November 13, 2021
Pastor John Hering
1 God is our refuge and strength, a helper who can always be found in times of trouble. 2 That is why we will not fear when the earth dissolves and when the mountains tumble into the heart of the sea. 3 Its waters roar and foam. The mountains quake when it rises. Interlude
4 There is a river—its streams bring joy to the city of God, to the holy dwelling of the Most High. 5 God is in her. She will not fall.
God will help her at daybreak. 6 Nations are in turmoil. Kingdoms fall. God raises his voice. The earth melts. 7 The Lord of Armies is with us. The God of Jacob is a fortress for us. Interlude
8 Come, look at the works of the Lord. What a wasteland he has made of the earth! 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth.
He shatters the bow. He cuts up the spear. He burns the carts with fire. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted on the earth.”
11 The Lord of Armies is with us. The God of Jacob is a fortress for us.
There was trouble brewing. It started at a wedding. They ran out of some of the refreshments and thought they were in big trouble. It was short time after that when another problem arose. A whole bunch of people were gathered together and got hungry, but there were shortages—not even a styrophome cup was available. Or how about the time some family members watched as their family member’s health grew worse and worse. There was nothing they could do except sit by and watch her stop breathing. I’ll never forget the trip I took with my father-in-law when we got caught in some bad winds in his little boat! Trouble brewing for all sorts of people. Then came Jesus. Jesus turned water into wine, fed over 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and he even raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. The disciples were in a boat with Jesus when the storm came up. They were scared to death that they were going to drown. But, “38 Jesus himself was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. They woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to drown?” 39 Then he got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” The wind stopped, and there was a great calm.” Over and over the people learned a really important lesson: No matter what troubles might arise, our Confidence is in God Our Refuge.
So, we are gathering together today here because of some other trouble that has been brewing. Gwen was infected with cancer about 10 years ago. We all know how she battled this disease and amazed us with her determination and attitude. There are some who fight cancer with great determination and advertisement, but sometimes Gwen was in the hospital and even family and friends didn’t know about it. How did she fight this battle and continue to maintain a cheerful and calm daily life? It shouldn’t surprise us that the verse before us today was marked in her Bible as a very important verse to her. “Be still, and know that I am God.” It was God’s promises that gave her strength, comfort and determination. During one of the last times I visited Gwen she told me, “Pastor, make sure you let everyone know that my confidence is in Jesus, and that I want everybody at my funeral to have the same confidence that I had.” Therefore, let us listen carefully to the promises God gives us in Psalm 46. Turn to Psalm 46 often and
Discover Confidence in God Our Refuge
In His Presence
It seems the Holy Spirit inspired Psalm 46 to be written during the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah around 700 B.C. Hezekiah had started a spiritual renewal when, sadly, idol worship had become the norm. Hezekiah spruced up the temple, restored the system of worship, and proclaimed God’s Word that had been neglected for decades. It was during this time that God’s people stopped to consider their relationship with God.
Then came the test. Sennacherib’s mighty Assyrian army had overrun all the nations of the ancient Middle East, swept through the land of Canaan, like an earthquake over mountains or rolling waves and pushed all the way to Mt. Zion to start pounding on Jerusalem’s doors. Sennacherib followed the normal pattern for laying siege to an ancient city. He eliminated Hezekiah’s allies. He sent taunting letters to discredit Hezekiah, dishearten the people, and dishonored God. He cut off their water and supply lines and was prepared to wait and watch Jerusalem crumble.
But inside those walls Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem sang a song of confidence. Surrounded by Assyrians and anticipating a vicious attack, they were confident that the odds were on their side because the almighty God was on their side. They confessed: “1 God is our refuge and strength, a helper who can always be found in times of trouble. 2 That is why we will not fear when the earth dissolves and when the mountains tumble into the heart of the sea. 3 Its waters roar and foam. The mountains quake when it rises.” Sennacherib’s army seemed to turn the world upside down and shake mountains. But the people of Jerusalem trusted in the Creator God who had made those mountains. Even if Jerusalem’s walls would crumble, their confidence remained in God their Refuge! They trusted that God would never leave them for forsake them.
It was God’s will to help them. The first thing God did was work through King Hezekiah by giving him the brains and determination to pull off a seemingly impossible stewardship emphasis. Was it more money for the temple? Nope! More sacrifices of time for worship? No! Hezekiah stewardship program sought men with shovels in order to build a 1700 foot tunnel which ran under the city’s wall and connected it to a stream outside. (This tunnel was discovered in 1838 and you can walk through it today from end to end). So, when Sennacherib cut off the water supply, the hidden stream helped the people in Jerusalem hold out. Listen! “4 There is a river—its streams bring joy to the city of God, to the holy dwelling of the Most High. 5 God is in her. She will not fall.” The confidence of the people of Jerusalem rested solely on God’s promise to be their Refuge. They knew no matter what, the Lord was with them.
Application: This was Gwen’s confidence as she fought her battles in life. Some of the battles were on the inside. This might come as a shock to you, but Gwen was not perfect! She was born with the infection of sin. We don’t need any more evidence of this that what we see before us. For, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). Some of the effects of sin were battles in the family, some were at work, and some were due to her health. Yet, she confessed: “1 God is our refuge and strength, a helper who can always be found in times of trouble.
Gwen let it be known that God was her Refuge and Strength. She was faithful in God’s house to worship, attend Bible Class and Ladies Bible Study. She believed what the Bible says – that Judgment Day is coming and God is absolutely just and fair in condemning any and every sinner for any and every imperfection. God is also absolutely loving and forgives all sinners through Jesus, without any merit or worthiness on their part. That truth was like a stream of water that ran throughout her life. Her Confidence was in God her Refuge—as a spring of living water bubbling up in her heart.
Then came the test. Then came the battle against cancer. Yet, Gwen confessed that if she he had relied on her own strength the battle would have been lost. But just like Hezekiah, Gwen based her confidence on God’s promises from Scripture to be present and active through his Word. So, whether she stood her ground on God’s Word before family, or children or co-workers at school, or friends at church, Gwen stood firm on God’s promises in his Word, that she was a baptized child of God, and loved the assurance of her sins forgiven in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Gwen was confident in Christ Jesus as she rested secure in his presence and
In His Victory
God had promised Hezekiah, “I will defend this city and save it for my sake” (2 Kings 19:34). God kept that promise, and Hezekiah witnessed it firsthand. The Bible tells us, “That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred eighty five thousand men in the Assyrian camp” (2 Kings 19:35). No wonder the people of Judah could sing with great confidence: “God will help her at daybreak. 6 Nations are in turmoil. Kingdoms fall. God raises his voice. The earth melts. 7 The Lord of Armies is with us. The God of Jacob is a fortress for us. 8 Come, look at the works of the Lord. What a wasteland he has made of the earth! 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth. He shatters the bow. He cuts up the spear. He burns the carts with fire.”
Yet God’s greatest victory wasn’t victory over the Assyrians. After about 100 years of peace the kings of Judah fell away from God. The Lord finally handed the Israelites over to the Babylonians. But here’s the amazing part of the message of God in the Old Testament Scriptures: God still kept his promise through the remnant of his chosen people to send a champion who came to defeat an enemy far scarier and far more powerful than the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Jesus came and defeated the power of Satan, the curse of sin and the sting of death. Yes, God gives us the Victory in Jesus Christ!
Gwen cherished this victory. Were there days when she was scared? Yes! Were there days when she was ready to give up? Yes! Were there days when her heart was sad at watching the affects of sin on family, friends and neighbors? Yes! But, there was a reason she had this verse highlighted in her Bible. She always came back to this song of confidence in Jesus’ victory for her! Anyone could ask Gwen about her Savior and she could tell you Jesus came to defeat Satan, sin and death. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of all our sins. Then Jesus rose from the dead to prove his victory. Gwen trusted in the victory of Jesus for her. That’s why she remained confident even though she knew her time on earth was coming to an end. She trusted God’s promise: “10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” Her Confidence was in the victory Jesus her Refuge had won for her! And now her soul is in heaven and she sees the Lord her God.
That same victory won by Jesus is also our victory. We all know there are going to be plenty of days when trouble is brewing. Those are the days to put your Confidence is in God Our Refuge. Be confident even though you know your last day on this earth is coming. Sing this song of victory no matter who attacks you for believing what the Bible says is true. Believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross to wash away all your sins, Receive what Jesus won for you on the cross through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.
When a person dies you often her people say, “She wanted this hymn sung at her funeral,” or “She would have wanted certain color flowers.” Gwen was very clear in what she wanted. She would tear out hymns from the program and write, “Funeral” on them. She loved the message of those hymns. She wanted her family and friends, yes everyone, to have Confidence in God our Refuge. In his Presence and in his Victory.
Here’s the thing. Gwen is going to be missed. She was faithful in worship loving God and loving her neighbors. More than once I would have food in the kitchen and ask, “Gwen, could you get this ready for us?” and she was all too happy to get it all ready. And I’m guessing everyone here is going to miss her chocolate chip cookies! Gwen always had a warm smile and lit up the room with her happiness. If you were going to introduce me to a person with optimism, it was Gwen. No, if you were going to introduce me to a person who’s Confidence was in God our Refuge, it was Gwen. Now, she is in heaven, having reached the goal of her faith in the arms of Jesus. May the Lord Jesus Continue to be your Comfort. Trust in Jesus’ promise to be with you. Trust in Jesus’ Victory for you. Then, like Gwen, you can have Confidence in God our Refuge as you hear him say, “Be Still And Know That I Am God!” Amen.