Christians bring good news. We preach the gospel. God has shown us a better way and we live it. We strive to keep growing spiritually, all while recognizing none of us have quite arrived.
Our lives are busy. Few of us may feel our experience offers any serious model of Christian order. But my guess is that while we see ourselves as quite inadequate, most of our lives are like islands of peace compared to those of unbelievers. We think we're just barely making things work, but imagine what it would be to live in the home of the unbeliever!
Still, as Christians we are experience a remarkable kind of peace. Being a Christian has advantages for living even though we don't become followers of Jesus for the loaves and fishes.
Through the Bible, God has come to His people to tell us about things we could not know any other way. The person in the world, knowing almost nothing of God, may feel the world will basically last forever. But what do we believe? God destroyed this world once with a flood of water and He is going to destroy it a final time with a flood of fire. We believe the Bible and so we believe this warning that the world is going to be destroyed.
Think of it. Part of our message is that destruction, an absolute and final destruction, is coming.
Is this good news? Someone could put it in kind of a bare-metal way, that the Christian message is, "Hello. Your world is going to be destroyed." First off, since most people know nothing about the Christian experience, nothing about what our loving Father God has told us is coming, such a message might be received as pretty bad news. But it may be that Heaven will open a way for you to share how what looks like bad news to them is actually good news.
The Scriptures Jesus Trusted in
And so, I want to look with you today at the 46th Psalm and its simple, three-part message chock full of good news. Jesus was sustained in all His trials by the Word of God. And the Word of God He then trusted in was the Hebrew Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament.
Open with me to Psalm 46. Take a good look at it.
Let's take some quick inventory here on what we are dealing with. This is a Psalm, a worshipful saying set to music. There are many different categories of Psalms, including psalms of thanksgiving, laments, Messianic psalms, psalms of confession and petition, psalms contrasting the righteous and the wicked, historical psalms, psalms that are prophetic but not messianic, royal psalms, covenant songs, songs of zion, wisdom psalms, hymn psalms, even imprecatory psalms. All inspired, each variety having different characteristics. As it turns out, this fits in a category of called Psalms of Zion. I have a different name for those. I call them Great Controversy psalms.
Let's zero in on some details on the Psalm itself. There are 11 verses. Now, we have various Bible translations among us here as worshipers. Each has its own way of laying out and displaying the text. Some show it in carefully separated paragraphs. Some mark the text with that funny backwards "P" symbol called a pilcrow (¶). That's just an old fashioned paragraph marker from hundreds of years ago.
There is something else here that is helpful, and that is the word "selah," which means "stop and think carefully about what was just said." This Psalm has three "selah's." These help us see the way this psalm is organized having three parts.
No Matter What Happens we Will Trust in God
Let's go ahead now and look at the first part, which you see in verses 1-3. Here it is from the NASB:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
This is a declaration of our trust in God. No matter what happens, we will trust Him. Consider the statement.
First, God is our refuge and strength. He is right beside us, with us, present, when we face troublous times. He protects us. He strengthens us. He gives shelter to His children, even as He empowers His children. We may forget His protection and power but He still protects and stands ready to empower.
Four "althoughs" are offered: even though the earth change; even though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; even though the waters of the ocean roar and foam, even though the mountains shake at the ocean's swelling pride, even though all this roiling trouble, we will trust Yahweh.
Here is truly a picture of trouble. If you were trapped between a raging sea and a quaking mountain, that would be a world of trouble. You can't go down to the sea for you would drown. You can't stay where you are, for the rocks of the mountains will roll down and crush you. Going up the mountain? Forget it.
We lived for eight years on the San Andreas fault. I used to take a walk each day crossing the fault twice each time. I don't know how many earthquakes we experienced while we were there. Quite a few. Earthquakes are no fun at all. There is nothing you can do but attempt to move immediately to the safest position and to pray. There is nowhere to turn, nowhere to run. You ride it out and that is all.
How many times have we felt in our lives we were stuck and nowhere to go, no where to run, no way to do anything. As Christians we found ourselves with only one God to trust in then, and we trusted in Him. We had no where to turn to but we had Jesus to turn to. And while we could not at that time see the end from the beginning, we made it through the gauntlet because the God whom we serve was our refuge and strength.
That is what we have. We have not a "what" but a "who," a personal God. But the person in the world has nothing like this. He has no one to turn to. All he has is what he sees: the sea roaring on the one side swallowing mountains, and mountains quaking on the other. He has no refuge, no help, no source of strength. He is alone in the world and when trouble surrounds him he has nothing but fear. That's a bad world. That's a world that is ending. The message of this part of the psalm, very simply, is, No matter what happens we will trust in God.
We are to have the mind of Christ. This was the very mind of Christ. Jesus trusted in His Father.
God protects His people
Look at the second part of the psalm:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
This second part of the psalm shifts perspective. We are looking on from within the city of God now. God is in its midst. He nurtures His city. Indeed, His people are His dwelling place. But there are other cities, other kingdoms. Armies lay siege, surrounding, attempting to starve out God's people. Jerusalem, the city of peace, has been one of the most besieged cities historically. Surrounded at different times by Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman and other armies, how many times the gates were drawn closed and soldiers posted vigilant on the walls.
But notice. The kingdoms tottered. Mighty empires came and mighty empires went. Because, you see, God raises His voice and the earth melts. God defends His people. When He is for them it is in vain to attack them. We often feel small and alone but God tells us in His word that we are to come together. The church is a place for strengthening one another in Jesus. Recall Paul's inspired counsel in Hebrews 10:
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
And so when it seems to that God's people are surrounded, we should remember that He is here in her midst. He is here by His Spirit and He is here in the prayers and encouragement of His people. Don't be too quick to reject a suggestion by a brother or sister in His Church. God may by trying to speak to you through them. Don't grow discouraged with the Church. If it seems to you that something is lacking, you be the blessing, you take your place at the front to strengthen it. Yes, all the forces of destruction are being hurled against His church, but all He need do is raise His voice and the earth will tremble. He is nurturing His city. His city is a wise place to be, within its walls and under His protection. God protects his people.
Now think again from the standpoint of the unbeliever. What does he have? He doesn't see how God is nurturing, but he does see the nations in an uproar. And he has nothing to rely on, no group of like-minded persons to join him. He is unprotected in the storm in a cold world where it is every man for himself.
His world is unsheltered, sharks running with the sharks, survival of the meanest. Well, hello: your world is going to be destroyed, your world devoid of love and filled with fear, with all your relentless toil leading you nowhere. That's all going to go away. But God protects His people. There is a storm and Jesus invites us to be sheltered from it. But there is always some one so stubborn that they will stand out in the rain and catch cold and die rather than receive help. Jesus is appealing to your heart and mine and especially the person standing in the pounding rain of this world. He says come to me, all you who labor and are carrying heavy burdens. I will give you rest. You've tried out the cold and dark side of life. Won’t you please come to me today and try out the Godward side?
God Intervenes and Brings All Oppression to Nothing
But we hasten onward now to the third section of Psalm 46, found at verses 8-11:
Come, behold the works of the LORD, who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. "Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah (Psalm 46:8-11).
What does God do? He does great works in the earth. Some of these are beautiful like the towering, snowcapped mountains, the flashing waves at the seashore, the big blue sky and the black bear mother standing up on her hind legs. But some of them are remarkable in other ways not so cuddly. The desolation of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea crossing as they sought to kill God's people, or the angel-slain armies that had surrounded Jerusalem, or the earth desolated after the flood from which only Noah and seven others emerged alive.
God will bring to an end all wars for all time. He destroys the weapons, He breaks bows, cuts spears in two, He disarms nuclear warheads, and sinks nuclear aircraft carriers. He puts the NSA and the Five Eyes out of business.
He warns us all that He will bring the Great Controversy War to an end. Cease striving, He says, and know that I am God. God will be exalted among the nations--not presidents, not kings, but Jesus.
Hello. Your world is about to be destroyed. The world of conflict, survival of the allegedly fittest, the spying, survielling, the exploiting, all high-handed plans to redistribute things in the world in ways we somehow deem more righteous, all of that is going to go away. Your world of photoshopped images and autotuned music, your world of artificiality, Darwinist mentality--its all going up in smoke soon and there will be nothing left. Nothing at all.
Your world filled with those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, is ending. Finis. And God will rule all. His kingdom will fill the whole earth. There will be no more place for war, for killing, for the principle of force. That world is going away, being ushered out, by God Himself.
He is replacing it with a different world based upon service to others, seeking the good of others voluntarily. You see, the third part of Psalm 46 teaches this message: God intervenes and brings all oppression to nothing.
Hello. Your World is About to be Destroyed
In short, the temporary, impermanent world thrust upon all creation when Adam sinned, that world and all its collaterals, from Hiroshima to dental caries to Calvary, that world is going away. That world is being replaced by the original intention for earth, by an unselfish world in which there is no war, no bloodshed, no suffering, and in which the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and where none shall kill or destroy in all God's holy mountain. Jesus is coming back soon to set His world in order. Rebellion will run its course. Yes, we were born onto the battlefield between good and evil, but in the end good prevails. There is an end. The cross is enough. Jesus wins. The kingdom comes. Never again will a lie or a hangnail or a Chernobyl happen. It will be the triumph of truth over deception, and the actual facts of the universe over the imagined fictions humans have erected glorifying themselves.
God never just takes something away; He always replaces with something better. He's going to remove this earth's poison cupcake and replace it with a wedding cake. Jesus will be married to His bride, the church. This then is good news after all. And don't forget Psalm 46, one gift among many to us from God and His Bible writers.
Deer Park WA SDA 2014-12-06