The Presence of God (Psalm 46)
Tragedy strikes. Cancer strikes a loved one. The cancer slowly drains his health, and he dies. Your child has just told you that he and his wife don’t get along, so they’re going to divorce. A fire sweeps through your home and takes your precious memories and heirlooms.
People often want to know where God is when they hurt. They forget that tragedy is in this world because of sin. Death came into the world through sin (Rom. 5:12). They forget that God told Job that he alone could understand tragedy. They forget that God too has endured tragedy. His son died a horrible death. They forget to read passages of Scripture which speak of God’s love and protection.
Tonight, we want to examine one of those texts. Tonight, we want to think about the presence of God.
God is Present in Cosmic Troubles, v 1-3
God is our refuge and strength.
A refuge is a sure defense. This psalm emphasizes the fact that God is our refuge; the term “refuge” is used three times. One finds rest and sanctuary in a refuge. God’s people can find rest and sanctuary in God.
God is our strength.
God is inherently powerful. “You have a mighty arm; Strong is Your hand, and high is Your right hand” (Ps. 89:13). God showed his power at the Creation (Prov. 8:28).
God will use his strength to protect his children.
God is a very present help in time of trouble.
The Hebrew phrase translated “very present” literally means “making himself found exceedingly.”
The idea is that God is close to those he loves. This psalm presents God in a very personal way to Israel. God is Lord of all nations, but the Israelites were his chosen ones. The phrase “God of Jacob” reminds one of the covenant God made his people. Because he had entered into a covenant with the Israelites, God loved them in a special way. God now has this type of relationship with Christians.
God is our help when trouble comes. The psalmist spoke of God as his help and deliverer (Ps. 40:17). “We may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13:6). od is very near to help those who are his—He is ever-present with his people.
Regardless of what happens, the author and his companions will not fear. Since God will sustain the psalmist, he has no reason to fear.
Regardless of what occurs, God can be our refuge and strength. Cosmic chaos is presented in these two verses—The earth is removed, the mountains fall into the midst of the sea, the waters roar and are troubled, and the mountains shake with the earth’s swelling. There is much discussion as to what these two verses depict. However, it seems likely that these verses depict a horrible earthquake. The phenomena seem to fit an earthquake quite well.
Since God is a help in trouble, we have no reason to fear. We can go to God and ask for his strength and refuge. We can ask God to help us deal with our worries.
The Presence of God with His People, vv 4-7
A river shall make glad the city of God.
The city of God is identified as the “tabernacle of the Most High;” the city of God, of course, would be Jerusalem. No river runs through Jerusalem. This is a symbolic river expressing great blessings. This river calls to mind the river which ran through the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:10). Just as the river made Eden a paradise, the river will make Jerusalem, God’s city, a paradise.
God is in the midst of the city.
God dwells in the city. God has always had his dwelling place among his people. “The LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp” (Deut. 23:14). “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).
As a church, God is in our midst as we assemble. “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). The Greek term “you” is in the plural form here. Therefore, we know that Paul is addressing the church, not individuals.
Because God is in our midst, we need to be careful how we worship. We need to worship reverently and respectfully. We need to have our minds centered on God when we worship.
Because God is in the midst of the city, she shall not be moved. God is the protector of the city. He will not allow evil to befall the city.
God will help the city at the break of dawn.
Literally, the Hebrew says “to the face of the morning.” The idea is that God delivers his people as day begins; possibly after a night of anxious concern.
The nations raged and the kingdoms were moved—A war erupted that threatened Israel’s safety and security. However, God stops the war with his voice. God uttered his voice, and the earth melted. The earth’s melting is a poetic way of expressing just how powerful and mighty God’s voice is—The idea is that the earth becomes terrified and flees from God’s presence.
God is with his people, and he protects his people. God is with you; he will protect you.
God is Present on Earth, vv 8-11
The psalmists encourage us to behold the works of God who has made desolations in the earth.
The works of God refer to the acts God has performed in the history of salvation: the Exodus, the Conquest, the period of the judges, and the monarchy. The desolations of God here likely refer to the end of whatever usurps God’s authority.
God brings an end to war.
God causes the wars to cease. He breaks the bow, cuts the spear in half, and burns the chariot with fire. This is a poetic way of expressing the peace of the Messianic reign. Isaiah also depicted this peace (Is. 2:4). This peace comes, for Jesus is the Prince of peace (Is. 9:6).
God is present with you through the troubles you face; God will eventually bring peace.
God encourages his people to pause and remember he is God. In this fast-paced society, this admonition needs to be heard. We must take time to reflect on God and his goodness.
God will be exalted among the nations and in the earth. When Jesus returns, the entire universe will praise him. We can praise him now or later. Which do you choose?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Owingsville church of Christ in Owingsville, Kentucky.