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Sunday, October 25, 2020

"Our Fortress" [Matt's Messages]

“Our Fortress”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 25, 2020 :: Psalm 46

Our sermon series this Fall is entitled “Fortifying Truth” because we’re studying the Book of Psalms together to receive eternal truth from these godly songs to strengthen us to survive and even thrive through tumultuous times.

And today’s psalm, Psalm 46, is about the fortifying truth of “Our Fortress.”

This psalm uses the powerful imagery of an impregnable fortress, the safest place to run to in a conflict, to describe our God.

Psalm 46 is a beautiful song with a glorious refrain, and it’s no wonder that it inspired Martin Luther to write the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

Because that’s exactly what He is.

Listen to verse 1.

“For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 46 is another track in the album by the Sons of Korah that worship leading family in ancient Israel, just like we saw last time in Psalms 42 and 43.

This song is also for the director of music, probably set for public worship, and is according to “alamoth,” which is apparently an musical notation that we’re not sure exactly what it means. It might mean for the young ladies. So this one might have been written by the Sons of Korah for the Daughters of Korah, a "girl band" to sing. Perhaps it was the ladies’ job to sing the refrain of verse 7 and verse 11 when the worshippers got there. We don’t know. We do know it’s a song.

And the song says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”


I could preach a whole message just on that lyric from this song:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Don’t you just love that word “refuge?”

It’s a different word than the word for “fortress” in verse 7 and verse 11, but it’s related.

A refuge is a safe place to run to. It’s castle or a fort or a tower that when you are threatened, you can retreat to.

A refuge is a place to run and be safe.

Where do you run when you’re in trouble?

When kids are playing a game of tag, there is always a place that is “base,” right? And if you run to that place, nobody can touch you. You’re safe.

Where do you run when to feel safe?

One of my mentors in ministry used to say that many many of the psalms are about addictions, because we run to our addictions as a refuge.

The psalms of refuge address our addictions. They point out to us where we run when we feel challenged, stressed, and unsafe.

What is your typical refuge?

For many years, I have retreated into food. Gluttony has been a major temptation for me especially in times of stress and strain. We call it “Comfort Food” for a reason!

What is your typical refuge when things get hard?

People turn to alcohol, or drugs, or work, or games, or relationships.

What is your typical refuge?

Psalm 46 presents as glorious and satisfying alternative: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

I love that “ever-present” help. He is not here one second and gone the next. He is not in an unreachable fortress. 

He is always here. And in Him, we are always safe.

So before we go any further, let me give you the first of 3 points of application:

#1. RUN TO HIM.

Psalm 46 tell us the fortifying truth of our fortress, He is always safe, and always strengthening, and always near, so run to Him.

For some of you, that will mean, first off, repentance.

You have to turn from the direction you have been running and start running to the Lord.

Whatever false thing you’ve been finding refuge in will not save you and will n ot satisfy. Only the Lord will. 

Run to Him.

My battle with gluttony is not over and won’t be until I’m with the Lord, but in the last year or so, I have made major strides to stop running to food as my refuge. I have been able to lose more than 50 pounds in part because I’m getting better at running to the Lord.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

And here’s what happens when you know the Lord in this way:

You don’t have to be scared! V.2

“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. Selah”

Which probably means, “Stop there, and just think about that!”

What is the most stable object you can think of?

Well, we often think of the earth itself. And certainly a mountain.

Mount Hermon, right? The last two messages in the Psalms have talked about this great big mountain range.

But what if the earth gave way? An earthquake.

And what if the mountain on the horizon fell into the sea?

Remember, the sea represents chaos to the Hebrew mind. We saw that in Psalm 42 and Psalm 93 especially.

What if the most stable thing in the world fell into the most unstable thing in the world?

What if the creation got uncreated?

What if the bottom fell out on your world?

He’s talking about what feels like the end of the world.

I don’t know about you, but a few times this last year I felt like we are now living in a dystopian novel set on the brink of the end of the world. And while I don’t know that is what is happening, I do know that this psalm prepares me for those times when it seems like MY world is ending. When all hell breaking loose.

When I feel the most vulnerable and under attack. What do I sing then?

I sing Psalm 46 when it feels like the world is ending.

And I sing, “We will not fear.”

That’s application point number two.

Run to Him, and...

#2. DO NOT FEAR.

Is your personal world going through upheaval?

It doesn’t have to be COVID-19.

It could be this election-cycle that we’re in. It’s got you afraid that “the other side” whatever that side is for you, is going to win and ruin everything.

Or it could be a diagnosis you recently received.

Or a conflict you’re having with your spouse or your parent or your child or you sibling or your neighbor or your boss.

There are a lot of things out there to make you scared.

I know that I get scared on a regular basis. I’m really good at it! (What a terrible thing to be good at.)

I often feel vulnerable, because I am vulnerable.

But God is not!

God is invulnerable. 

And He is our fortress.

Run to Him, and Do Not Fear.

In verse 4, the song changes from crazy chaos to joyful peace. Verse 4.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”

Instead of the crashing sea, here is a picture of a refreshing river which would nourish a city so that it flourishes. And if a city was under siege, it would help it to hold out for a long time.

The psalm seems to be talking about Zion, about the city of Jerusalem which was not just the literal capital of Israel but symbolically stood for the earthly headquarters of heaven.

We saw this a few weeks ago in Psalm 133.

Zion is where the temple was which was, symbolically, the spiritual “location” of the Lord.

“The holy place where the Most High [God] dwells.”

So what river is Psalm 46 singing about it?

Do you know what river runs through Jerusalem?

It’s a trick question. There is no literal river in Jerusalem; so this must be a figure of speech. [Though see Revelation 22:1 for some awesome future fulfillment of this image!]

I think the river stands for God Himself, or for God’s blessing and God’s grace.

Because God lives among His people, they are fed by a river of His grace.

Listen to verse 4 again. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”

Verse 5. “God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

For the Israelites, that was a promise that Jerusalem would not fall as long as God was living among them.

There are lots of stories in the Old Testament that illustrate this. One of the best is in 2 Kings 19. Take some time this afternoon to read 2 Kings 19 and see when this literally happened.

The city was under siege, and there didn’t seem to be any hope, but God was with His people in the city, and everything changed at daybreak!

Now, of course, the Israelites often became presumptuous, and assumed that just because they had the temple, that they were undefeatable. The book of Jeremiah addresses that foolishness.

The point was not the temple of God, but the God of the temple.

The point was not the city of God, but the God of the city.

The point was that (v.5) God was within her.

He is our fortress.

Even when all hell breaks loose. Verse 6

“Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. [Refrain] The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah”

Just stop and think about that!

The psalm talks about tumult and uproar.

War is happening all around, and kingdoms are falling. Same word for “fall” as the mountains in verse 2. But all it takes is for God to raise His voice, and everything changes. The voice that spoke creation into being can stop all of its wars with a word.

“He lifts his voice, the earth melts.”  The trouble is over.

Martin Luther wrote, “One little word will fell [the devil.]”

This is why we do not have to fear.

Yes, we have to take caution and be wary. We have enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

But we don’t just have enemies. We have our fortress. 

V.7 which gets repeated again in verse 11. I think God wants us to get this.

“The LORD Almighty [Yahweh of hosts, the LORD of armies, “LORD Sabaoth His name/ from age to age the same”] is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

The Apostle Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Do not fear.

In verse 8, the Sons of Korah invite us to look into the future and the see the world as it one day will be. This song becomes eschatological and prophetic. Verse 8.

“Come and see the works of the LORD [Yahweh], the desolations he has brought on the earth. [Remember, when He speaks, the earth melts.] He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.”

Do you see it?

Yes, it’s kind of an apocalyptic vision of the future. Where the tanks are burning and the fighter jets are sticking out of the ground.

But it means that there is no more war. There is nothing but universal peace.

And it’s because of the certain triumph of Yahweh over every one of His enemies.

For Israel, that was the nations around them that wanted them dead and gone.

For us, it’s the world, the flesh, and the devil finally defeated in every way.

This is a picture of total salvation for God’s people.

The total destruction of our enemies so that we have total peace.

This is where the Book of Revelation is going with the victory of the Lamb.

This song reminds us that God will win.

Martin Luther wrote, the Lord “must win the battle,” and “His kingdom is forever!”

The Sons of Korah wrote, “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth...”

And then God Himself speaks.

God has been silent in this psalm as it sings about Him.

Now God sings in this song, and He has a message for us. V.10

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

This is how it’s going to be!

This is where everything is headed, no matter how hard it is right now.

The LORD will win. He will be vindicated. He will be exalted.

And there is no doubt about it.

You can know that. You can bank on it.

And, therefore...you can be still.

That’s our third and last point of application today.

#3. BE STILL.

Run to Him.
Do Not Fear.
And Be Still.

Now, I always thought that this was a nice sweet thing to be still.

But I think, at least at first, like the Lord is saying, “Cut it out.” “Quiet down.” I’ve heard this translated as, “Cease striving.” It’s more like, “Stop fighting!” “Shhh.” 

Like when Jesus spoke to wind and the waves, “Peace. Be still.”

It’s comforting when you finally get there, but it’s a bit of a rebuke.

“Be still.”

Rest your heart on the fact that the Lord will be exalted.

No. Matter. What.

And what is our response to that word from the Lord? We sing verse 11 back to Him and to ourselves.

“The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah”

Just think about that.


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