Sermon: God Is Our Refuge

I invite you to open your Bibles with me to the book of Psalms. Psalms is in the Old Testament toward the middle of the Bible – Job on the left, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes on the right. Psalm 46. If you do not have a Bible with you this morning, please feel free to grab one from the pew in front of you and leave it open as we read and study God’s word together. As we hear this psalm, I invite you to listen with one question in mind: Where do you go for refuge? Where do you go for refuge? But before we hear God’s word, please take a moment to pray with me.

Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.

If you are able, I invite you to stand to hear God’s word.

Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God:

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah.

According to alamoth. A song.

God is our refuge and strength

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall.

He will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fail,

he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD Almighty is with us,

The God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,

the desolations he has brought upon the earth.

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear

he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still and know that I am God,

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us,

The God of Jacob is our fortress.

This is the Word of the LORD. Thanks be to God.

Say these words after me: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Again: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

When the world falls apart, we all must run somewhere for safety.

When I was about ten years old, I used to enjoy going over to my aunt and uncle’s house and spending time with my two cousins. We would play outside during the day and, if the weather was warm, we might get a chance to sleep outside in the pop-up camper, just the three of us. One night a storm hit – 120 mile-an-hour straight winds that ripped up trees by the roots, smashed them into houses, and torn the metal sides off of industrial buildings. The next morning as my dad and I drove home, we saw insulation blowing across the highway like tumbleweeds. And that night, I sat in the pop-up camper with my cousins. Some time in the middle of the night, maybe two in the morning, my Dad came over and found us huddled inside, the wind howling. With his permission, we grabbed everything and ran as fast as we could into the house. When we woke the next morning, trees were down everywhere, including in the neighbor’s house. Yet, we had found refuge that night in the house.

Psalm 46 tells us that God is our refuge. A refuge is the place you go to in order to find safety. It is a safe haven, a fortress. The psalmist describes situations where it appears the very foundations of the world are coming undone: though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Yet even when the world gives way, say it with me: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. When the very ground beneath our feet seems to be coming apart, when our lives become frayed and start to come apart at the seams, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Where do you go when the world falls apart? though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. I have watch two couple I know, one close to my age and one closer to my parent’s age, have their marriages crumble and end in divorce. I have felt that pain deeply to see it. I know some of you have been there and others of you have seen your marriages on the brink of disaster. Where do you go? Where do you find shelter when things fall apart? We have seen sin and depression rip young men from our community, our own town. In the broader context of our country, we see divisions getting deeper, instability, aggression, and mistrust. Where do you go? Where do you find refuge?

Say it with me: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

The psalmist also describes God’s protection during an external assault, like a city under siege. God is within her, she will not fall. He will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fail, he lifts his voice, the earth melts… He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear he burns the shields with fire.

We face daily temptation. Not only do we feel the fracture of our fallen world, but we experience the opposition of Satan. The German Reformer Martin Luther got this right when he wrote a hymn based on Psalm 46, “For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe; His craft and power are great, And, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his equal.” Like Jesus during his time in the desert, we consistently face temptation and on our own do not have the strength to resist.

So where do we go? In whom do we put our trust when the city is under siege, when it feels like one thing after another comes slamming in our lives? One minutes it is the kids, next dad is in the hospital, then work is a mess, then the car breaks down. All the while our patience gets shorter, our temper hotter, and our love cooler. Where do we go for refuge?

Say it with me: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

We don’t know what the psalmist went through that lead to the creation of this psalm. Some suggest that Jerusalem was under siege or an earthquake hit Israel and it felt like the mountains were going to fall down on top of them. Maybe so. But it could be that these images were far more personal. Yet whatever happened, the psalmist experienced God as his refuge. When he did not know he would make it, God protected him. When he was unsure how he would ever make it through his current circumstances, God was with him. God was strong enough and loving enough to protect him. Though the earth gave way, God was with him. Though kingdoms fell, God’s city did not. God is within her, she will not fall. He will help her at break of day. Though enemies rose up against him, their bows will be broken, spears shattered, and shields burned. The LORD Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Say it with me: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. He is an ever-present help. God is not distant, waiting for us to figure everything out and hoping for the best. God is near and active, sheltering and protecting his children. Not just once or twice, but an ever-present help.

The promise of Psalm 46 is that we have a God we can trust. When things fall apart, when we face temptations and enemies all around – God will be our protector. In the middle of the chaotic waters churning, we hear these words: There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the most high dwells. While the waters all around surge and foam and the winds howl, there is a river and from that river flows but a stream, but that stream is enough to make the dwelling place of God overflow with gladness. It is possible that the psalmist was thinking of a literal stream that refreshed the people amidst a siege, but I think, moved by the Spirit, there is something deeper and wider being spoken of. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God – “O precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow, no other fount I know” – There is a river whose stream makes glad the city of God, the holy place where the most high dwells. Is there no greater refuge than the saving death of Jesus Christ, his blood shed on the cross? Is there no sweeter stream that makes glad all those who dwell in the house of the LORD? There is a river whose stream makes glad the city of God, the holy place where the most high dwells. God is within her, she will not fall. He will help her at break of day. At break of day – After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the LORD came down from heaven, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became liked dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.”

God is within her, she will not fall. He will help her at break of day. At the break of day on that Easter morning long ago, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary saw the help of God. They experienced the refuge and strength of the Most High. Say it with me again: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Because God had been their refuge and because God keeps all his promises to his people, they did not need to look anywhere else for refuge in this world. There was no need to seek refuge in their own strength, for God was their strength. There was no need to try and damp down on the fear, because those who trust in the LORD will not be overwhelmed by fear.

Because the psalmist had experienced God as his refuge in the past, he encouraged the congregation to trust God in the present. So friends, think for a moment: Where have you experienced God as your refuge? Where has the bottom dropped out of life and God did not let you fall? Where did the weight of temptation fall heavy upon you, but God strengthened you to stand? If you have known God as your refuge in the past, then cling to him as your refuge in the present.

On Friday night, both a thunderstorm and strong winds hit our house. Olga, Riah, and I were fast asleep, but Elijah was having trouble. He was scared, even if he had trouble naming what was keeping him up. Three or four times one of us had get up and try and calm him back to sleep. Eventually, some time after 6 AM, I hear Olga talking to Elijah in the next room. “Mama, can you pray for Riah? Mama, can you pray for Dada? Mama, can you pray for Julian?” After the cat was thoroughly prayed for, Olga came back and told me she asked if he wanted to pray since he was scared. It took us five sleepy trips in the middle of the night to do what we should have done in the beginning. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

If we are two years old and there is a storm outside our window, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. If we are 42 and the bills are piling up, the kids are running us ragged, and we don’t remember the last time we were able to stop and pray, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. If we are 82 and our community keeps getting smaller as our friends and loved ones pass on to glory, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

God has been our refuge and God is trustworthy to continue to be our refuge. He has provide the ultimate refuge through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a stream who makes glad the city of God, our help at the break of day. Yet, God also is ever-present to guard us. So remember how he has been your refuge and then cling to him again as your refuge today.

I remember that night in the pop-up camper, huddled with my cousins wondering if we were going to be swept away by the storm and then finding refuge in the house. But I also remember periods of loneliness I was not sure I would get through, periods of doubt that threatened to choke my faith, and times when my whole world felt like it was crumbling around me. In each of those moments, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. I have known it and I know many of you have too. I can’t count the times when I have sat with you and heard, “This is hard, pastor. I don’t know how I would be able to get through it without the LORD.” Some of us have tried to walk across that cracking ice without trusting in God. We have looked for shelter elsewhere, but found no shelter, only emptiness and exhaustion. However, if we have turned to the living God for shelter, we will not be disappointed. 

Where do you go for refuge? If God is our refuge, no matter what happens, we will find shelter in him. As we close, hear again the good news from Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall.

He will help her at break of day.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fail,

he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD Almighty is with us,

The God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,

the desolations he has brought upon the earth.

He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear

he burns the shields with fire.

He says, “Be still and know that I am God,

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us,

The God of Jacob is our fortress.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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