South Sydney Anglican Church
10 January 2021
Topic: Blessing , Fear , Strength

God makes us strong

Speaker: Matt Johnson

Bible Passage: Psalm 46: 1 - 11

Psalm 46 – Gods Strength is our Strength in all Circumstances

Intro:               Morning friends & visitors and those watching online. My name is Matt Johnson and this January we are looking at some Old Testament Psalms about STRENGTH. We all want to feel strong and confident and ready for everything 2021 has to throw at us. (I mean it couldn’t be any worse than 2020, could it?) But where does true strength come from? Well today in Psam 46 – reminds us that true strength comes from God.

PRAYER:

Well friends, for this short sermon series called “STRONG” I intentionally chose this image of a little boy in a superman cape because it contains an important truth. On our best days – when we are FEELING strong and ready to take on the world – we are but little boys and little girls playing make believe. None of us are strong in ourselves. True strength actually comesfrom knowing yourself to be weak

When you really believe you are superman OR wonderwoman and you begin to rely on your own strength to win the battle of life – then “Oh my friend you are in mortal danger. But if you know yourself truly to be little more than A WEAK CHILD pretending to be a superhero (then you rely on God and His strength, rather than yourself) – AND then you are truly strong. The question is; what do you SEE when you look in the mirror? Do you see superman or wonder-woman? OR do you see a weak, vulnerable child who needs help in every aspect of life?

Like many things in Christianity, the Bible gives us an upside-down picture of strength. In 2 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul writes; (Slide 2 – 2Cor.12:10). The book of Isaiah says something similar (ENTER – Isa.40:29). But is this automatic OR do we have to first acknowledge we are weak and ask God for help? THE FLIP-SIDE to this truth is “pride comes before a fall.” The Bible says; (ENTER – Prov.16:18; Obad.1:3-4). The problem is that when we are soaring like superman in our own glory– our dependence on God begins to FADE, our teachability begins to WAIN, AND our practical Christianity (reading the Bible, praying and going to church) goes out the window (because hey I’m invincible. I don’t need that stuff). AND then, God has to let us go splat. Indeed, it is God’s mercy, to let us go splat, so that we wake up to the truth (while there is still time). The key to staying strong in the Lord, is staying humble and remembering that we are weak (in ourselves). BUT HOW HARD A LESSON is this to learn? The lives of most Christians just OSCILLATE between soaring and splat, soaring and splat (over and over again) – because every time we feel strong, we become proud and think we can do life without God. If only we were LESS STUPID. If only we could learn to remain HUMBLE, even when we feel strong – then we might truly be strong.

Today Psalm 46 reminds us that true strength comes from the God…

Point 1:         God’s Strength is our Strength

Show:                        Ps.46:1-3 (READ)

Explain:        Well Psalm 46 seems to divided into three main sections by the word SELAH. You can see the word SELAH at the end of verse 3, verse 7 and verse 11. Now we don’t really know the meaning of Selah. Some scholars think it’s a MUSICAL term, others think it is an expression of “PRAISE”, AND others think it means to PAUSE AND REFLECT. The exact meaning of SELAH is unknown. But in this case most scholars agree that Selah is marking the MAIN DIVISIONS of this Psalm…

SHOW:          SLIDE 3

So the first section is about our strength being derived from God’s strength. We, humans, do not have life or strength in ourselves. Our LIFE AND STRENGTH comes from God. So ever since Adam and Eve rejected God (and we all followed suit) our life and our strength has been ebbing away. Without God in our lives – our ability to really live and be strong is DRASTICALLY, even TERMINALLY reduced. In a world where so many people have rejected God’s good ways we are all too aware that hostile forces (both VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE) are now working against us. Adam is trying to subjugate Eve AND Eve is trying to control Adam. Our children Cain & Abel are not only fighting, sometimes they are killing each other. And there is a serpent (who also seemsto have rejected God) who is trying to deceive us and hurt us.

The images in this Psalm of the earth giving way and mountains falling into the sea is a picture of our world under judgment. We no longer live in the perfection of the Garden of Eden. Sin and the REJECTION OF GOD – means that we now live in a world – where even the MOST STABLE things like the earth itself and mountains are no longer stable or safe. But this is not just a picture of a world under judgment, it is also a picture of a world that will come to eschatological end. In verse v2 – we read about the earth giving way. In verse 7 – we read of the earth MELTING.

(Now how bad does CLIMATE CHANGE need to get before the earth actually begins to melt). THE WORLD is not only broken. OUR WORLD will one day soon come to a fiery end AND everyone will be judged (and found guilty) for rejecting God. Now in such a hostile, bleak reality – where can man find refuge and strength? Will it be in the development of artificial Intelligence, or genetic engineering or perhaps escaping to Mars (with a crazy, rich South Afrikaan who thinks it’s possible).

Illustrate:      Sadly, the western world now teaches that there is no creator. There is just a big bang. Just a set of random, yet fortuitous events that somehow produced life. Now that itself is an unproven faith system. THEY CANNOT PROVE that God does not exist AND THEY CANNOT PROVE that life spontaneously bloomed all by itself. It is a faith system – built upon scant evidence and with gaping holes. But not only is this assumed atheism an unproven faith system, it is a faith system that is devoid of HOPE. Our world is broken and there is evidence all around us. Evidence this week on our TV’s – with coronavirus in England, riots in Washington AND black outs in China. Where is our hope? Without God we are forced to make science our refuge and strength, or perhaps ourselves or perhaps even aliens coming to save us…

Apply:            This Psalm – actually begins with an unashamed EXPRESSION OF FAITH. IT DOES NOT SAYDo not fear – AI is our refuge and strength.” Nor does it say “Do not fear Genetic Engineering is our refuge and strength.The people reciting this Psalm make a statement of faith – that God is their refuge and strength. When people put their faith in the God of the Bible (they actually find their fears, and anxieties and worries) become less because they know God is good and God is bigger than the troubles of this world. (This is great for our mental health). Those who make God their refuge and strength, discover that he really is a refuge and strength that helps them face the troubles of life – with less fear and more confidence.

 THE QUESTION – is WHO or WHAT is your refuge and strength and does that refuge or strength really improve your quality of life. The testimony of the SONS OF KORAH (who wrote this Psalm) is that God really is an ever-present help in the troubles of this world. And this is also the testimony of countless Christians around the world who know God. Truly, (like the writers of this Psalm) I say to you “God is my STRENGTH AND MY REFUGE and an ever-present help in my life. I truly don’t know how people do life without God. (Without God – life is meaningless, scary and without hope). But sadly, sometimes even Christians forget their utter dependence on God. When things are going well its all too easy to start living like we are ok in ourselves, we don’t really need God, or church, or His word or prayer. And that is a great mistake. We need God like we need air, or water, or food.

Point 2:         God’s Strength is Absolute & it is with Us

Show:                        Ps.46:4-7 (READ)

Explain:        Well the key words in these verses are in verse 7 which says “the Lord Almighty is with us.” The whole point of these verses is that God is not against us, God is with us and for us. In the Old Testament – the Jews knew God was with them – because 1) He saved them from Egypt, 2)gave them laws upon which they could build civil society, 3) gave them the Promised Land and 4) gave them peace and prosperity. All this good blessing from God is metaphorically represented in verse 4 by – “the river whose streams make glad the city of God.

In context the city of God is JERUSALEM. But THE RIVER spoken of is not the Jordan. The river that makes glad the city of God is actually the river of life. Wherever God is present life – even abundant life – begins to flow. In the Garden of Eden – there was a river that watered the earth and brought forth life. Throughout the Old Testament – prophets like Joel, Ezekiel & Zechariah speak of a river of life flowing forth from the temple (bringing life – even to the dead sea). And the whole Bible finishes in the book of Revelation with a river of life flowing from the throne of God – bringing renewed life to the world.

GOSPEL:      Now in the OLD TESTAMENT this “blessing and life” was PRIMARILY with the Jews. As they listened to God, He dwelt with them, and they reaped blessing and life in the midst of the world’s troubles. But now God promises this blessing and life to everyone who accepts Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

In the COMING JUDGMENT of the world we are all going to need STRENGTH and REFUGE. 1) Strength to face what is coming AND 2)refuge from what is coming. Because the world has rejected God – He is going to let the world implode and then we will ALL be judged. You think 2020 was bad – wait for the 3.5 years that precede the final judgment. Then because we have ALL rejected God – we will be found guilty (and sentenced to hell). So where can we find REFUGE from this coming fate? (GOSPEL) Well, when King Jesus (came to earth) he was found guilty for His people’s sin and sentenced to death and hell – on our behalf. Jesus took the punishment for us – so we could be spared. AND GOD PROMISES that if you believe Jesus died for you and repent of your sinful ways then you will be safe. Jesus will be your refuge – because your sins are already paid for – in him. Now will trust in what the God of the Bible says – or will you trust in yourself, or perhaps the words of Buddha or perhaps an escape to Mars with Elon? Its your choice. But I know I wouldn’t pin my hopes on a man who named his child X AE A12.

But Jesus – is also our strength. He is our strength to defeat Satan, sin and death. No one has defeated Satan, sin and death, EXCEPT Jesus. After dying for our sin, Jesus rose again to show that he is stronger than anything the underworld can throw at us. One day we are all going to die AND what will help you then? God saysI WILL, IN JESUS.” Jesus’ resurrection proves he is stronger than Satan, sin or death.

Illustrate:      Now there are some GREAT SONGS based on Psalm 46. During the Christian Reformation of the C16th MARTIN LUTHER wrote a hymn called “A Mighty Fortress is our God”. In terms of long-standing popularity its up there with songs like Amazing Grace. So let me show you the first two verses (Slide 3; A Mighty Fortress is our God).

APPLY:         The good thing about this song and this Psalm is that it reminds us that our troubles in this world are not just physical they are spiritual. THERE IS A SERPENT, a fallen angel – who is deceiving us and tempting us and lying to us – in order to drag us with himself (down to hell). There are real evil powers working against us. Now there are subtle hints of this in Psalm 46. But the strength of Satan is nothing, nothing, nothing – compared to the strength of God.

The words in Luthers hymn “LORD SABAOTH” comes from the words in Psalm 46The Lord Almighty.” THE LITERAL TRANSLATION of Lord Almighty is the Lord of Hosts OR the LORD Of angel armies. So our enemy is an angel. But God – is the God of angel armies. THE QUESTION IS do we really grasp the STRENGTH of God – who is with us and for us.

At one point in the Old Testament the PROPHET ELISHA had a death sentence over his head. The King of Aram had Elisha surrounded by his army AND Elisha’s servant was truly freaking out. So Elisha prayedLord open my servants eyes that he may see what I see.And as the servants eyes were opened he saw God’s angelic army standing on all the hills in Elisha’s defense (2Kngs 6). AS JESUS PREPARED TO GO TO THE CROSS – his servant Peter was also freaking out, swinging a sword. But Jesus said to him; “Peter what are you doing. I could click my fingers and God the Father would send 12 legions of angels to defend me.” (Matt.26:53). Yes, we may have a fallen angel railing against us, but do we have eyes to see the God of angel armies who is for us and with us. With the God of angel armies on our side – we really have nothing to fear (and one day this will be revealed to all)

Point 3:         God’s Strength with Us will ultimately be Vindicated

Show:                        Psalm 46:8-11 (READ)

Explain:        Well the final verses are both a COMMAND and a PROPHECY. The command is for everyone to come and consider the works of the LORD. The word “LORD” in capitals (in verse 8) is God’s personal name Yahweh. So this is actually a call to come and examine what the God of the Bible has done.

But this is not just a call TO BLIND FAITH. This is a call to come and evaluate the story of the God of the Bible. 1) He is the God who brought Jewish slaves out of Egypt. 2) He is the God who gave us the 10 Commandments (and the whole Judaeo-Christian ethic) upon which our western world was built. 3) He is a God who gave the Jews the promised land. He broke the bow and shattered the spear and burnt the shield – so that 4) His people had real peace. But this same God of the Jews FORETOLD that he would one day do something greater. God would raise up a king (better than David A) who would set his people free from slavery to sin and Satan and fear. B) This King would establish true law, C) lead his people to inherit the earth and D) ultimately usher in true peace for his people with God forever.

These promises of God were fulfilled in a man named JESUS. You may have heard of him. He is widely regarded as the most influential man in history. He’s words were full of grace and truth. His birth divided time into the era before Christ and after Christ. He died and rose again and he is now the largest religious leader in the world. For those who come and truly consider the works of the God of the Bible – will inevitably see in Jesus that He is the true God, the Creator God, the LORD of angel armies. And in recognizing that the God of the Bible is the true God (with us and for us) – they will find refuge and strength and an ever-present help in times of trouble.

Apply:            But this Psalm is not just a COMMAND to come and see. This Psalm is a PROPHECY that if we are STILL (and make God our refuge and strength) we will soon see with our own eyes His vindication. We will soon see the God of angel armies throw down Satan, and Allah and Buddha and all the other evil forces in this world. And then all that Revelation says will happen – will actually happen. The earth will implode, the dead will rise and the earth will be judged. But all those who have sought refuge and strength in God (and through Jesus) will find vindication, in God’s vindication. Our faith will be proven right.

In those days no one will deliver themselves 1) with cleverness or 2) buy their way out of trouble with money or 3) good religious works. You will either have come to Jesus as your refuge and strength (or you won’t have). The God of the Bible is the ONLY true Creator God (and it is His intention) that in the last days – every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the true God (and there is no other). And that will include Satan, Allah, Buddha and all the other deceptive forces in this world. But God’s glory as the supreme God (the God above all gods) will be vindicated. And if we are still (and do not give way to fear in the last days) we will see this with our own eyes. And in that moment God’s vindication, will be our vindication, God’s exaltation our exaltation. For the Lord of Angelic Armies is with us, the God of Jacob is and will be our refuge and strength – FOREVER.

 

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