During our Wednesday Night Prayer prompt I mentioned that I have had a few come a part moments. I am thankful for those who texted me or sent me a message sharing that they understand since through this whole process they have also had their share of come a part moments. Ever since we have been asked to isolate my emotions have been all over the place. There are days when I think that we have made this a much bigger problem than it actually is. Then, there are days when I think we haven’t done enough. But most days I am mostly confused about what day it is.
I have told you before that I believe the book of Psalms is one of the most disjointed books in the entire Bible. One Psalm talks about despair and is followed by a psalm of rejoicing. Then you find a psalm remembering how God answered their call for deliverance which is followed by a psalm begging for God to hear them and show up in their struggles.
Maybe it is because my days have been so disjointed, that I have found myself in the book of Psalms. I was looking for something to describe where I was and what I was feeling during this time of isolation and happened upon the 46th Psalm and it seemed fitting for what we are experiencing this morning.
Before we read the Psalm I want to mention this interesting little word at the end of verse 3, 7, and 11. It’s the Hebrew word Selah. Some translations leave the word out, some refuse to translate it, and some use the word interlude. And while my Hebrew is extremely rusty, I prefer the way the Passion Translation uses the phrase, Pause in His presence.
The Psalm is in three parts, and today we are going to look at each section and then we are going to take a moment to pause and pray. This is a bit tricky to do in an online setting, but I believe it will be a blessing.
Look with me at Psalm 46, and I’ll be reading from the Passion Translation:
God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble— more than enough and always available whenever I need you. So we will never fear even if every structure of support were to crumble away. We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes, moving mountains and casting them into the sea. For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves cannot erode our faith in you.
The Psalmist paints a pretty daunting picture here. He is imagining the worst calamity that could possibly hit: earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, and mountains slipping into the sea. I mean this is an undoing of Genesis 1. On day 2 God divides the land from the sea and in the psalm we see the land thrown back into the sea.
For centuries we have considered the mountains to be the best protection; the most secure things on earth. But the Psalmist imagines a time when the earth quakes and shakes. The mountains crumble, and so does our false sense of security. The waters rage, with stormy winds and crashing waves, which might be the perfect way to describe what you have been feeling and experiencing over the past few weeks.
Right now every continent on Earth is unsure what will happen next with this virus. Every government is basically holding their own hands waiting. We are all wondering when the mountains will shake and the waves will crash. Our false sense of security and invulnerability has been pulled back to expose our weakness and concern about the future.
Right now, the most powerful leaders, nations, and economies that just weeks ago were seeing unprecedented gains, have ground to a halt. Restaurants are take out only, grocery stores are limiting what we can purchase, and last week churches held Easter services in an online format. It’s fair to say the entire world has been humbled by this pandemic.
Everyone of us feel it at a personal level; we are all struggling with anxious feelings, and uncertainty. This virus is stalking the entire world and at times it feels inescapable. And while the psalmist acknowledges the reality of what is happing, he begins by acknowledging that we serve a God who is greater.
The Psalm begins with God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble. Regardless of what you are feeling today, God is our refuge, our strength, and our help. God doesn’t have to point to a refuge, He is not directing us to go somewhere, He is calling us to get close to Him because He is our refuge. Even though the mountains quake and the waves crash, we can come to God and find our refuge in Him.
The Psalmist also reminds us that God is a proven help in time of trouble. I find hope in the fact that God and I have a history together. God is not at my beck and call, yet while He never promises to take all of the storms from my life, He has always been with me. In times of joy and in times of trouble. Especially in those moments when we feel weak and defenseless.
God is present and abundantly available. When our security is suddenly gone, we go to God and find refuge. Every time we feel anxious and helpless we find our security in Him. Which reminds me of something Bob Goff said: “It’s easy to trust God when He does what we want; it’s the other times when we grow.”
Phillip is going to help us observe the pause at this part of the text.
The Psalmist continues: God has a constantly flowing river whose sparkling streams bring joy and delight to his people. His river flows right through the city of God Most High, into his holy dwelling places. God is in the midst of his city, secure and never shaken. At daybreak his help will be seen with the appearing of the dawn. When the nations are in uproar with their tottering kingdoms, God simply raises his voice and the earth begins to disintegrate before him. Here he comes! The Commander! The mighty Lord of Angel Armies is on our side. The God of Jacob fights for us!
There are many times that because the Bible was written for us and not to us, we miss the beauty of what the writers are saying. The psalmist says in verse 4 God has a constantly flowing river whose sparkling streams bring joy and delight to his people.
Major cities had to be built by rivers. Babylon was built on the Euphrates. Egypt has the Nile. Rome has the Tiber. London has the Thames. New Orleans has the Mississippi. But Jerusalem was different. The city of Jerusalem wasn’t built on a river, because it had something even better, the very presence of God.
The psalmist wants to remind us that God’s grace flows like a river to bring gladness and joy to His people. It is a metaphor that reminds us that God provides our happiness, abundance, and peace, even when everything else is falling apart. No matter how bad things get, God’s presence means He will help us.
God is present with His people when the nations are in uproar with their tottering kingdoms. Many of us and our neighbors are agitated like the waves of the sea, yet we need to remember that God is still with His people. No matter how bad things get, we can always count on His presence.
But my favorite part of this section of the Psalm is found in verse 7: The God of Jacob fights for us! I love this idea because Jacob was a deceiver with a twisted mind and heart. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we have a lot in common with Jacob. Even though Jacob had a lot of faults, God stuck with him, shaping and molding him into a man of faith. In the same way, God promises to stay with us and transform selfish, broken sinners like us from the inside out, so that we can be called His son’s and daughters.
Maybe this morning you just need to be reminded that God is still with His people, He is in the midst of our city and with us as we anxiously await the news that we will be able to get back to life. Maybe as you read reports about the current crisis, or listen to the news you need to be reminded that you are not now and never alone.
When you hear our president and governor say that we are not sure how long this is going to last, the virus gets to make that decision. Or you hear about families who are having financial struggles, or about small businesses that are wondering if they will be able to reopen once this is all over. You need to be reminded that God is with us. No matter how bad things get, we can always count on His presence. The last part of verse 6 reminds us of God’s incredible power. When he lifts his voice, the earth melts. There is not a virus or sickness that will ever invade our earth that can compare to the awesome power of God. The raging world melts or dissolves before Him.
JD is going to help us observe the pause at this part of the text.
The Psalm concludes: Everyone look! Come and see the breathtaking wonders of our God. For he brings both ruin and revival. He’s the one who makes conflicts end throughout the earth, breaking and burning every weapon of war. Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God. I am the God above all the nations, and I will be exalted throughout the whole earth. Here he stands! The Commander! The mighty Lord of Angel Armies is on our side! The God of Jacob fights for us!
We end our thoughts this morning by hearing the call to come, behold the works of the Lord. Every time I read this passage, I remember something that Levi Sides said a long time ago when I was in college. He would say, we become what we behold. So, if you can tell me what you are beholding, and I’ll tell you what you’re becoming.
There are many folks in our community that are searching for something trying to make sense of everything that’s going on right now. Even though we’re living in isolation, maybe this is a heavenly opportunity to rediscover our hunger for Him. To behold Him.
This is a Psalm of hope. We read in verse 9: that we are beholding not only our awesome and wonderful God, but our God, makes conflicts end throughout the earth, breaking and burning every weapon of war.
Regardless of how out of control you feel right now, God has greater plans. The media increases our anxiety and many of us feel like there’s nothing we can do to stop this virus. We feel helpless and even hopeless. Yet the Psalmist reminds us that a broken bow is of no value and a spear that is shattered is no longer effective. Chariots set on fire cannot function. Fear can not consume us because God drives it away.
Even when we feel like our world is spinning out of control, God is in charge! This current health crisis has ripped away the illusion that we ever had any control over the details of our lives. Yet it also serves to remind us that God has always had and continues to be in control.
Last week we celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is our reminder that God has shattered sin and demolished death! He has broken our bondage so we can experience the freedom that exists when we are willing to Be silent, stop striving, and see that I am God.
God is calling us to trust Him and stop fighting a battle we can’t win. He is calling us to open our clenched fists and let our hands fall to our sides. We are being called to not to just have a moment of silence or even to just be quiet. We’re being invited to cease, surrender, and let go.
Maybe we are having this time of isolation so that we can come to actually know God. Not just know about Him; but to actually know Him. And we can’t know God until we become still before Him. This is a call for us to cease striving and fretting and working in our own self-effort and fully submit ourselves to God.
Which is the last part of verse 10: I will be exalted throughout the whole earth. As we quiet our souls and reflect upon our God, He will be exalted among the nations and He will be exalted in the earth! He is working out all things for His glory and for our ultimate good.
Jesus Christ is Lord of history. Nothing has happened outside of His plan. Nothing ever leaves Him bewildered or astonished. Nothing ever catches Him by surprise. Through incredible upheaval, though the mountains fall into the sea, those who know Jesus Christ have nothing to fear. Whether the coronavirus leads to more catastrophe and confusion, or the nations rage against one another, God is our refuge.
Jim is going to help us observe our final pause of the text.
As we gather at the table this morning I am reminded that this crisis has given us lots of opportunities to share love and compassion with our community.
We are being given the opportunity to actually be the church. Even though we can’t meet in person, our current situation has highlighted the importance of the church acting like the church. As we try to reclaim our call to be an Acts 2 church, we are being given the time to devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.
Maybe God is giving us this time so that we can bind together and pray as if everything depends on God, because it does! As we gather at the table we are given time to deal decisively with sin in our lives and practice grace and forgiveness with others.
While this virus may indeed awaken our world, my prayer is that more importantly it will awaken the church so that we will model love and share the gospel of Jesus Christ like we have never done before.