God Is Our Refuge and Strength--a Very Present Help in Trouble!
O Lord, our God and Savior, as we gather together to worship in Your presence, we pray that You would preserve Your Word in our midst. Cause us to grow in our understanding of Your truths so that we can avoid all error and proclaim your Gospel to the joy and healing of many souls. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Christ is the foundation of our Christian faith! When we believe in Christ and accept His truths by faith, the Spirit of God dwells in us. Let us, therefore, build our lives and fulfill our ministries with confidence relying upon Christ and His Word rather than relying on the wisdom of this present age and world.
Jesus once "reformed" the church by cleansing the temple. In so doing He reprimanded His fellow Jews for perverting the purpose of true religion. At the same time He directed His disciples’ minds and hearts to the Scriptures, wherein religious truth is revealed. May we ever believe those same Scriptures and preserve and proclaim true religion!
Text: Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.
There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes war cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, 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 refuge.
In Christ Jesus, the Rock of our salvation and the foundation of our faith, dear fellow redeemed:
The hymn we just sang, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” is based upon the words and thoughts expressed in our text. Martin Luther wrote this most famous hymn of the Lutheran Reformation in 1529. That year was a difficult one for the early Lutherans. They had completed a visitation of their churches during the previous fall and winter. They found the level of biblical understanding among their pastors and lay people appalling. Imagine pastors not knowing the Lord’s Prayer and lay people unable to recite the Ten Commandments. To help that situation Martin Luther wrote his Largeand Small Catechisms to provide preaching materials for pastors and instructional tools for parents to use with their children. Politically, Emperor Charles V, who had placed a ban of Luther and all of his followers, had defeated his enemies and was now ready to enforce that ban by war, if necessary. Attempts at union with other Protestants failed when reformers in southern Germany and Switzerland refused to accept the biblical teachings of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. The situation looked bleak, and it was in the midst of that situation that Martin Luther looked to Psalm 46 for comfort and for inspiration. Yes, in spite of every trouble, Luther knew that God was “a mighty fortress” for as the Psalmist proclaimed GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH—A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE!
This means we need never fear! The Psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.” It is a fact that God is a place of refuge for us, His children, and that He is a source of unlimited strength. It is a fact that God is not just a help to us in trouble, but a present help and a very present help at that. This leads to an inevitable conclu-sion— we need never fear! It does not matter what Satan or the world may attempt to do to us. With God beside us Satan and the world cannot overcome us, for ultimate victory will be ours!
In our mid-week Bible Class we are studying The Augsburg Confession.The Augsburg Confession was written and presented to Emperor Charles V by the Lutherans in 1530, just one year after this very difficult year in which Luther had written “A Mighty Fortress.” During the days leading up to its presentation rumors flew about Augsburg, that Charles V was being urged to go to war against them—to imprison and torture them if order to force them to give up their confession. Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s close friend and the author of The Augsburg Confession, wrote Luther and confided in him, “All my time here is spent in tears and mourning.” Luther, recognizing God to be their refuse and strength and the very help they needed in that time of trouble, responded, “Grace and peace in Christ—in Christ, I say, and not in the world. Amen. I hate with exceeding hatred those extreme cares, which consume you. If the cause is unjust, abandon it; if the cause is just, why should we belie the promises of Him who commands us to sleep without fear? Can the devil do more than kill us? Christ will not be wanting to the work of justice and of truth. He lives, He reigns; what fear, then, can we have? Night and day I meditate on this affair, turning it over and over, diligently searching the Scriptures, and the conviction of the truth of our doctrine every day becomes stronger in my mind. With the help of God I will not permit a single letter of all that we have said to be torn from us.”
My dear friends, such was the practical application of the truths of this Psalm as suggested by Martin Luther. Ought we not make similar applications when faced by any troubles, which confront us in our lives today? If the “earth be removed” from our good health and we face sickness; if the “mountain” of financial stability “be carried into the midst of the sea” and be replaced by crises, we need never fear. Our God has promised to be with us (cf. Mt. 28:20), to hear us (cf. Ps. 50:15), and to preserve us from any trial or temptation beyond which we can bear (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). Let us, therefore, go forward following the will of our God as expressed in His Word. Let us cling to the truth that GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH—A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE for this means we need never fear!
This also means we can ever rejoice! The Psalmist writes, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.” That precious “river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” is the precious gospel message of our Savior God. The gospel message centers on Jesus Christ, who is Immanuel—God with us! God cannot and will not forsake His believing children. He will be there “at the break of dawn”—the time for ancient battles to begin—and He will deliver us!
Returning to the example of Luther’s day for a moment, it is interesting to note that while Emperor Charles V in 1529 and 1530 prepared to wage war against the Lutherans of Germany, God permitted the Muslem Turks to invade his eastern realms and threaten his capital city of Vienna. Charles and the “nations” under his command “raged” against Luther and those who joined him in confessing the truths of Scripture. The Lord God, however, “uttered His voice, (and) the earth melted” from beneath Charles, with the result that Charles had to give up his plans for war and seek the help of the Lutheran princes to defeat this new foe. What a cause for rejoicing in Wittenberg—the precious message of God’s grace and salvation by faith in Christ had been preserved among them and confessed boldly before the world, while at the same time their God had spared them the savageries of war.
My dear friends, Satan has raged among us this past week as the fruits of his work—death overcame the lives of two of our members—Nathalia Affolter and Norman Guentzel. In the midst of death, however, we can ever rejoice, can we not? The Bible assures us that Jesus became a human being so that “through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14b). Jesus, who is “the resurrection and the life” assures us believers, “he who lieves in Me, though he may die, he shall live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26). Consequently, whatever the threat may be in our lives, the precious river of the gospel assures us that GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH—A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE, which means we can ever rejoice!
Finally, this means we are to be quietly confident! The Psalmist concludes his message by saying, “Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes war cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, 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 refuge.” Five hundred years before the Psalmist wrote these words, Moses stood before the children of Israel who were frightened by the advancing chariots of Pharaoh and cried out to them, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (Ex. 14:13). The LORD then proceeded to “make war cease” and to “break the bow and cut the spear in two” as He brought the waves of the Red Sea crashing down upon the chariots and destroyed the military might of ancient Egypt. “Stand still and see” Moses said; “be still and know that I am God” says the Psalmist. God wants us ultimately to know, to believe, and to live with quiet confidence in His presence and power.
Our Wednesday evening Bible Class has heard me speak often of Duke John, the Elector of Saxony, who headed the Lutheran delegation at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. When threatened by Emperor Charles V with the loss of power, position, and possible even his life were he to fail to renounce his beliefs, John responded, “I must either renounce God or the world. Well, my choice is not doubtful. It is God who made me elector—me, who was not worthy of it. I fling myself into His arms and let Him do with me what shall seem good to Him.”
My dear friends, by God’s grace we have not had to fear the loss of our earthly possessions in order to confess Christ and remain faithful to Him. That is not the case in many areas of our world today. Christians are being forced to give up their homes and livelihoods in order to remain faithful to the gospel truths of salvation—those very truths restored to the church by the Reformation and enjoyed so freely by us in our country. We have, however, other challenges confronting us, some of which we have mentioned, many of which we have not. Our God would not have us cower before those challenges, but rather would have us confront them with a quiet confidence, not in ourselves, but in our God. Let us all understand—our God “will be exalted among the nations.” He “will be exalted in the earth” with us or without us. Will we try to stand on our own in this world, or even worse choose to stand with the world and opposed to our God. Heaven forbid such a thing! Rather let us realize that “the LORD of hosts is with us” when we in simply faith receive and believe the truths of His Word. Indeed, “the God of Jacob is our refuge!” Consequently, let us on this Reformation Sunday remember the truth in which Martin Luther took so much comfort, and upon which we can build our lives with confidence—GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH—A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting