Psalm 46: Fortress, 14 August 2022

Psalm 46: Fortress
Series—Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Series Big Idea: The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
Big Idea: God is our refuge, strength, help, and fortress in a broken world. 
The movement of Jesus began with…Jesus! The Jewish Messiah gained Gentile followers of the years, becoming the first multi-ethnic faith in the world. In 1054, the global Christian Church split in two—Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox—following the East-West Schism. About 500 years later, the Protestant Reformation protested many practices of the Roman Catholic Church, further dividing Christians into Catholic and Protestant in addition to Orthodox. One of the leading figures of the Reformation was a priest named Martin Luther, the figure behind the Lutheran Church today.
Luther wrote the song we sang earlier,
A Mighty Fortress is Our God. It was often called “Battle Hymn of the Reformation” and is based on our text today, Psalm 46 which begins
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
We’re in the middle of a summer series on the Psalms, songs written thousands of years ago, yet writings which are amazingly relevant today. Some things never change!
It’s like that Psalm 46 was written as a response to the deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians during King Hezekiah’s reign (2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chron. 32; Isaiah 36-37). Some believe the king himself wrote this psalm, and the next two.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible for many reasons, not the least of which is the last word: trouble. If I know anything about you, I know you’ve experienced trouble, you’re experiencing trouble now, or you will experience it in the future…or all three!
The original Hebrew word is
tsarah and it means distress, affliction, anguish, trouble.
There’s an old song that say, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen/Nobody knows but Jesus.”
Jesus himself said,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
Maybe some of you have been told if you love God, everything will be happy, happy, happy. If so, you were told a lie! Isaiah prophesied about Jesus the Messiah hundreds of years before his birth:
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:3)
Does that sound happy, happy, happy to you?!
I don’t claim to be an expert on world religions, but I know of no other faith that follows a suffering servant.
If you are going through trouble today, Jesus understands. He knows loneliness, betrayal, disappointment, rejection, …and he really knows pain. He promised trouble in this world, but then added
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
Jesus conquered sin and death, pain and trouble. His followers will, too…in time. We all know trouble of one kind or another, which leads us back to our text for today in Psalm 46.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
When we’re in trouble, we want help.
When we’re in trouble, we want strength.
When we’re in trouble, we want a refuge, a safe haven, safety, protection, a fortress, a shelter, a tower.
That’s God! He’s not just help, He’s an ever-present help. That’s good news! That’s gospel!
I want to pause for a moment and lead you in a time of prayer.
-       Prayer for those in trouble.
       Prayer for those who know someone in trouble.
Thank You, LORD! He is our refuge, our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:2-3)
Fear is an interesting thing. I may be afraid of something that bring you no fear.
How many of you are afraid of snakes?
How many of you like snakes?
How many of you like snakes behind glass rather than crawling up your leg?
I’m not a big fan of snakes, but people have no fear of them at all. If you know something is harmless or if you are protected from it, there’s less fear…maybe none. I am not afraid of snakes at the zoo. The glass is a refuge, a fortress from any harm that could come my way from the source of the fear, the snake.
Because God is our refuge, our strength, our help, even if the world around us is out of control—and it is—we will not fear. We will exercise faith.
Whatever you fear has mastery over your life, which is why we are told to fear God and only God. When God is your master, every other fear will lose its control over you. Pastor Erwin McManus says,
“When all your fear is directed at God, his perfect love casts out all the fear and now you can live a life that’s truly free.” – Erwin McManus
Who doesn’t want that?
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. (Psalm 46:4) God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. (Psalm 46:5)
This is not a literal body of water, but a poetic image of God’s presence. Jerusalem was the Holy City which God set apart, yet unlike most cities, Jerusalem has no river. God’s blessings provided more value and help than any river. If they trust in the LORD, it will become almost like the Garden of Eden. In these days, God’s presence was usually contained in the Jerusalem temple. How blessed we are that the curtain the kept that presence in the Holy of holies was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died…and since the Holy Spirit was unleashed upon believers in Acts 2, we can experience God’s presence and power wherever we go.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. (Psalm 46:6) Here's another brilliant image. Imagine the earth melting at the sounds of God’s voice. It’s really not a stretch since the earth was created at the sound of God’s voice!
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:7) There are two distinct messages here. The first is incarnation…Emmanuel…God with us. He’s with us, family! You can’t see Him or touch Him, but just like the invisible wind, you can see His activity. When do you feel closest to God? For me, it’s nature and the arts, especially music. Some feel close to God while studying the Bible, others in serving the poor, and still others engaging in justice and righteousness activities. The message of Christmas is God is here. The message of Acts chapter 2 is God is here, the Holy Spirit, living within us. What a beautiful mystery!
God is also our fortress. We don’t often see a fortress in modern architecture. The closest thing some have is a safe room in their house…or a basement for tornados. A fortress or refuge is a place of safety. God is that for us.
Our God is a mighty fortress! He is a shelter in the time of storm. He is our refuge and strength. He is our protector. Last Sunday we were reminded that He is our shepherd (Yahweh-Rohi). He is the strong one who sees (El-Roi). He is God Almighty (El-Shaddai-Rohi). He is the everlasting God (El-Olam). He is the most high God (El-Elyon). He is our provider (Yahweh-Jireh). He is the Lord over all (Adonai). He is the Lord who is present (Yahweh-Shammah). That’s just a few of the names of God!
What is your favorite name for God?
Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. (Psalm 46:8)
That sounds rather dark, but the scene is the fields surrounding Jerusalem, filled with the destruction of the Assyrian army the LORD defeated.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. (Psalm 46:9)
God is God. He is the definition of justice…and yet He is also merciful, hallelujah! We don’t want what we deserve from God! As the psalmists describe God’s power, the tone changes in verse ten.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10) Be still and know that I am God.
Be still, and know that I am
Be still, and know that
Be still, and know
Be still, and
Be still,
If you’re like me, it’s hard to be still. Noise surrounds us. Activity never ends. Even when my head hits the pillow, my mind often runs endlessly.
Maybe you’ve asked God to speak and heard nothing. Could it be you’re too busy to hear? He speaks primarily through His Word. Are you reading it daily? He’ll never contradict it.
If your brain feasts on cable news, you’ll forget He is God.
If your mind is filled with social media, God will diminish.
If your calendar is packed with activity, your love for God will grow cold.
If your life is lived at a non-stop pace, you will fail to worship the LORD.
I’m guilty! I don’t like slow. I struggle with still. I spent three years engaging in the Life on Life Retreat Experience specifically because I needed help…and I still do…even as I lead Life on Life Retreats! One of the practices, one of the rhythms is so be still, to be quiet, to rest, to Sabbath…not to gaze at our navels, but to fix our eyes on Jesus, to know that He is God.
Be still! The phrase literally means, “Take your hands off! Relax!” Jacob got in trouble taking matters into his own hands rather than trusting the LORD. Have you ever done that? Be still. Keep calm. Trust God. It doesn’t mean be inactive, but don’t worry…pray…and obey!

Check out
this recent interview with John Eldredge (start at 4:40) and his 3-minute tool that could literally restore your soul.
The verse also says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
For God so loved the…United States of America?
For God so loved the…English-speaking people?
For God so loved…the world! The nations!
One of the most beautiful visions in the Bible is from the book of Revelation. John wrote,
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9a)
God will be exalted among the nations, exalted in the earth.
The final verse declares,
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:11)
This is a perfect summary of the chapter.
The LORD. There is none like Him.
The LORD Almighty. He’s greater than any trouble, enemy, fear, army, addiction, or disease.
The LORD Almighty is with us. He is present. He is here. He’s not just out there. The Holy Spirit lives inside every follower of Jesus.
The God of Jacob is our fortress. He’s known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. From generation to generation, He remains faithful. What He did then, He can do now.
God is our refuge, strength, help, and fortress in a broken world. Hallelujah!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Psalm 8: Majestic, 31 July 2022

Psalm 8: Majestic
Series—Restoring Your Soul: Psalms

Series Big Idea: The Psalms are filled with passionate expressions of the soul.
Big Idea: Our God is majestic and worthy of praise.
I often say the two most important questions might be
Who is God?
Who are you?
How you answer those questions will tell me a lot about you, your identity, your values, and your worldview. Today we’re going to look at the first question, and I hope it impacts the second for you.
Who is God? Who are you?
Although God created us in His image, many have unfortunately returned the favor! We tell God what is fair. We define what is right and wrong. We jump in the driver’s seat and put Him in the trunk. I’ve got a very offensive thing to say to you today:
You are not God!
It’s tempting for all of us to want to be in control, to do things our way, to turn to God only when we need something from Him, and to make an idol out of ourselves, our needs, our desires. We do this out of pride and arrogance, but I wonder if there isn’t another reason. Could it be that our God is too small?
We don’t see too many visual depictions of God, but He is often seen as weak, angry, stupid, or sleeping. After all, why is the world out of control if God is truly sovereign and in control?
The short answer is He has chosen, for whatever reason, to allow satan and demons to tempt us for a season, but it won’t be forever. It might end when every man, woman, and child has heard the good news that Jesus is LORD. That’s our mission!
Today we’re continuing our series on the book of
Psalms, the songbook of the Bible. It’s important to recognize the psalms are not a history book. They are not a science textbook. The psalms are poetry, art, lyric.
The first course I took in seminary was called hermeneutics. It simply means interpreting the Bible. Our textbook was
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee & Stuart. Perhaps the most profound statement in the book is:
A text cannot mean what it never meant to its author or his or her readers.
It’s amazing how many people read the Bible as if it was written in English in 2022 and jump to application today.
We begin with what it originally meant. The technical term is exegesis. Then, we examine what it means for us today…hermeneutics. Then, we seek to apply it to our lives. Sometimes this process is quick and easy. For example, in the book of Exodus, Moses records this command of the LORD:
“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 10:13)
Looking at the context—the Ten Commandments—and the repetition of this message elsewhere in the time period, it’s safe to assume God meant to communicate to His people they should not murder.
What does this verse mean for us today? Was it written only for people thousands of years ago? Was the message found in the New Testament? Did Jesus support the teaching? Yes! Could it mean we should not murder in 2022? I’m confident in saying yes. The application, then, is we should not murder!
If only every verse in the Bible was so simple and clear!
As we look at Psalm 8, notice the context is not instructions or history or even narrative story. It’s a songwriter trying to describe and worship God. This video from The Bible Project will help us understand Psalm 8. Psalm 8 is the first praise psalm and the only one addressed entirely to the Lord.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1a, NIV)
What comes to mind when you think of the word “majestic?” The original Hebrew word is “adder,” meaning majestic, glorious, magnificent, mighty, powerful, stately.
One dictionary describes the adjective “majestic” as
1. Impressive or beautiful in a dignified or inspiring way. synonym: grand.
2. Possessing or exhibiting majesty; of august dignity, stateliness, or imposing grandeur; lofty; noble; grand.
3. Having qualities of splendor or royalty.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.
I don’t think there’s anything in USAmerican culture that compares to British
royalty. The wedding, birthday, and anniversary celebrations are spectacular. The crowns and palaces associated with the royal family are truly majestic.
Can you imagine the majesty of God? The psalmist begins by associating majesty with the name of the LORD. His name alone is majestic. In fact, it’s so sacred, Jewish people refuse to speak it aloud. I once asked my Messianic Jewish friend if the Hebrew name was pronounced
Yahweh. He said somewhat gingerly, “That’s very close!”
The name of the LORD is holy, sacred, majestic. You may be aware just a few verses before the prohibition of murder, it is stated in command number three:
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7)
If you never speak the name—the thinking goes—you cannot misuse it or use it in vain. Tragically, Hollywood has turned God’s name—and Jesus, in particular—as a curse word. It is holy! It is majestic!
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1a, NIV)
It’s not just a Jewish thing. It’s not just an American thing. His name is majestic in all the earth! For all people. He is
our LORD! While we’re examining these words, the all-cap LORD is that sacred name, YHWH (Yahweh). The second Lord is Adonai, the more generic term for God or lord, literally “master.”
Did I mention you are not God?! You are special, loved, created in God’s image, but we are but dust, broken sinners in need of restoration, weak lumps of clay desperate for God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Family, if we could get the focus off of ourselves and onto our majestic Lord, I believe our fear, worry, and anxiety would diminish. As pastor Donald said last Sunday, God is good…all the time. All the time…God is good! Taste and see that the LORD is good. King David continues,
You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (Psalm 8:1b-2, NIV)
The bottom line of our church’s mission statement is God’s glory. It can be seen in the heavens or the sky. Children and infants praise the LORD. Maybe that’s what they’re trying to say when they cry!!! Jesus referenced this verse in Matthew 21:16 while welcoming the praise of children and silencing Jesus’ enemies as predicted here. God’s power and glory are greater than we can imagine. As I mentioned, He is allowing sin on the earth now, but someday soon, Jesus will return to rule and reign forever. Death will be defeated. Satan and his friends will be destroyed. Even now, demons tremble at the sound of the name of Jesus.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)
Have you ever admired a sunrise or sunset? Have you ever paused to stare at the stars in the sky? It’s hard in the city, but rural areas provide an amazing experience. The writer of Romans said,
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
It really takes effort to believe the universe was one big accident.
You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:5, NIV)
This is referring to mankind, to humans. Although it says angels, the original word, elohimˆ means God. Instead of being a little higher than animals, David is saying we’re a little lower than God. It’s truly incredible that God would be mindful of us, that He would care for us, that He would create us for a purpose, for a relationship with Him. It’s truly awesome that He would love you and me…warts and all!
Our value is determined by God, not social media, family, or our neighbors. He has created you to serve Him and share in His glory.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. (Psalm 8:6-8, NIV)
There’s a prevailing message in our culture that we’re just animals. In fact, many seem to value animals over human life. I was recently selected to serve as a juror in a case that involved a murdered man and an injured dog. Some seemed more concerned about the cruelty to the animal than the death of the human! I love animals, but they were not created in the image of God. They were placed under the authority and stewardship of humans. The first book of the Bible—the first chapter of the Bible—makes this clear.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26, NIV)
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, NIV)
I know it’s not politically correct, but it is biblically correct to say
God created humans male and female in His image. I never thought such a statement would be controversial, but people have drifted so far from God’s design, it’s no wonder we live in a land of confusion. We are to love all humans and offer compassion to those who are suffering and struggling, but our source of truth must always be God and His Word, not what we might “feel” at a particular moment. I’m deeply saddened by the despair and desperation expressed by those who live without the LORD. Taste and see that the LORD is good…all the time!
OK, back to the main point, we are greater than other animals, according to God.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28, NIV)
We are to care for creation, not destroy it.
The psalm ends the way it begins.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9, NIV)
This is the theme of this song, this psalm. The LORD is majestic…in all the earth. The name of the LORD is majestic…in all the earth!
In summarizing Psalm 8, Warren Wiersbe notes,
God the Father created us to be kings, but the disobedience of our first parents robbed us of our crowns. God the Son came to earth and redeemed us to be kings (Rev. 1:5–6), and today the Holy Spirit of God can empower us to “reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). When you crown Jesus Christ Lord of all, you are a sovereign and not a slave, a victor and not a victim. “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:9).
Let’s proclaim his majesty to every living creature and declare the goodness of the LORD!
You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library