July 21, 2002 ~ Grace Christian Reformed Church, Cobourg


Psalms 46:1-11 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, he burns the chariots with fire! "Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth!" The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.


We have frequently heard over the past year that we live in times today that are different from what they were in times just shortly past. Due to the astounding violence of the recent attacks upon the United States many fear for their safety, a safety which was almost taken for granted previously. As Christians we cannot ignore the ongoing violence in Israel and many try to interpret these events in the context of the various prophecies of the end of the world. The total effect can be overwhelming. The times in which we live, by and large, seem to be far more dangerous to us (and far closer to the Second Coming of Christ) than the times that are gone. Regardless of whether it is the world around us that is changing, or only our perspective of it, the truth is that the changes we are now experiencing can result in major upheaval in our lives.


In the face of such change we may be tempted to believe that there is no solid place where we can stand secure while all around us life is being turned upside down. We may be tempted to believe, as do many in our time, that there are no absolutes and that truths once firmly anchored truths have been cast adrift in an ocean of relativism. The writer of our text this morning affirms that there is a place where we can stand secure and gives us confidence to stand firm while all about us there is vast and unrelenting change. The first three verses of Psalm 46 proclaims without hesitation that it is God upon whom we are able to stand, that it is He and He alone that is able to hold us firm amid the troubles of our time. and the troubles of times to come:


Psalms 46:1-11 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.


Although the changes that are occurring around us may seem to be overwhelming in reality they cannot compare with change referred to in this psalm. How can anything we have yet encountered compare to the changing of the earth itself, to the shaking and trembling of the mountains, or to the tremendous and destructive roaring of the sea with such force as to shake the mountains of the earth? We, as members of humanity, have experienced great disaster this past year in the form of the continuing violence in Israel, the horrifying attacks upon the United States, and daily news items even closer to home. Personally we may have experienced a sudden change in the direction of our life, the loss of one dearly loved, or any of a multitude of other potentially live altering events. But in each case the earth itself has stood firm beneath us, the oceans have stayed within their shores, and the mountains have not been violently shaken. The writer of our text is showing us that while God is certainly able to hold us during personal and national disaster, He is able to hold us as well when the earth itself is destroyed. Regardless of what befalls us, God alone is worthy of our faith and remains as the only sure place to stand.


But what of evil, even though it may not physically change the earth, the evil that is done in the world has tremendous power to affect us when we come face to face with it. I believe that for many of us our personal reaction to the destruction that took place in the United States last fall was more a reaction against the suddenly revealed and hate filled evil than it was a reaction to the incalculable human pain that was cause by this evil. Because of such evil we may feel that there is no point to the struggle for good, that the victory is unsure, or too far off, to be any motivation for us to take part in the battle.


In 1 Samuel 21-22 it is recorded that King David of Israel was also confronted by great evil. When fleeing for his life from King Saul, he was assisted by the Ahimelech, the High Priest, and given food to sustain him and weapons to defend himself. When King Saul found out about this he had one of his servants, Doeg, a mighty warrior, murder 85 members of the High Priest’s family as well as the entire village in which the High Priest lived. This was almost certainly as horrifying an event to the Godly men and women of David’s time as were the attacks recently directed against America to the Godly men and women of our time. Yet David is not shaken by this Satanic aggression, he does not back down, he does not loose faith. A poem that he wrote at this time shows us the steadfastness of his faith in God:


Psalms 52:1-9 – Why do you boast, O mighty man, of mischief done against the godly? All the day you are plotting destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down for ever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. The righteous shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, "See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and sought refuge in his wealth!" But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God for ever and ever. I will thank thee for ever, because thou hast done it. I will proclaim thy name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.


David’s confidence is not in the solidity of his world nor is it in the Godly actions of those around him, nor even in the strength of his own body. His confidence is in the unfailing faithfulness of God. Even in the days that followed this murderous attack upon the High Priest, David rests secure in the knowledge that from an eternal perspective his position is infinitely more secure than the position of Saul’s servant. David looks forward to a time when he will live in the house of God knowing that no matter how secure the evil seem their security is temporary and their end is sure.


But why is David so confident in his God. How can the writer of Psalm 46 be so sure that God will hold him secure no matter how great a disaster befell him? How can these men, how can we, be so certain of the ability of God to protect our lives? It may sound like a pat answer, maybe like an answer that one of our children would give, but I believe that all who put their trust in God are able to do so because God is good and His faithfulness is clearly seen in everything that exists. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans that:


Romans 1:19-20 – For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.


The force of Paul’s argument lies in the undisputed truth that all that is important to know about God can be known through what He has made. The universe in which we live proclaims the power and glory of God. The writer of Psalm 33 also believed this and wrote this poem in response:


Psalms 33:1-22 – Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Praise the LORD with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song, play skilfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the LORD is upright; and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth. He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth. The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nought; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! The LORD looks down from heaven, he sees all the sons of men; from where he sits enthroned he looks forth on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds. A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield. Yea, our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let thy steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in thee.


The writer of this psalm connects our ability to trust in God directly to God’s own goodness and faithfulness. He addresses one of the fundamental questions of life: “Where is your hope?” and ties with it a second question: “Why?” When everything is falling apart around you and it seems that you are the target of forces beyond your control, what is the foundation of your strength and why is it there? For this writer the answer is God. It is God who is the writer’s hope and He is the writer’s hope because of His unfailing goodness, the steadfastness of which is evident throughout the world He created. It is God’s goodness which sustains all of creation in spite of the evil that has invaded it.


In one of his many messages Paul affirms that God maintains both the world and the inhabitants of it, sending abundant crops, fruitful harvests, and joyful hearts:


Acts 14:17 – Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.


The apostle James also wrote along these lines:


James 1:16-17 – Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.


That means that all that is good in the world finds its source in God; the good we see around us is evidence of the grace and mercy of God upon both the Godly and the un-Godly alike. If God is so good that He sustains even those who have no faith in Him, how much more will He sustain those who love Him. Paul used a similar argument to show the magnitude of God’s gift of salvation:


Romans 5:10 – For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.


We are told that there will come a time when the heavens and the earth will be destroyed:


2 Peter 3:10 – But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up.


It is quite reasonable that the writer of Psalm 46 had this in mind when he wrote the passage that began this message:


Psalms 46:1-3 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.


Regardless of the magnitude of the change that faced him his faith was in God. He trusted his life to the knowledge that God would hold him secure through all the trials of this life as well as the trials that accompany the end of time. His hope was in a God who is good, whose nature is to love, whose chosen task is to save as His children those who on their own would be forever banished from His presence. We too can rest upon God’s unfailing goodness, knowing that He will save us from all harm. We have seen His goodness to us in the days behind us, we can rest on His goodness to carry us in all the days ahead of us.