************ Sermon on Psalm 46:6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 31, 2012
"Nations Rage and Kingdoms Totter"
Old Years 2012
Pastor Godfrey read the events of 2012 – some of it good, some of it bad, but all of it under the providence of the Almighty Father Whom we confessed together from Q & A 26.
How do we sum up the events of 2012? The political world was shaken up when an unpopular president with a broken economy was re-elected. The cycling world was shaken up by the events surrounding Lance Armstrong. The International community was shaken up by the events in Egypt and other Middle-East countries as radical Islamist groups appear to be the big winners and Christians and other religious minorities the big losers. The natural world was upset by calamity after calamity: superstorms, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, wide-spread drought. It is fair to say everything is in a state of upheaval today. Everything as we know it is being changed. The old rules no longer seem to apply. Morality and Christian values are headed straight out the window with yesterday's leaders.
Again, how do we sum up the events of 2012? The first part of our text sums up 2012 for us: "Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall." Or, as my sermon title and the English Standard Version of the Bible puts it, "Nations Rage and Kingdoms Totter."
I We Will Not Fear
A "Nations Rage and Kingdoms Totter." But, however, nevertheless, "we will not fear." WE WILL NOT FEAR. That is the theme of Psalm 46. We will not fear. What is the fear the psalmist speaks of? Fear is a feeling of great distress. To fear means to be frightened or terrified. To fear means to panic. To fear means to sweat it.
Israel was full of fear before the fire and smoke and thunder of Mount Sinai (Deut 5:5 ...). The Israelites were full of fear when they heard about the giants and walled cities of the Promised Land (Num 13 & 14). Israel was also full of fear when she heard the Philistines had mobilized their army (1 Sam 7:7). And, the Israelites were terrified of Goliath, the armed giant who opposed them and mocked God (1 Sm 17:11).
"Nations Rage and Kingdoms Totter." But, we will not fear. We will not panic. We will not sweat it. As we look back at 2012, as we look forward to 2013, we will not fear.
B Do you notice the repetition in the psalm? I am not talking about verses 7 and 11 though they are identical. There is another repetition, a more elementary repetition. Three times the Hebrew and English text of Psalm 46 uses a word that I neglected to read. Does that mean I read Psalm 46 wrongly? Does that mean I am playing fast and loose with Scripture? Nothing of the sort. I am talking about the word "Selah."
"Selah" is a word that is not meant to be read. Rather, it is an instruction to the reader. It is an instruction to be followed in the public reading of Scripture. "Selah" means the reader is to pause in his reading; he is to stop and be silent for a moment.
"Selah." Pause, stop, in the public reading of Scripture. Why? So everyone can think about what has just been said. So everyone can reflect on what has just been read. So everyone can gather their thoughts for a moment. So – and here is the real reason – so everyone can be in awe about God and what He is doing and has done.
"Selah." Three times we are told to stop and reflect. Telling us what? Telling us that Selah marks three important thoughts or parts of the psalm. Selah marks the end of three different stanzas. This last evening of 2012 we want to reflect, like the psalmist, on three different things we are not to fear.
C The first example is nature in upheaval. Listen to how the psalmist describes this:
(Ps 46:2–3) 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. SelahThis picture is all too familiar to those who live in California – the great state of mud slides, earthquakes, tremors, tsunamis, and high tides. The scene is filled with havoc, the situation is unbelievable, everything is in uproar. As the earth beneath him shifts, rolls, and slides, everything that was important becomes unimportant – like belongings, appointments, vacation, work. As the earth beneath him shifts, rolls, and slides, life becomes insecure. But even so the songwriter declares, "I will not fear."
D The scene changes in verses 4-7 to Jerusalem under attack. Listen, again, to the psalmist:
(Ps 46:4–7) 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. SelahJerusalem is under attack. Nations and kingdoms have risen up against her: Syria, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, the Philistines, the Medes and Persians. Attack follows attack. But even so, declares the songwriter, "I will not fear."
E The final scene describes the devastation of a battlefield. Again, listen to what the psalmist writes:
(Ps 46:8-11) Come and see the works of the Lord, 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) “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. SelahThe psalmist gives us a tour of the mute reminders of war. The terrain is strewn with the litter of a battle: chariots are overturned, bows and spears lie broken on the ground, shields are half-burned. The tour reminds us of scenes from Iraq and Afghanistan with burnt-out tanks and Hummers, piles of broken guns, empty shell casings, wrecked airplanes, and so on. About this, too, the songwriter declares, "I will not fear."
F Do you get the picture? The psalmist will not fear, no matter what. Nations rage and kingdoms totter but the psalmist will not fear. Think of the worst thing that happened to you or your loved ones in 2012 or might happen to you or your loved ones in 2013: death, cancer, bankruptcy, unemployment, heart-attack, Alzheimer's, poverty, divorce, imprisonment, persecution, disability, a family fight or feud. Whatever it is, you name it, and say with the psalmist, "I will not fear."
II God is Our Refuge and Strength
A I will not fear though nations rage and kingdoms totter. Why? Why is it that the psalmist will not fear. Why is it that you and I and our loved ones do not have to fear? Here is the answer:
(Ps 46:1) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.What follows in the next verse is an important word, maybe the most important word in the psalm: "therefore." "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore ..." Therefore what? "Therefore we will not fear."
Do you see the connection? Do you hear the connection? We don't have to fear because "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."
B The word translated as "trouble" is from a Hebrew word meaning "to be restricted, to be tied up, to be cramped." The psalmist is talking about being caught between a rock and a hard place; the psalmist is talking about being in a tight squeeze.
What happens then? What does God do? God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help when we are in a tight squeeze, when we are caught between a rock and a hard place.
That word "refuge" describes a secure place, a safe place. The mountains, for instance are a place of refuge for the wild goats (Ps 104:18). A cave was a place of refuge for David and his men when they were being pursued by King Saul (1 Sam 24). As mountains and caves are a refuge for goats and men, so God is a "refuge" for His people. In God, His people have a secure place, a safe place.
Furthermore, according to the psalmist, God is also our "strength." Which means He can exert great force and He can withstand great force; there is nothing He cannot do and there is nothing He cannot withstand. His desire, of course, is to use His strength, His mighty power, when His people are in a tight squeeze, when they are caught between a rock and a hard place. For instance, He used His strength to defeat Pharaoh when Israel left Egypt (Ex 13 & 14); and, it was He Who tore down the walls of Jericho when Israel came to the Promised Land (Josh 6).
God is also our "help." That is, He supplies whatever we need. He supplies exactly what we need. When Israel was in the wilderness, she needed bread and water. God made water come from a rock (Exod 17). He supplied bread six mornings of every week (Exod 16). He was Israel's help.
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though ... nations rage and kingdoms totter."
B This theme is reinforced throughout the psalm. Go back to the scene of Jerusalem under attack. What is it that gave Jerusalem her safety? Here is the answer in the first part of verse 5: "God is within her." And, this is ratified by verse 7: "The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."
What is it that gave Jerusalem her safety? Quite simply, it was the indwelling, omnipotent presence of the Lord God Almighty.
Do you remember the trip Jesus and His disciples made across the Sea of Galilee? The trip was a stormy one and the disciples feared for their lives. But Jesus slept through it all. They woke Jesus and questioned how He could sleep at a time like that. After calming the wind and the waves, Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith (Mark 4:35-41). How could they ever sink? They had God in the boat with them! The boat would never sink because the Lord Himself was in their midst. So why would they fear?
When God is with you, you have nothing to fear. That is the message of the psalmist. When Almighty God is with you, you have nothing to fear. When the God of Jacob is with you, you have nothing to fear. To say the "God of Jacob" is to look to the God of the covenant, the God Who loves us and redeems us and saves us in Christ.
"Nations Rage and Kingdoms Totter." That sums up 2012. That will probably sum up 2013. But we will not fear. We will not fear because the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. Selah. [Pause!]
Let me end with the command of verse 10. Do you remember the command that was given?
(Ps 46:10) "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."Be still. That is, be quiet. Relax. Stop striving. Stop racing around. Stop thinking it all depends on you. Don't fear. Don't panic. Don't sweat it! Selah!
The point is, God is in control, not you. So, let God handle the situation. Let God handle your situation. And, He will be exalted as this happens. He will be exalted and praised as you depend on Him and trust in Him for safety.
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