Our text today is from Psalm 46. We take as our subject: Calm Assurance in Any Storm. We will begin by making a few comments as we read the text.
"God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.” That was our text last week. “
Verses 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. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.”
His intervention will always be timely: “just at the break of dawn.” There may be some weeping in the night, but joy comes in the morning.i
Job wondered where God went. But God was there all the time--even in Job's deepest hour of sorrow. A breakthrough did come, not a minute too soon, and not a minute too late: Only after the trial had done it refining work in Job; only after the silver had been refined by fire; only when God had shaped and prepared the man for eternity. Then God showed up in a special way. Then God revealed Himself in ways Job had never known. The intervention must not come too early, or God's purposes cannot be fully realized. But that intervention will never come a second too late. In your life and in mine, God will always be right on time. James comments on Job's ordeal, "You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord -- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful." Are you in a trial? Keep trusting God. You may be one second away from breakthrough.
Verse 4 of this Psalm speaks of a city. It is a reference to Jerusalem, the city where God's people dwell and worship. You will understand this Psalm better if you first interpret it the way an ancient Jew would understand it. Then apply it to yourself and the church. Nothing is more important for a city than its water supply. The flow of a river into a city is its lifeline. In those days, cities were surrounded by walls that protected the people from invaders. It was a refuge they ran into when there was trouble. If a city was under siege, the primary concern was preserving its water supply. In this Psalm God is not only the "Refuge" we run into for safety, but He is also the River that refreshes us and preserves us. "There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, "Nothing can block that river. No enemy can poison that river. Not only are you safe in God as your refuge, but He will make you glad with His presence. He will refresh your soul and strengthen your heart. The devil can rage. The nations can rage. But God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.
Verses 6-7: “The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. 7 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.” Selah is a musical rest. It gives singers a time to breath. It gives us as readers a signal to pause and meditate on what has been said. We need more Selahs in our lives. We need more time spent considering the weighty matters of life: time to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.ii Wisdom is more than knowledge. We have more knowledge than any other generation. You can Google almost any subject and find knowledge. Knowledge is available on YouTube.
But wisdom is knowledge properly processed and applied. It takes time spent with God to get wisdom. It takes meditation in God's word. The statements in this Psalm are food for thought. They must be processed in the heart to get full nourishment from them. The word Selah naturally breaks this Psalm into three sections: vs 1-3; 4-7; and 8-11. Verses 8-11: “Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 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. 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 of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.”iii That Psalm begins and ends with God as our refuge.iv
Last Sunday we focused on the phrase in verse 2: "Therefore we will not fear. " The reason we will not fear is not because life is trouble- free. The circumstances depicted in verses 2 and 3 are very disturbing. The reason we will not fear is that God will be to us whatever we need regardless of the challenges. Verse 1 reveals Him as (1) our refuge: He is a shelter from the storm (2) our strength: He will give us whatever strength we may need (3) A very present help in trouble: He is always with us. But He is with us in a special way during times of trouble-to make sure we're okay.
Today we focus on the Directive given in verse 10: "Be still, and know that I am God. " That is particularly important in times of trouble because those are the times we're most tempted to operate out of fear rather than faith. In the conditions described in verses 2 and 3, it would be tempting to panic. I have never been in an earthquake, but people who have experienced that say it is extremely disturbing to feel the earth moving under your feet. We rely on the stability of the earth. We have walked on it all our lives, and we have become accustomed to its reliability. When things that have been stable in the past begin to shake, it can be very disconcerting. Verse 2 deals with the emotion that can easily take over: "Therefore we will not fear. "
It's easy to say that when all is well. It's easy to say that when all our props are in place. But when things begin to shake around us and our props come out from under us, can we say, "Therefore we will not fear"?
When a crisis intensifies people can easily get into a frenzy trying to solve the problem. They do one thing, and it does not work. So, they either do more of that or try something else. The deadliest nightclub fire in American history occurred in 1942 at Boston's Coconut Grove Club. An artificial tree caught on fire while a bulb was being changed and panic ensued. People stampeded toward the revolving door at the front of the club. The door became clogged with bodies. When firefighters finally made it to the building, they found stacks of corpses near the doors. Nearly 500 people were killed.v
In Judges 7 Gideon used panic to defeat the Midianites. There were multiple thousands of Midianites and Amalekites. Gideon only had 300 men. During the night he equipped each of his men with a trumpet and a pitcher with a torch in it. When Gideon gave the signal, they all blew their trumpets and broke their pitchers so the torch lights would shine. It looked like Gideon had a lot of men. The Midianites and Amalekites panicked, and in the chaos started killing one another. Gideon pursued and destroyed the ones that fled.
Confidence in the Lord protects us from fear-driven responses. Instead of getting into a frenzy, God says to His people: "Be still, and know that 1 am God." Know that God has everything under control. Know that He is God. If He is God, and He is watching over you, then there is nothing to fear.
This Psalm emphasizes the sovereignty of God. In the end every knee will bow, every tongue will acknowledge the Lord. God's word to His people is "know that 1 am God." We can do that now, and doing it brings peace to the soul. But we also have the assurance that all the nations will eventually recognize Him for who He is. In verse 10 God says, "1 will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Haughty nations flaunt their financial and military strength. But all of that will be brought to nothing.
Verse 6 says, "The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted." When God speaks, the mightiest of nations are brought low. Think about the great empires of the past: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome, Germany. They looked invincible; but they were brought to their knees. America is not invincible. Look at the destruction a tiny virus has caused.
One way we know the sovereignty of God is to “behold” or consider His works. Verses 8-9 tell us to do that. "Come, behold [observe, perceive, consider] the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. 9 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." On the one hand God makes desolations, sometimes even through wars. On the other hand, He also bring wars to an end. The same God who can bring trouble can also end trouble. In Deut. 32:39 God declares His sovereignty. "Now see that Leven L am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand."
God has the right to build up. But He also has the right to tear down. He makes those judgments based on the choices people make. Ultimately nations and individuals are responsible for the consequences of their decisions. Listen to what He said in Jeremiah 18:7-10: "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom 1 have spoken turns from its evil, I1 will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it."
It is popular to talk about the positive side of this revelation. It is wonderful when God is building and planting. That is one side of what God does. But we are not giving the whole truth if we avoid talking about the negative side of His judgments. Sometimes He acts "to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy. "That can be avoided according to Isaiah 18:9 by simply turning from evil and turning to God. It is that simple. When we behold or consider God's works, we're reminded of His sovereignty. We're reminded of His power to change the course of events. We are reminded of His ability to take care of us.
"Be still, and know that I am God." We "know" by being still, for that is when we "consider" the works of God. That is when we take to heart His goodness and faithfulness to us. That is when we meditate on the word of God and begin to "know" what we have read. On the other hand, the knowing empowers us to "be still." The more fully we know God, the more confidence we have in His willingness and ability to take care of us. Knowing He is God and what that means to us as His children brings rest to the soul and strengthens us to be still.
It takes strength to be still. It takes strength to stand when others are fleeing. That strength comes through personal, experiential knowledge of God. Daniel 11 describes a time of great tribulation and trouble. But in the midst of that great tribulation, God will have a people who know Him--not just superficially but will know Him at a depth that strengthens them for the times. The key to their success is knowing God--knowing He is God and there is no other--knowing He is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20). The first part of Daniel 11 :32 expresses the difficulty of the times. The second half tells us what can happen in hard times: "Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." We can only do exploits when we're firmly standing by faith. We can only stand firm when we know our God. The greatest preparation any of us can do for the days ahead is to know God-know who He is, know what He is able to do, know He is God.
What God wants us to do is trust Him. Relax and know that He is with you. Rest in His love and care. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4 :6-7). Are you worried about your 401K? Pray about it and put it under God's management. Are you anxious about your health? Pray about it, exercise prudence, and rely on God to take care of you. "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God' (Heb 4:9). "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31). Is there anything that can separate us from God's love and care? Can tribulation do it? Can distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
When the world around us is running in circles trying preserve their financial empires, we remember that we are members of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. One condition for living in calm assurance is that we invest our lives in things eternal. Our kingdom is not of this world. We are in this world, but our citizenship is in heaven. The things of this world can be shaken. If our lives are overly rooted in worldly pleasures, worldly possessions, and those things are shaken, we will be shaken along with them. But if our treasures are laid up in heaven where the ups and downs of the world have no influence, then we can live in a calm assurance whatever direction the stock market takes or the housing market or any other temporal factor. If our affections are set on things above, turbulences in this world do not move us. We have a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
"Be still, and know that I am God." That directive does not mean we are to become completely passive. The word translated "Be still" could be translated "Relax." The passage is addressing our inner state of mind. Do not be anxious. Don't let your soul be in turmoil. Jesus put it this way in John 14:1, "Let not your heart be troubled."
We are given examples of that in Scripture. Daniel is a good example of this when he was facing death in chapter 2. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that was very disturbing. Seeking relief from that disturbance, he called in his spiritual advisers and asked them to give him the interpretation. The problem in this situation was that Nebuchadnezzar could not remember the dream, and they could not offer an interpretation without him telling them the dream. Nebuchadnezzar impulsively decided to kill all his spiritual advisers if they did not tell him the dream and the interpretation. In fact, he started the executions. That brought panic in the camp because nobody could give the dream and its interpretation. Daniel was one of those advisers, although it was later when he heard about the king's decree. When you read the story, you can feel the anxiety in the air, but in contrast you can sense the calm in Daniel's heart. Daniel did not know the dream, but he knew the faithfulness of God. While everyone else was running from Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel went to him and asked for time to get the answer from the Lord. Daniel used that time for him and his friends to pray. In answer to prayer, God gave him the dream and its interpretation. Instead of panicking like those around him were doing, Daniel calmly put his trust in the Lord and saved the day.
In Mark 4 Jesus had an exhausting day ministering to the multitudes. That night he and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was at the back of the boat asleep when a terrible storm arose. It caught the disciples by surprise.vi They were seasoned fishermen, but this was an extremely dangerous storm. It had them all terrified. Jesus just kept on sleeping. But they woke him up screaming, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" NL T says, "Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. Frantically they woke him up, shouting, 'Teacher, don't you even care that we are going to drown?" Apparently, Jesus's calm demeanor was interpreted by the frantic disciples as apathy. But that was the wrong interpretation of Jesus's behavior. Why was Jesus calm in the same set of circumstances that had the disciples in a frenzy? His faith in God was more established. He knew that whatever was going on, God was still in charge-that whatever they needed the Father would take care of it. Their unbelief was demonstrated by their panic. Jesus's faith was first expressed in his calm reliance on the Father and secondly in how He dealt with the storm-no panic, instead an authoritative prayer calming the storm itself. One other example and we'll close.
In Acts 27 Paul found himself in a similar storm. It was probably a hurricane. He is not the captain of the ship. He's not even part of the crew. He's the lowest person there-a prisoner being taken to Rome. Yet when the storm hit the crew panicked. Paul was perfectly calm. In fact, he was telling the others what they needed to do to be saved. Paul was theoretically in more danger than they were. In this kind of situation, it was common for the prisoners to be killed so they wouldn't escape. Paul had nothing going for him in the natural. But he had one thing they didn't have: faith in God. He was on speaking terms with the Lord, and the Lord told him exactly what to do. Everybody on that ship was saved because of Paul's relationship with the Lord.
We have looked at three people who followed the directive of Psalm 46: 1 0: Daniel, Jesus, and Paul. They rested in God while all those around them were in a panic. Their confidence was not a Pollyanna denial of the truth. It was based on their relationship with God and confidence that accompanied that relationship.
In any crisis, God's word to you and me is this: "Be still, and know that I am God." No matter what happens, take it to the Lord in prayer. Rely on God to take care of you. Don't let fear enter your heart. Relax and let the Lord prove Himself strong in your behalf.
i Ps. 30:5.
ii Ps. 90:12.
iii All Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version unless indicated otherwise.
iv The Hebrew word in verse one and the word in verse ten are synonyms.
v Erin Blakemore, “The Tragic Story of America’s Deadliest Nightclub Fire.” Nov. 27, 2017, updated Aug. 29, 2018, History. Accessed 4-24-20 at https://www.history.com/news/the-tragic-story-of-americas-deadliest-nightclub-fire.
vi Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 1: 1:1-9:50 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003) 759-761. Bock writes, “Given the Sea of Galilee's topography, such a storm could descend onto the sea quickly without notice and, at night, could hardly be anticipated. The sea is some seven hundred feet below sea level and is depressed with hills surrounding it. The hills on the east side are particularly steep (Hendriksen 1979: 439-40). Cool air rushing down the ravines and hills around the lake can collide with warm air above the lake and create an instant storm in the confined quarters (Fitzmyer 1981: 729).