God is our refuge and strength (Part 1)

This Psalm gives two different messages from a single fact.

That fact is this:- God is the strength and hope of his people.

Looked at in the light of the New Testament, we can say that this fact is a fact only because of the life, death and rising again of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The two different messages are these:

1. God’s people should be comforted in this reality, even if they are in deep trouble.

2. God’s enemies should fear and re-think their opposition to God.

Title of this Psalm, which is just as much the word of God as the rest of the Psalm, is ‘A song for Alamoth’, that is for young women (or children) with high voices. It is like other victory songs in the Bible. For instance, the songs sang after the deliverance at the Red Sea under Moses, or after the victories of Saul or David.

These songs signalled that it is now safe. Children and young women may safely roam the streets because the enemy is defeated.

The victory that this Psalm celebrates came after a very distressing time in the past, but the song is an encouragement for God’s people for present and future troubles as well.

v.1 God is our refuge and strength, and very present help in troubles.

First of all we need to know who the real God is. He is not an idol (not a figment of our imagination). Rather he is the God who IS, the uncreated maker of all things, the almighty. God is the one who does as he pleases, who will be glorified.

This is a victory song that only Christians can enjoy, because only Christ brings people safely to God.

There is a sense in which God is saviour of all men as he is the source of life in anyone who has it. But this song is about an extraordinary deliverance of God’s own people, a rescue that goes beyond the here and now.

 v.2-3 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed and the mountain fall into the midst of the sea.

This is an unconditional lack of fear which extends beyond the here and now. This is shown by the fact that even the prospect of death or the actual event of death does not affect this fearlessness. Those singing this song have no need to fear ‘even though the earth be removed’, that is, even if our world comes to an end; even though we might lose everything here and now, we will not be afraid.

Why? Because God, who raises the dead is with us.

Consider what God had saved the Israelites from.

The Psalm was likely written of the Assyrian threat in the days of Hezekiah.  The Assyrians were not nice people. On  the walls of their own cities, they produced relief art of the devastation they caused to their victims.

No one had been able to resist or defeat the Assyrians. When the Psalm talks about the Mountains falling into the sea, it is probably speaking metaphorically. The mountains are cities (often build on high ground), and the seas refer to people – in this case the Assyrian armies. City after city had fallen to the Assyrians, and now they had come to Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah.

The Rhabshakeh, the spokesman for the Assyrian King, reminded Hezekiah of all the cities the Assyrian King’s armies had taken, and boasted that the God of Israel was powerless to save, as all the gods of the nations had failed, so would Jehovah.

Continued in Part 2

God is our refuge and strength (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

v. 4-5 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of our God, the holy place of the tent of the most high. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.

The God who had adopted Israel was not like the gods of the nations. This God is real.

God’s people have refreshment that others cannot know; it is a confidence that extends beyond this life.

The temple, God’s holy place, was a standing symbol of God’s favourable presence and of his particular love to Israel, God’s people. The temple was a standing symbol of God’s mercy, of forgiveness, and of everlasting life.

The daily sacrifices pointed to a substitute for the sinner. The sinner deserves to die, but a substitute was provided. The animal sacrifices pointed to the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that his own body was the true the temple (John 2:20-22), and that he was the effective sacrifice.

The salvation that the temple pointed to, and the one that Christ really brings, is unshakeable. For this reason, God’s people will not be moved — not terrified, not defeated or let down.

God is with us – Immanuel — God with us is the name the angel use to refer to Jesus before his birth.

God helps at the breaking of dawn:

Assyrian soldiers who had been besieging Jerusalem were killed in a night by the angel of  Lord.

It also was at dawn that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, defeating then are there our great enemies, sin, death and Satan.

Here we need to note that the saving work of God, by which he rescues his people is also and at the same time the mean by which he defeats and subdues his enemies.

Nations raged against God (e.g., Rabshakeh/Sennacherib and the Assyrian army)

  • Their defeat was Israel’s salvation. Angel of the Lord is Old Testament code for Christ
  • What brought about Jerusalem’s salvation and their enemies defeat? God speaking; God fulfilling his word.

Same is true for all who trust themselves to God’s mercy in Christ Jesus. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus brought about our salvation, which comes to us by the word of  Christ and the renewing work of his spirit.

V. 7 God of Jacob, Lord of Armies. This is a reminder of his promise, his covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God saves for his own name’s sake; not because we were good, or loveable, worthy, but simply because God is pleased to show mercy.

V.8-9  God’s makes peace by ending the war — removing the enemy from the field

Warning to those who still oppose the God of Israel.

Look at what the Lord has done — the mightiest empire of the day humbled.

  • Their weapons were broken and scattered; their boosting was made to look ridiculous.
  • Sennacherib himself was gone; he who boasted that no God could withstand him — his power was broken and he was murdered by his own sons.

For us, the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ far out shines this extraordinary work of God in Israel’s history. Death was swallowed up in victory when Christ died and rose again. He won forgiveness and eternal life for his people. This hope in Christ cannot be lost.

The Psalm is also a call to repentance — a change of mind.

  •  To enemies of God, it is a call that they cease to make war against the only one who can save them.
  • To his people, it is a call they would cease to fear, even if the world be turned upside down.