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God Is Our Fortress in the Midst of a Turbulent World

May 19, 2019 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Stand-Alone Sermons

Topic: Trusting God Passage: Psalm 46:1–11

GOD IS OUR FORTRESS IN THE MIDST OF A TURBULENT WORLD

An Exposition of Psalm 46

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date:   May 19, 2019

Series: Stand-Alone Sermons

Note:   Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard   Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

THE SCRIPTURAL TEXT

Holy Scripture says,

To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

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 when morning dawns.
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 fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on 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.
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 fortress. Selah

(Psalm 46)

INTRODUCTION

Psalm 46 presents us with two side-by-side realities. First, there is the reality of life in “the city of God” (v. 4). Second, there is the reality of life in the nations and kingdoms of the earth (v. 6). At this present time, God’s city is a secure refuge in the midst of a turbulent world. The question is: will our spiritual and emotional life be governed by the happiness of God’s “holy habitation” (v. 4) or will our spiritual and emotional life be governed by the instability of the world? Put that question to yourself as an individual: are you tuned in to the security that comes from God, or are you tuned in to the insecurity that characterizes the world?

THE THEME OF PSALM 46

At the outset, let us clearly recognize the theme of Psalm 46: God is our fortress in the midst of a turbulent world. The opening verse gets right to the point: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (v. 1) God’s people are not immune from trouble. In fact, we can expect to encounter trouble. But in the face of that trouble we have a secure refuge – a “shelter from the stormy blast.”[1] The living God stands in our midst to defend us from the disturbances of our world. The living God is our help and strength. 

This theme is restated in verses 7 and 11. Verses 7 and 11 are identical – they are like a refrain that we sing after each verse of a hymn. The refrain of verses 7 and 11 capture and summarize the central theme of Psalm 46: “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." 

The Lord is not afar off, but He is with His people. The Lord is with His people in the midst of dangers. Although these dangers are real, the Lord God is our mighty fortress, and we rest secure in Him: “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way” (v. 2).

With this central theme in mind, the sermon will be presented under four headings:

  • first, the turbulent world is described;
  • second, the city of God is extolled;
  • third, the turbulent world is judged;
  • and fourth, God therefore calls His people to rest in His victory.

THE TURBULENT WORLD IS DESCRIBED

So first, the turbulent world is described. This turbulence is throughout Psalm 46. Let’s start at verse 1 and work our way forward.

To begin with, we see that the world is characterized by “trouble” (v. 1). It is this “trouble” that presses against us and prompts us to remain secure in “God… our refuge.”

Then verses 2-3 offer a fourfold description of this troubled world:

“though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

These verses utilize metaphor to portray a world that is experiencing upheaval, instability, chaos, and danger. Think of social upheaval, political instability, moral chaos, and military danger. Later verse 9 indicates that the world is often characterized by war. If you want something durable and secure, you will not find it in our present world, for here in this present world things give way, things are easily shaken and moved about, things “roar and foam”, things are overwhelmed and “tremble”.

Verse 6 sheds further light on our turbulent world: “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter.” This is a straightforward description of what the earlier metaphors meant to convey, namely, that the world is socially and politically and morally and militarily out of sorts. The nations, particularly the leaders of nations, are making a lot of noise; there is a lot of clamoring, raging, threatening, and warmongering. And like a tree swinging in high winds before it snaps, or like a suspension bridge swaying back and forth before it collapses, this world’s kingdoms are tottering, shaking, and faltering. Whenever God arises to speak forth a word of judgment against them, the unruly nations and kingdoms of the earth melt away. Here, in brief, is a history of every sinful nation on earth: raging (in its sin), tottering (on account of its alienation from God), and finally melting (under the judgment of God).

The chaos and clamor of the world get expressed differently in different times and in different places, but the underlying instability is the same. “The nations rage” – every single one of them. And why? Because they are inhabited and led by evildoers. And what do these raging nations do? Psalm 2 tells us:

“Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,

“Let us burst their bonds apart

and cast away their cords from us.””

(Psalm 2:1-3)

“[The] counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1) is fundamentally anti-God: they “take counsel together, against the LORD” (Psalm 2:2). They do not want the Lord to rule over them; they do not want the Lord’s Anointed King to rule over them; they do not want the Lord’s instruction to govern their lives. And so it is that they rage against God, and because they are not in submission to God, they also do a fair amount of raging against one another.

Turbulence in America

While we could profitably scan six-thousand years of human history for examples of the raging nations, and while we could profitably scan the current globe for various expressions of sinful aggression, let’s just think for a moment about our own situation here in America. It seems to me that the upheaval pictured in Psalm 46:2-3 is an accurate portrayal of America’s social, political, and moral landscape over the past several decades.

There once was in the West, by which I mean Western Europe and North America, a civilization that was heavily influenced by the biblical worldview. There was a baseline consensus that the Judeo-Christian ethic was basically right. It was socially and publicly respectable to be a Christian or to be a churchgoer or to be a minister of the gospel. And though many individuals were not true born again believers, nevertheless people typically thought in Christian terms about life and about moral right and wrong.

But as we now stand in the year 2019, Christendom is largely gone. Secularism has raced through Europe and Canada, and it is currently racing through these United States of America. And why? Because Americans do not want the Lord God to rule over them. Instead, they want Eros to rule over them, by which I mean ‘the god who grants sexual autonomy’. Why have our society’s chief values become tolerance and non-judgmentalism? Why does our culture highly esteem the freedom to choose and self-identify? Why does our country make so much of subjectivism and relativism? The answer is simple: we do not want the one, true, and living God to define us and to dictate what we can and cannot do with our bodies. Therefore we have taken the liberty to rewrite the dictionary and to redefine such things as marriage and gender and gender identity.

We didn’t like God’s design that a husband is the head of his wife, so we rejected it and replaced it with egalitarian marriage in which gender roles are up for grabs.

We didn’t like God’s design that marriage is a permanent union, so we rejected it and replaced it with no-fault divorce.

We didn’t like God’s design that marriage is the only proper context for sex, so we rejected it and replaced it with ‘free love’.

We didn’t like God’s design that sex is meant to be fruitful, so we rejected it and replaced it with abortion on demand.

We didn’t like God’s design that marriage is only between one man and one woman, so we rejected it and replaced it with a broader, more enlightened definition.

We didn’t like God’s binary design of male and female, so we rejected it and replaced it with all kinds of fluid and transitional possibilities. And if you don’t get on board, look out! A high court in Canada has ruled that a father cannot refer to his biological daughter as a girl, because she is pursuing gender transition.[2]

Call all this an untraditional war, but it is a war nonetheless. It is a war against the Lordship of Christ, against God’s wise design for our lives, against our bodies, and against the wonderful gifts of marriage and sex and sexuality. It is a war against the family as God intended it, against men and their maleness, against women and their femaleness, and against children and their future. And it is a war against those who hold fast to the truth. 

Our country’s claim of tolerance and non-judgmentalism is totally hypocritical, of course. The sexual revolution is almost complete, but who stands between them and final victory? Well, it is especially Bible-believing Christians, Bible-believing Christian families, and Bible-believing Christian congregations and denominations that stand between the secularists and the victory that they so earnestly desire. And it really should come as no surprise that the Western world is proving to be rather intolerant toward those who refuse to play along with the progressive agenda. They are like the wicked of Psalms 1-2 who “take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed”; and those who rage against the Lord and the Lord’s Anointed King are also in the habit of raging against the Lord’s people. Jesus, the Anointed King, said: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Therefore, in our context, a certain kind of persecution stands against us, and the right to religious liberty erodes, the right to free speech erodes, the right to parental authority erodes. In the midst of all this, it really is easy to lose your nerve, to be silenced by the ‘speech police’, to be pressured into dotting all the politically correct i’s, or to wish that you could rewind back to the 1950s.

For those of you who like J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – and for those who don’t, please allow us a moment – there is this wonderful quote: ““I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.””

Were it for me to decide, I would much rather raise my children in the moral and social environment of the 1950s. But it is not for me to decide. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” And “the time that is given us” is a 2019 America that is far down the path of moral rebellion against the holy will of Almighty God. It is in this time and in this place that we are called to be faithful, prayerful, truthful, hopeful, and graceful.

So let us be clear: even as we have a healthy appreciation for America and the legacy handed down to us, America is not our refuge and strength. The Constitution is not our fortress. The Bill of Rights is not our help in trouble. Our source of confidence is not the composition of the Supreme Court or the occupant in the White House or the balance of power in Congress. After all, America is no exception to the history of all nations: America rages (in its sin), America totters (on account of its alienation from God), and in due course America shall melt (under the judgment of God). Meanwhile, we who belong to the Lord have a sure footing, because our confidence and security is found in an altogether different place.   

God Is Our Refuge in This Turbulent World: The City of God is Extolled

The good news of Psalm 46 is that God’s people are not left to fend for themselves in this turbulent world. In the midst of a world gone mad, God is our refuge. So we come to the second heading: the city of God is extolled.

We’ve got trembling in verse 3 and tottering in verse 6, but sandwiched in between the trembling and tottering is verses 4-5, which tells us about the holy and happy “city of God”:

“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 when morning dawns.” (v. 4-5)

The world is coming apart at the seams, but we’ve got streams of gladness. The world’s waters are roaring and foaming, indicating chaos and destruction. But we’ve got a river that carries forth its water in an orderly and reliable and plenteous way, thus bringing life and health, refreshment and renewal, abundant growth and bountiful fruit.

The river of Psalm 46:4 is a metaphor for that which brings vitality and joy to God’s people. Thus we understand that this streaming river points to the life-giving Word of God. Concerning the Word of God, it is written:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

(Isaiah 55:10-12)

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,” and there is the Word that streams into our hearts and generates life and joy. What is the blessed man of Psalm 1 like? The blessed man who is always meditating on God’s Word “is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:3) The redeemed of the Lord put down their roots by this river of God’s grace, drinking it up with joy and bearing fruit for God’s glory.

So we see first of all that those who dwell in God’s city have God’s life-giving Word.

Second, we have God’s stabilizing presence and help: “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” (v. 5)

“[The] mountains [are] moved into the heart of the sea” (v. 2), but we “shall not be moved” (v. 5). “[The] earth gives way” (v. 2) and “melts” (v. 6) and experiences desolation (v. 8), but we are helped and held together because God is in our midst. God is present with us. God graciously dwells among His people in order to protect us from the raging world, preserve our spiritual vitality, and prosper His cause among us.

Don’t miss the obvious: God’s presence among His people is the decisive issue that enables His people to be joyful and unafraid in the midst of tumultuous times. If God were not among us for the express purpose of securing, strengthening, and helping us, we have no good reason to think that we would survive the troubled day. Our understanding of doctrine isn’t enough, our moral resolve isn’t enough, our love for each other isn’t enough. Those things are important, but they aren’t enough, they aren’t sufficient, they aren’t decisive to survive the general meltdown around us.

But this is God’s city we are talking about, and the distinctive feature of God’s city is that God is there. The distinctive feature of “the holy habitation of the Most High” is that the Most High God inhabits His habitation. “God is in the midst of her… God will help her.”

The Eternal City of God

While there would have been a geographic edge to Psalm 46 in its original context, with “the city of God” referring to the holy city Jerusalem in Judah, even then the earthly city pointed beyond to the heavenly city (Hebrews 11:8-16, 13:14). And as we read through the Bible and into the New Testament we come to understand that God’s purpose and plan in the Old Testament is now fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His global multi-ethnic Church that consists of believing Jews and believing Gentiles. So now, in light of this fulfillment in Christ and in His Church, we understand that “the city of God” and “the holy habitation of the Most High” refer to the citizens of God’s eternal kingdom.

As Paul tells us in Ephesians, Gentiles who believe in Christ are no longer “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12, in conjunction with 2:19) and are no longer “strangers to the covenants of promise” (Ephesians 2:12, in conjunction with 2:19). Paul says:  

“So then you [Gentile believers] are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him also you are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22) 

So where is “the holy habitation of the Most High”? It is the Church! Where is “the city of God”? It is God’s redeemed people, the citizens of heaven, the members of God’s household. And although we look forward to the future and glorious unveiling of God’s city in the new heaven and the new earth, as Hebrews 13:14 and Revelation 21-22 make so clear, we must understand that believers are already citizens of that city. And as the Lord has promised that He is with us now and that His Holy Spirit dwells among us, so we should take Psalm 46:4-5 as a faithful word about the Lord’s care for His church now.

The Greatness of God’s City

And what Psalm 46 pictures for us is a God who stands among His people in order to keep them safe, secure, and satisfied forever. God’s city is a well-defended city, as Psalm 48 shows us in greater detail:

“Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!

His holy mountain beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth,

Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.

Within her citadels God has made himself known as a fortress….

Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers,

consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels,

that you may tell the next generation that this is God,

our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.”

(Psalm 48:1-3, 12-14)

God’s city is a well-defended, well-guided, and well-watered city. God supplies us with all that we need for protection, direction, and growth.

When we “[walk] about Zion” and take a tour of God’s city, we recognize that one of its distinctive features is that God’s King is there: “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (Psalm 2:6) The greatness of God’s King, the Anointed One, the Lord Jesus Christ, is set forth in Psalm 45 – He is full of grace (v. 2), He loves righteousness and hates wickedness (v. 7), He is the majestic warrior who fights for righteousness and makes His enemies fall (v. 3-5), and He is seated forever on the eternal throne (v. 6).

And yet, this Lion of the Tribe of Judah is also the Lamb of God who was slain in order to atone for our sins. We cannot walk the hallowed grounds of God’s holy city unless we are washed in the blood, forgiven of our sins, and clothed in righteous garments.

The holy city is also full of the King’s teaching. What would a city be without some ordinances and regulations? And we have the best of all: the life-giving Word of God, and “[God’s] commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3) to those who have been born again. Life in this city doesn’t depend on the strength of men, but the Holy Spirit empowers the King’s followers to live a holy life that reflects the excellence of the King.

The fellowship of this city is a great joy to its inhabitants: we behold the patriarchs who first entered it, the prophets and priests who ministered faithfully in the name of the Lord, the apostles and evangelists who made known the gospel, the devoted believers of the Old Testament and New Testament eras, and two thousand years of ordinary, saintly men and women who have held fast to Christ and declared His name among the nations. All these were sinners who were rescued out of the turbulent world and brought into God’s forever family.

Among our saintly forebears is the great theologian Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in the late 4th and early 5th century. He rightly described all of human history in terms of two cities: the earthly city of man (which corresponds to the turbulent world of Psalm 46), and the heavenly city of God. “[The] earthly city,” wrote Augustine, “was created by self-love,” “looks for glory from men,” “loves its own strength,” and is characterized by “the lust for domination.” By contrast, “the Heavenly City” was created “by the love of God,” “finds its highest glory in the Lord,” depends on God’s strength, and is characterized by “[serving] one another in love.”[3]

Are you a son or daughter of the turbulent earthly city that is raging and racing toward destruction? Or have you become a son or daughter of the eternal city that is ripening toward glory?

THE TURBULENT WORLD IS JUDGED

At the present time, God’s city is a secure refuge within the chaos of the wider world, while the wider world – in its rebellion against God – is on the verge of judgment. This brings us to the third heading: the turbulent world is judged. The reality of divine judgment is seen in verse 6 and then more fully in verses 8-9. In verse 6, we see that the raging, sinning nations, which are thus tottering, faltering kingdoms, eventually melt under the fiery blast of God’s voice: “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.” (v. 6)

Now don’t miss the context here. It is important to see that this raging, tottering world falls under God’s judgment while God’s redeemed people are safe in God’s city. Don’t miss this. In verse 5, God’s city is immovable because God is there, mightily and mercifully helping His people. The redeemed of the Lord are immovable in verse 5, while the world rages, totters, and melts in verse 6. And after “the earth melts,” we remain safe – as verse 7 declares that “the LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” In other words, the Lord God is “with us” for our good. Meanwhile, the Lord God who is “with us” for our good, turns to a sinful and rebellious world and utters judgment against it – and when He does, the world is undone. The world is undone, but God’s city remains unharmed. Therefore, while you still have breath, flee the world, and run to Jesus; flee the earthly city, and seek entrance into the heavenly one; flee the rage of sin, and take refuge in the righteousness of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now the judgment scene of verse 6 receives further elaboration in verses 8-9. Here, those who dwell in the safety of God’s city are summoned to come to the gates of the city and look out upon the judgments that God has wrought upon the world:

“Come, behold the works of the LORD,

how he has brought desolations on 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.” (v. 8-9)

Over and over again, Scripture calls us to behold the Lord’s works – both His works of salvation as well as His works of judgment. Here in verses 8-9, Scripture calls us to behold His works of judgment upon a rebellious world. When God lifts up His voice in righteous judgment, the melting earth becomes a desolation and wasteland. “He makes wars cease,” but don’t take this phrase out of context, as if you have this wonderful reconciliation among warring parties. This God-caused ceasing of war in verses 8-9 is devastating to the warring parties: bows are broken, spears are shattered, chariots are burned, cannons are smashed, tanks are blown up, fighter jets are broken into pieces, battleships are sunk, and what of the men? Picture a Gettysburg or Stalingrad, with the bodies of dead soldiers strewn over the earth.

When you read Psalm 46 and hear about these desolations, you might wonder when? Is the psalmist describing past judgments, present judgments, future judgments, the final judgment? My answer to that question is: Yes! While the psalmist may very well have had a particular historical deliverance in mind, nevertheless what Psalm 46 describes in terms of the raging and tottering world – and God’s word of judgment against it – is what is always happening and will always happen, until the final judgment.[4] What became of the world at the time of the flood in Genesis 6-8? What became of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19? What became of the Egyptians in Exodus 14? What became of Jericho in Joshua 6? What happened to Goliath and the Philistines in 1 Samuel 17? What became of Assyria and Babylon and Persia and Greece and Rome? Moving closer to our own time, what became of all those monarchial empires in Europe? What became of Napoleon Bonaparte? What became of Hitler’s Third Reich? And what will become of the nations of this world, which however autocratic or democratic they may be, are in rebellion against the Most High God? After the raging and tottering has reached its full measure, God’s judgment is sure to come. All the temporal judgments that are recorded in Scripture, and all the temporal judgments that we may discern in the course of history, are precursors to the final judgment, when God will lay low the pride of men.

GOD CALLS HIS PEOPLE TO REST IN HIS VICTORY

At this point, with a judged, melted, desolated world in front of us, God speaks: “Be still, and know that I am God.” With this we come to the fourth heading: God calls His people to rest in His victory.

Be careful not to take this phrase out of context. “Be still, and know that I am God” is probably one of the most well-known Scripture passages among Bible-believing churchgoers, and yet how many people realize that it occurs in the context of God judging the world? Psalm 46:10 isn’t a word to stressed-out Christians who are overwhelmed by the demands of life and are feeling like they are losing their grip, and so they need to take a step back and slow down and remember that God is God and that He will take care of you. This is a sound line of thought, of course, but it isn’t the point of Psalm 46:10. You should go to a passage like Philippians 4:6-7 for counsel about the general anxieties of life. But we need to keep Psalm 46:10 in its context, and what we see here is that Psalm 46:10 is a word to vulnerable Christians who are overwhelmed and threatened and often persecuted by the raging sinful madness of the world.

You look all around and you see foolishness, godlessness, moral insanity, political chaos, “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6), all rooted in spiritual darkness, and you are tempted to lose perspective. But then you remember: “God is our refuge”; “The LORD of hosts is with us”; therefore we will “not be moved”. And you remember: “A might fortress is our God, / A bulwark never failing”; “And though this world, with devils filled, / Should threaten to undo us, / We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.”[5] “Be still,” O troubled Church, “and know that [God is] God.” He is the Lord Almighty who strengthens His people and, at the same time, who brings judgment upon the world.

When He topples the raging nations, “[He] will be exalted among the nations” – that is, He will be exalted as the sovereign God who has the power to “[bring] the counsel of the nations to nothing.” (Psalm 33:10) The largest and strongest and wealthiest nations “are like a drop from a bucket” (Isaiah 40:15) in comparison to the Lord, and the Lord will be lifted up, and the nations will be brought low.

Likewise, when He devastates the earth and causes it to melt, [He] will be exalted in the earth!” – that is, He will be exalted as the Righteous Judge who calls those who dwell on the earth to account for their rebellion. Proud men will be humiliated, but the Holy One will be honored as the Most High God whose plans endure into eternity (Psalm 33:11). And after the devastation, there will be “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13), and “the city of God” will fill the earth.

And when in that sobering moment we look out and see the desolations that God has brought on the earth, and when we realize that these desolations are, at the very same time, acts of deliverance and vindication for the inhabitants of God’s holy city, we will indeed “[be] still” – and we will recognize that our salvation is from the Lord alone.

But it isn’t just that we will “[be] still” on that future day, for as we believe God’s promise we ought to “[be] still” now, recognizing that the world’s assaults against us will not stand, and though we may have to endure a little darkness, “when morning dawns” God will set the record straight: Christ will be seen as the Glorious Savior that He is, and His Church will be glorified with Him. Therefore we say with hearts full of faith: “Let goods and kindred go, / This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still: His kingdom is forever.”[6] For now and forever, citizens of God’s city live in this joyful reality: “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

A CALL TO THE UNCONVERTED

This sermon, in keeping with Psalm 46, is intended to edify and encourage the saints, who are the inhabitants of God’s eternal city. I realize, however, that there may be in this sanctuary some people who do not belong to the Lord. And if you don’t belong to the Lord, then far from feeling encouraged by this message, you ought to be afraid of the judgment that will soon engulf the world.

Men and women of the world, you really are in grave danger! And yet, we love you and bring you good news. We do not wish for your destruction, but rather for your deliverance. So hear this: the city gates are not yet closed. Pardon for sin, and peace with God, and promise of heaven, and power to live a holy life, are assured to everyone who repents of his or her sin and trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered the judgment that sinners deserve so that repentant sinners could be forgiven and reconciled to God. If you experience that wonderful turning of soul, then you could say, before it’s too late,

“Jesus, my heart’s dear Refuge,

Jesus has died for me;

Firm on the Rock of Ages

Ever my trust shall be.

Here let me wait with patience,

Wait till the night is o’er;

Wait till I see the morning

Break on the golden shore.”[7]

Why not join us in that blessed city where God is? “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” 

Let us pray.

 

ENDNOTES

[1] From the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” by Isaac Watts.

[2] See the May 1, 2019 edition of “The Briefing” by Albert Mohler. Available online: https://albertmohler.com/2019/05/01/briefing-5-1-19.

[3] St Augustine, City of God (Penguin Classics). Penguin Books, 1984: p. 593.

[4] See James Montgomery Boice, Psalms: Volume 2: Psalms 42-106. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996: p. 390-391. Boice mentions two historical circumstances that might have been on the psalmist’s mind as he contemplated God’s protection of Jerusalem and overthrow of Jerusalem’s enemies. Then he says, “In my judgment there is insufficient evidence to decide between the two theories. But it does not matter, since the point of the psalm does not depend on the identification. Whatever the original circumstances, it is true that God alone is our defense and that our ultimate security does not rest in any earthly city, but in the heavenly city prepared for us by God.” (p. 391)

[5] From the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther.

[6] Ibid.

[7] From the hymn “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” by Fanny Crosby.

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