Hope in a Broken World
Hope in a Broken World
From May 17-31 of this year, more than 260 tornadoes were confirmed in an outbreak sequence that tormented the country. …from Texas to Colorado and Nebraska, then eastward through the Midwest, to portions of the Northeast and Mid Atlantic the effects of all these storms were devastating. Billions in property damage. Families displaced. Lives shattered. Communities shaken. And I wondered, when I read that, what it must be like to live in an area where tornados are common. What’s it like to live in a spot where devastating storms are a norm? How do people cope? How do they prepare in a way that expects the unexpected? I discovered that you can purchase or construct storm shelters. And they are relatively inexpensive. And it should be no surprise to us that following an outbreak like this, the sale of storm shelters skyrockets. But why doesn’t everybody have one.
We don’t live in an area where tornados are common. But not all of life’s storms are weather related. There’s no doubt that you and I live in a fallen world. It seems there’s an outbreak of storms every time we turn around…and the effects are devastating. The evening news chronicles another mass shooting. A visit to the doctor brings an unexpected diagnosis. Your boss announces layoffs. Relationships crumble. Dreams die, plans fail, and we are crushed. Often what happens to us is horribly unjust and unbelievably painful. And pretty soon you and I come to realize that the storms of life are not the exception…they are the norm. And even for us as the people of God, there’s no escaping the brokenness, but we are not without hope. There is a shelter for us in the time of storm. This morning I want us to look at a passage that can teach us how to fortify ourselves and be storm ready.
If you’ve got a copy of the scriptures, turn to Psalm 46. and let’s look at it together.
The superscription to Psalm 46 identifies it as a song. It is not conceived or prescribed as a personal and private song, but rather a public and corporate song. How do we know that?
Well first, because it says “For the director of music. “Of (or for) the Sons of Korah” – they were the choir appointed to sing at the temple. But then also because of the pronouns of the Psalm. You’ll notice, as we read it, that ALL the pronouns are plural. This Psalm was composed as a song to be sung by and for the people of God
You might ask “why does that matter?” Well, let me tell you. God has ordained that corporate singing should be one of the ways that you and I drive the truths of who he is deep into each other’s hearts. Worship is a means of discipleship. It is important that you (whether you like to sing or not) add your voice to the declaration of the truths of God that we sing. Your brothers and sisters need to hear you call out the goodness and greatness of God. In the face of fears and doubts and storms of life, we need to call each other to see and know God. But Christian worship is also where the unbeliever can experience the presence of God, where they can “see” God as we exalt Him. 1 Corinthians 14:25 says that it’s in the context of our worship that the unbeliever comes under conviction and declares “God is really among you.” It matters that you sing and it matters what you sing.
Psalm 46 is a song that calls us to look above the wind and waves to see our Savior. It outlines FOUR FOUNDATIONAL TRUTHS, four unchanging realties, that you and I need to remember and repeat…to ourselves and to each other.
Let’s look at them together:
1. The unchanging character of God (v.1-3)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
I don’t know if you caught it, but this description of God seems to assume the certainty of trouble and hardship. Every descriptor of God addresses a human problem. Listen, you don’t need a refuge unless there’s an impending attack. You don’t need an external source of strength unless you experience weakness. And a helper in trouble is just that – a helper when there is trouble.
But this song doesn’t begin with a description of the trouble, it begins with a declaration about the nature of who God is. That’s important because you need to know who He is before you know what you’re facing. He’s our refuge - He’s our protector, our covering. Any trouble we face is temporary but our fortress is eternal. He’s our strength. There’s always a limit to my strength. What did Isaiah say? (40:31) Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. Enduring strength doesn’t come from me, it comes from him. And he is our ever-present help in trouble. Listen, if trouble seems ever present to you, you need to know that you have a helper who is more present, more consistent, One who is always there. What a great God. Do you know that about your God?
In verses 2-3 the beauty of the character of God is set juxtaposed the chaos of life. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
The description of trouble here is startling. In fact, if you read it carefully, the language here is almost the reverse of the creation narrative. In Genesis, God speaks and the dry ground rises out of the chaos of the waters, sea and land are separate and given boundaries. But here even the mountains are crumbling into the sea. In creation, the waters are subdued by the voice of the creator, but here the waters roar and foam and convulse as if rebelling against the creator. Y’all this isn’t your everyday household variety of trouble – this is cataclysmic, world crashing in kind of trouble. It’s devastating and debilitating. But even in the face of that we can be fearless when we know that we have a refuge, a strength, a helper more enduring, more powerful, more sure than any created thing.
Can I just stop and be honest with you for just a second? For most of us, this is not what we want. We don’t want a refuge, we want God to prevent the attack. We don’t want a source of power, we want to never feel weak and vulnerable. We don’t really want a helper in trouble - What we really want is for God to give us a life that is free of trouble – a life that’s free of the need for Him. I tell people on a regular basis, I like the idea of trusting God, I just don’t want to be in a position where I have to trust Him.
Like it or not - Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 And we need to know, really know the One who has overcome the world. He is our refuge our strength our ever-present help.
The second reality that we must remember and repeat is this:
2. The unsurpassed value of the presence of God (v.4-7)
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
In the ancient world, rivers were a necessary source of life. Life could not be sustained apart from a steady supply of water. But they also were sources of refreshment and joy. Many of the great ancient cities were built on or near mighty rivers. But Jerusalem was unique. Jerusalem had no river. You see God wanted His people to know that He was their source of life and joy. He alone sustained them. All the other great cities like Damascus and Babylon and Thebes were planted securely along the banks of great rivers. They had a natural source, but not Jerusalem. Why? God could have chosen a well-watered, well supplied location for His city. But God intentionally placed His people in a spot without a natural source of water. They were river-less because of His divine design. That’s startling - He did it on purpose. It was intentional but it wasn’t punitive. He purposefully withheld from them because He wanted them to rely on Him.
Listen, sometimes God withholds from us not because of anger or malice, but because of his great love for us. He doesn’t want us to miss the truth that He alone sustains and strengthens us. Listen to me, you are sustained and kept not by what He gives but by Him! But He does more than just cause you to survive. He is the reason you can thrive.
One of my favorite OT passages is recorded in Exodus 33. Talk about a storm…Moses has a real mess on his hands. And the people of God are in a world of trouble. They have rebelled and sinned greatly by worshipping the golden calf. They’ve lost their minds and forgotten everything God has done for them. So God threatens to destroy them completely, but Moses intercedes on their behalf. So God relents but not without punishing His people for their sin. Then God appears to Moses and makes an astounding offer. God says “take the people and go into the land I promised to give them. I’ll send an angel before you to drive out all the inhabitants and you can take possession of the land. And it is a good land – flowing with milk and honey. You’ll be safe and successful and prosperous. But I’m not going with you.” Does that sound like a deal to you? Isn’t that what most of us are asking God to do? Make this storm end and just give me success and safety and prosperity. Exodus 33:15 15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Whoa! Did you catch that? You and I will not know that approval and acceptance of God because He grants us temporal safety, success or pleasure. Listen, people who are hostile to God experience those things all the time. REAL PEACE, comes from abiding in His presence. “In his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) Nothing is more life giving than the presence of God. Nothing will bring you greater security or satisfaction than abiding in the presence of your God. And we need to remind ourselves and each other of that great truth.
The third thing song also calls us to consider is this:
3. The unmatched work of God (v.8-9)
8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
Come and see what the Lord has done. The people of God in that day had a history of God intervening. They had a backstory that told of the faithful work of God on their behalf. And that history of faithfulness is as important for us today as it was for them in their day. You and I need regularly to look at, to remember, to consider “what the Lord has done.” His past works are a revelation of his character, his heart, his purposes.
We need to remember the dramatic way he delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. We need to read again how he slew Goliath. Do you know the story of King Jehoshaphat and how the Lord fought for him against the people of Moab and Ammon? Go read it in 2 Chronicles 20. Not now…but later. Time and time again, the scriptures recount for us how God pursued his people, how he fought for them, how he delivered and redeemed them. Psalm 30:10-11 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. I can believe this in the middle of trouble because there’s a host of historical evidence that it’s true. And what God did in the past I can trust him to do in the future, because He is the same yesterday, today and forever. And past grace is the promise of future grace. That’s what we need to be telling ourselves and each other, and especially our children.
But we have on record a more remarkable victory that give us confidence and hope. A triumph that not only impacts our present circumstance but insures our future.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
We should always be calling each other and the lost around us to come and see what the Lord has done for us. Nothing that the Lord has done needs to be more remembered, examined, and celebrated than His victory on the cross of Calvary. The cross is God’s guarantee of His continuing work in our lives. Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
I was so convicted by this as I prepared this sermon. I wondered: am I recalling and repeating and celebrating what God has done, how He has worked in my life and in history in a way that will lead my children to trust Him? There’s a trail of God’s faithful work that needs to be talked about.
10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.
The 4th thing you and I need to remember and remind each other of is this:
4. The unfailing Word of God (v. 10-11)
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
The final word in this great song comes from the mouth of God “Be still” Hush…Enough…Be Quiet! This is not a peaceful platitude. It is a forceful reproof. It is offered as a command to the roaring waters and the raging of the nations. Or it could just as easily be a rebuke to the fretting of his people caught in the turbulence of trouble. In one sense, it doesn’t matter because the message to both is the same.
You need to Hush, be quiet. Your fretting isn’t necessary, it’s not productive. Your raging is useless, it won’t succeed. I alone am God. And I will be exalted, victorious over all. And one day, EVERY knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. That’s the ultimate fulfillment of this word in Psalm 46.
Listen to me – nothing is more secure, more reliable, more trustworthy than the Word of God. It is infallible. And in a world that is full of trouble, you and I need to know the Word of God and cling to it. What matters more than what you feel is what God has said.
You feel alone?
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged Deuteronomy 31:8
You feel like a failure?
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
You feel unloved and unwanted?
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3
You feel abandoned and forgotten?
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
You feel overwhelmed by guilt and shame?
If you oh lord kept a record of sins who could stand? but with you there is forgiveness Psalm 130:3-4
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12
You feel helpless and defeated by temptation?
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, And God is faithful, he will not allow you be tempted beyond what you can bear. but will with the temptation provide a way of escape so that you will be able to stand up under it 1 Corinthians 10:13
Listen, you’re not going to “feel” your way into trusting God. You’ve got to “truth” your way in. In the face of trouble and pain, we need to be ready to call out the promises of God, speak the truth of God’s Word – to ourselves and to each other. The Scriptures really are a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. There are over 3000 promises in the Word of God. How many of those do you know? Can you call them up for yourself? Can you speak them into a brother or sister who is struggling.
In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to take up the “sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” Look, only a fool walks into battle without a weapon. And a good soldier doesn’t just carry his weapon, he knows how to use it. You, my brothers and sisters, need to be saturated in the word of God. You need to arm yourselves with the word of God. You absolutely must hide his word in your heart so you won’t sin against him. Daily time spent in the Bible is absolutely essential if you expect to be storm ready.
Four things you and I need to remember and repeat to ourselves and to each other
The unchanging character of God
The unsurpassed value of the presence of God
The unmatched work of God
The unfailing Word of God