe in it. You can swim in it. You can refresh yourself with it.

Well, that is what God is to his people. God is like a river running through Jerusalem. He is our life source. That is why he speaks about a river whose streams make glad the city of God. By speaking here about a river that flows right through Jerusalem, the Lord gives his people the assurance that he is the one who gives life to his people.

He protects their lives no matter what dire circumstances they find themselves in; no matter what may happen to them; no matter what dangers surround them; no matter how many enemies they face; no matter how precarious their health maybe; no matter even when they think they’re about to die. With God they are given life, eternal life. He is the God of the living. If you find your refuge with him, then everything is well with you and with your children.

As Sennacherib and his huge army surround Jerusalem, the people are assured that God will protect them. They must trust him. The people need to turn to the Lord God in confession and faith. God will hear them and save them. Which is exactly what he did.

That’s what we read about in verse five. It says there that God will help her when morning dawns. That’s exactly what happened. God came to help in a miraculous way. For during the night the angel of the Lord went through the camp of the Assyrian soldiers and killed, as we know from 2 Kings 19: 36, 185,000 of them. God, by his avenging angels, totally destroyed the army of Sennacherib. This mighty Assyrian king had to return to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, with his tail between his legs. And not long after this his two sons cut him down with the sword as he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch.

The Lord God rescued his people. God was their river and provided them with the water of life.

Brothers and sisters, water can either save you, or it can destroy you. It is all God’s doing. Think about the water of the Red Sea. It caused the death of many Egyptians, but it gave life to the people Israel. Water can bring safety, or it can bring destruction.

Isaiah also conjures up the image of a river. He says in Isaiah 33:20-21 “Your eyes will see Jerusalem, an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken. But there the Lord in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams, where no galley with oars can go, nor majestic ship can pass.” (ESV)

Again here the Lord God is pictured as a river. And that river will supply the people with everything they need to be alive. Isaiah also speaks about ships on that river. The kind of ships that Isaiah was talking about here are warships, not pleasure craft. He assures the people that the enemy will not be able to enter the city of God. God will protect his own people.

What a great comfort to those who are perishing! How God’s people in Jerusalem will have rejoiced when they saw how they have been saved from disaster.

But, you may say we don’t see these kinds of miraculous interventions in this day and age. Where was God during the horrors of World War I and World War II? Where was he when millions of Jews were being incinerated in the gas chambers? Where was he in all the disasters and cruelties throughout the ages? Where is he now in the midst of the troubles I find myself in?

Well, brothers and sisters, a greater miracle than the defeat of the Assyrian army happened just outside of Jerusalem some 700 years later, when Jesus Christ won the victory over death on Golgotha. No greater miracle has ever happened.

And that is the great comfort for you and for me. In the midst of trouble you can turn to him. He will save you.

Listen to what the Lord Jesus says in John 7:37-39, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’  (ESV)

Only because of his shed blood is there any hope for you and for me and for this whole world. For after his death he rose from the grave. And now anyone who believes in him also has the victory over death. There is more to this life here on earth.

It says in verse seven of this Psalm that the Lord of hosts is with us. In Hebrew it says Yahweh Sabaoth Immanu. We hear the word Sabaoth. Does that sound familiar? Well, that phrase is also found in the Hymn of Luther, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. We will sing that in a moment. Luther used this Psalm as a template for his Hymn. He wrote "Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same, and he must win the battle."

Luther found himself frequently in very precarious circumstances. But he sought his refuge with God, with the Lord Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts, the Almighty God. On the basis of this Psalm and all of God's word he confessed that God is with us even though the nations are in an uproar, and even though kingdoms may fall.

The verb "rage" in verse 6 is the same word used in verse 3 to describe the roar of the waters. We have seen how destructive waters can be. We saw that in the tsunami of Japan a few years ago, and we saw that a few years earlier with the effects of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and how it devastated many cities and towns and how it killed thousands upon thousands of people. That was also caused by an earthquake under the ocean floor. What mayhem! What destruction! Also think about all the other calamities that continue to happen over the world.

It says in the Psalm that when the Lord God utters his voice, the earth melts. In such disasters, and calamities and viral pandemics, we must hear the voice of God. We must hear his call to repentance. We must hear the call to depend on him, the call to flee to him for deliverance, for security, and for safety. For there is only one way that you can be safe here on this earth, and that is if you find refuge with the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

Once again we read in verse seven that the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Once again the psalmist has us pause. He says "Selah." It is time to thank God again for his presence; to thank him for our protection.

Reflect on that..... God is our refuge; he is always there to protect you and me. He never abandons us....

3. The psalmist also says that the Lord our God is our exalted God. We come to the third point.

In verse 8 we are summoned to see the works of the Lord, and the desolations that he has brought on the earth. In the streets of the American cities we sometimes saw impromptu prayers with peaceful protesters and police together, where they called upon God. It was a time for reflection, for understanding and connection with each other, but also for repentance. Hopefully those protesters realized that for themselves as well.

For that is the kind of response God expects from us. He does not want us to rage and destroy like the ransacking rioters in US cities. He wants us to humble ourselves before him and each other and to love him and to love our neighbour. He wants us to worship him and to repent.

Sadly, however, mankind is full of rebellion and full of self-righteousness. And so there is discontent and anger and hostility. Therefore God warned us that peoples will come in uproar and that they will be full of rage.

Listen to what the Lord Jesus said in Luke 21:10-11, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” He also says that “There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” (ESV)

We should not be surprised at any of this. God has warned us. For look at what he has done and continues to do. In all these things we have to recognize God's hand. He wants to turn whatever calamity comes upon us to our good. That’s what he promises he will do.

Please do not think that God wants this misery and pain and sorrow to happen; that he delights in the suffering of man. No, he is not the author of sin or the effects of sin. Man, because of his willful disobedience, has brought these things upon himself. And that is why you and I must humble himself before God and our fellow man. We must point to himself first of all for the cause of sin and misery.

The Lord God wants us to seek our salvation and well-being from his hands alone, and to worship him. For only he can bring restoration. Only he can bring true peace here on this earth.

He brought peace on the earth through his Son Jesus Christ. For the Lord Jesus Christ dealt with sin. He died for the sin of this world, so that this world could be restored.

Brothers and sisters, come to God and see what he can do. For when the Lord Jesus rose into heaven he did not leave us alone. He gave us his Holy Spirit. He gave us the assurance of renewal. He prepared a secure place for us, which is indestructible.

Listen to what it says in verse 9 and see what purpose God has with this all. He tells us that he makes wars cease to the ends of the earth, and that he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, and that he burns chariots with fire. In other words, he brings peace on earth by destroying the weapons of war. He is in on his throne. He is the God of justice. He is the God of peace.

He does that today as well. He brings peace especially by the proclamation of the Gospel, the good news of salvation.

Whenever there are calamities all over the world, we as Christians have an opportunity to come with the gospel. It is an opportunity to teach those affected by these painful happenings that God is warning them and all of us to lead a life of repentance, and that he is the one who alone can rescue this world from sin and misery.

But the prophecy of this Psalm also looks forward to the peace that will be established here on earth in the life hereafter. The time will come when there will be no more earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, when there will be no more wars, when there will be no more tears.

That is why we as Christians are looking forward to the new earth. We are looking forward to the time when our bodies will have been totally renewed, and made indestructible. We are looking forward to the time, as it says in Revelation 22, when Christ is the source of life to the fullest. For in Revelation 22:1-2 we read about the angel who showed John, and I quote “the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (ESV)

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the inexhaustible well from which we can drink forever and ever. We will never go hungry, and we will never go thirsty.

Verse 10 calls us to bow before God who is exalted among the nations and in all the earth. The fact that he is exalted means that even though he is very much involved in this creation he is nevertheless beyond it. It means that he alone is worthy of adoration.

Therefore he tells us to be still and know that he is God. He wants us to cease for a moment and to let our hands hang by our sides as we leave things in God's hands. We must know God and the power of his Word and Spirit. We must trust that he is in control of all things. And we must be still….

That doesn't mean that we should not be doing anything. Not at all. But it does mean that we should let our hands hang by our sides, as a symbol that we do not take up the weapons of war that the world uses. We don’t use expletives and point fingers and yell and throw rocks and point guns.

Instead, as it says in Ephesians 6, we put on the full armour of God and stand firm with a belt of truth buckled around our waist and with the breastplate of righteousness in place and our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. We take up the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the devil. And we put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. And we pray for God to rescue us.

He will hear you. We may hear people blaspheme his name now and trample on his covenant promises and demands. But this Psalm tells us that God will be exalted on the earth. No matter what.

In the end all men will bow before him. Also the unbelievers. For on the day of judgement they will see him for who he truly is. And they will stand in terrifying awe before him as he assigns them a place in hell.

But for those who believe in him, for you and for me, it will be a tremendous day of triumph. For those who have trusted in him during this life it will be a great day of joy.

Brothers and sisters, God will be exalted on the earth. He is our strength. He is our refuge. And we can safely flee to him. Always. Amen

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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