Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: On February 8, 1750, London was hit by a significant, though not catastrophic, earthquake. John Wesley was in London at the time and recorded the event in his journal. He followed his account with this comment. He said, “How gently does God deal with this nation. Oh that our repentance may prevent heavier marks of His displeasure.”

You see, Wesley believed that earthquakes, major storms, epidemics, and other such events were not just accidents of nature. They were providential acts; if nothing else but intended to serve as a warning to awaken people out of their complacency and to cause them to seriously consider their spiritual condition and their standing before a holy God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, October 30.

Nancy has been in a series, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," based on Psalm 46. She has been helping us prepare for any tough circumstance like that earthquake that shook London in February 1750.

Nancy: Exactly one month later on March 8, John’s brother, Charles Wesley, was in London when a second earthquake hit. It was a stronger shock but still not catastrophic. Within a matter of weeks Charles had published a sermon called “The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes.” I have read much of that sermon over the last couple of days, and it is really interesting to see how he explains all this.

Then he also published a collection of hymns called “Hymns Occasioned by the Earthquake,” March 8, 1750. Charles Wesley wrote hundreds and hundreds of hymns, and did you know that he wrote a series of earthquake hymns?

“Hymns Occasioned by the Earthquake.” These hymns called for the British people to acknowledge God’s gracious warning and to repent of their sins. The collection ends with a hymn that is based on Psalm 46. It is a hymn of reassurance that affirms God’s power to protect His people.

I’d like to read the whole hymn to you, all twelve stanzas, but I won’t do that. Let me just read the first stanza and then the last two. If you can find that hymn online, that hymn based on Psalm 46 by Charles Wesley, you will see that it follows through the progression of Psalm 46 as we’ve been studying it over these last days.

Here is the first stanza:

God, the omnipresent God,
Our strength and refuge stands
Ready to support our load,
And bear us in His hands:
Readiest when we need him most,
When to him distressed we cry,
All who on his mercy trust,
Shall find deliverance nigh.

That is the first verse, then the last two stanzas, and these relate to the verses of Psalm 46 that we’re going to look at in this final session. Wesley said,

Sons of men, be still,
And know that I am God alone,
I my saving power will show,
And make my goodness known;
All shall with my will comply,
Fear the name to sinners given,
Bow before the Lord most high,
The Lord of earth and heaven.

For his people in distress,
The God of Jacob stands,
Bears us, ‘till our troubles cease,
In his almighty hands.
He for us his power has shown,
He doeth still our refuge prove,
Loves the Lord of hosts his own,
And shall forever love.

Now, that is kind of quaint, mid-eighteenth century language, so you may not have caught all that but go to ReviveOurHearts.com and we have posted there for you all twelve stanzas of this hymn. You can look at them and hold them up next to Psalm 46 and see how Psalm 46 is expressed in this poetic hymn setting.

Now as we come to these final verses today of Psalm 46, I want to read through the entire psalm. I hope you’ve been reading it yourself, perhaps memorizing at least portions of it, but let’s read the psalm in its entirety, and then look at the last two verses. Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.

Now we come in verse 10 to one of the best known phrases in all of the psalms:

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Let me just ask you again to just say that refrain with me, that last verse 11, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” I hope you’ll find yourself saying that over and over again in the days ahead as perhaps you may be facing storms or thinking about some of the desolations taking place in this earth.

Now, let’s go back to that very familiar phrase, “Be still, and know that I am God.” You see that phrase everywhere in the Christian world. You see it on framed pieces in Christian bookstores. You see it on notecards. Sometimes you’ll see it on a sign in the church—maybe to suggest that we should be reverent in our worship. “Be still, and know that I am God.” You kind of have a hushed feeling as you see it in that setting.

We sing it sometimes in choruses, and the one that I am most familiar with just repeats that phrase over and over again. It’s slow, meditative, contemplative music—Be still, and know that I am God—just this real simple, worshipful, reflective refrain.

Now, at first hearing, “Be still, and know that I am God” sounds like it is encouraging us to lead a quiet, contemplative life. We think of it as a peaceful, calming, reassuring word of comfort for hassled, harried moments—and it is. But as I’ve been studying this passage, I’ve come to realize it is a lot more than that.

In this context, I believe that this phrase, “Be still, and know that I am God,” is actually a command. It is a command to those who have been resisting God and threatening His people. Remember, this psalm was written on the occasion of some attempted attack on Jerusalem. God has been giving His people reasons to have courage and faith, to be free from fear, because God is their refuge. They can run to Him and be safe; He is their strength when they are weak and outnumbered by the enemy. He is their helper when they are helpless.

So He has been encouraging His people, but He also has a word now to speak to those who oppose Him, to the enemies. He says, “Be still! Know that I am God.” It is the equivalent of Hush! Stop fighting! Surrender! Drop your weapons. It is a word to the enemy. “Know that I am God.”

That word know is “to recognize, to admit, to confess, to acknowledge” that “I am the God of the universe; you are not God. I am God. Stop arguing about it. Give in, surrender.” Do you see how you read it that way to these enemies, these forces of evil and adversity? Be still! Stop fighting!

Derek Kidner, who has written a wonderful commentary on the Psalms says it this way,

The injunction Be still . . . is not in the first place comfort for the harassed but a rebuke to a restless and turbulent world: “Quiet!”—in fact, “Leave off!” It resembles the command to another raging sea: “Peace! Be still!” And the end in view is stated in terms not of man’s hopes but of God’s glory.

The goal is that God will be exalted, that His name will be reverenced, that He will be worshiped, that “every knee will bow . . .  and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).  So He speaks to the waves, Jesus does, from the boat with His terrified disciples. “Lord Jesus, do something!”

Jesus says, “Okay, I’ll do something. ‘Hush! Peace, be still.’” He speaks to the waves.

Here in a parallel passage, Psalm 46, God speaks to these raging nations, these tottering kingdoms, “Be still! Stop fighting!” To this warring, threatening, unbelieving world He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

But He doesn’t just speak it to the enemy. He speaks those words to our own hearts because in our hearts there so frequently is lodged unbelief, resistance, warring that is going on with the enemy. So God says to us, “Be still, stop fighting, stop wrestling, stop doubting, stop being unbelieving, stop cowering to the enemy. Stop wrestling about who is in charge of this world. Be still, stop striving and resisting, and know that I am God.”

So He speaks it to the warring, wrestling world, He speaks it to our own warring, restless hearts. “Be still, know that I am God.” He goes on to say, “I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.”

Earlier on in this passage the nations and the earth both posed a threat. Remember? The nations raged in verse 6. And in verse 2 the earth gave way. But now those nations and that earth have become a stage on which the power and glory of God are displayed.

“I will be exalted among the nations, those raging nations, I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth; that earth that had mountains being hurled into the sea, that raging sea. I will be exalted over all of that”—those mountains, that earth, those nations have now been brought under the control of the sovereign Lord of the universe, and they are serving His purposes.

Could I go back one more time to my friend Matthew Henry? I love what he said; I wish he was here to teach today. He said,

Let his enemies be still and threaten no more, but know it to their terror, that he is God, one infinitely above them. . . . Let his own people be still; let them be calm and sedate, and tremble no more, but know, to their comfort, that the Lord is God, he is God alone, and will be exalted above the heathen.1 

God says, “I will be exalted.” The outcome is not in question. It is not a matter of let’s wait and see what the last chapter looks like. The last chapter has been written and we know who wins!

And by the way, this is not any kind of battle where God and Satan are kind of equally fighting against each other. I read recently (I can’t remember where I read this) that it is more like a picture of God being the heavyweight champion of the world and fighting against some pathetic, quivering three-year-old. Satan is no match for God. God says, “I will be exalted.”

  • Your problems are no match for God.
  • You husband is no match for God.
  • Your prodigal teen is no match for God.
  • You are no match for God.
  • The complacency in your church is no match for God.
  • The contention in your family is no match for God.
  • The frustrations and evils in your workplace are no match for God.
  • Your addicted friend who can’t seem to get free from sinful bondages, that is no match for God.

There is no bondage, no power, no force, no evil, no pressure, no problem that is any match for God.

God says, “I will be exalted. I will be exalted in the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.” Now you may not see God being exalted quite yet. You may not be able to see the outcome except by faith, but you can be confident that it will be true.

In the meantime, what do you do? Well, you sing. Remember? We said Psalm 46 is a song to be sung by female voices or instruments pitched at a female voice level. It is interesting that in a psalm that has so much about nations raging and mountains crumbling and seas churning—you have just these tsunamis, earthquake, tornado, hurricane-like circumstances being described—but this is a song to be sung by voices at a female level. I like that.

You know it says as women, and I don’t want to overstate this application, but I think we can take away and say God loves to hear our voices in the midst of tumult, turmoil. He wants to hear us sing. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

The only way you can sing when you’re in trouble is to sing through faith. You can’t see the outcome; you don’t see how it ends; you don’t see how God is going to resolve the difficulty. I’ve shared with you in this series that over these recent months I’ve been walking through some deep waters, hard times. Don’t try and guess what is going on, because you don’t know and it’s not appropriate for me to share publicly, but around me there are some circumstances that are just inexplicable, unfathomable, hard. I don’t know what to do, how to respond. I don’t know quite how to be who God wants me to be in that situation. I can be frustrated and fearful, and in moments I have been. I can be resentful, and in moments I’ve headed in that direction. Or I can put on faith, trust that God is who He says He is, and sing, sing.

I don’t mean just literally sing, although that is not a bad thing to do either. But I mean, from your heart, sing to the Lord. And so we come to the last verse of this psalm, the refrain that is repeated in verses 7 and 11. We see that there is a response to these wonderful promises. “I will be exalted.” We see this is a response we are to have to these wonderful promises we’ve been given. God is our refuge; God is our strength; God is our help. He will be exalted in the earth among the nations. Those are great and precious promises. So what is our response? Those who have trusted in Him as their refuge, those who have cried out to Him for help, and those who have experienced His deliverance by faith if nothing else, triumphantly, joyfully sing out once again the refrain.

“The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.” Say it again!

Audience/Nancy: “The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.” And again! “The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress.”

The Lord of hosts is with us. There may be a gazillion hosts against you. Your world or the whole world may be in a state of upheaval, but we don’t have to fear them because the sovereign Lord of hosts is on our side. And as Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” He is with us. He is with you. He has promised to never leave you, never to forsake you. You may flee to Him and find in Him a refuge, a strong and mighty fortress for your soul—now and for all eternity.

It strikes me that if Old Testament believers could sing this song, and did, how much more can we who understand that in Christ and in what He did for us on the cross, we have a sure, eternal refuge for our souls.

So let me close this series with that familiar hymn that was inspired by Psalm 46. We said at the beginning that this psalm is thought of as Martin Luther’s psalm. Remember when he was discouraged or distressed or fearful in the wake of what was going on in the Reformation, he would turn to his friend and co-worker, Philipp Melanchthon?

He would say, “Philipp, let us sing the forty-sixth psalm.” Then they would sing their translation, which has now been translated from the German into the hymn that we know as “A Mighty Fortress Is our God.”  

I want to just read the words and ask you to bask in them, to rejoice in them, by faith to believe in them and to thank God for being that fortress for your soul.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
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.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Nancy: His kingdom is forever. Amen? Amen!

Leslie: “A Mighty Fortress Is our God.” The hymn was inspired by Psalm 46, and Nancy has been taking us through that passage for the last couple of weeks.

If you’ve missed any of these important programs, you can catch them at ReviveOurHearts.com. Just look for the series, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

Give monthly. Pray consistently. Share the message you’ve heard. Could you do these three things? Do you want to hear them again? Give monthly. Pray consistently. Share the message you’ve heard. If you would consider these three actions, you have a chance to make a difference. Revive Our Hearts depends on a group of people known as the Monthly Partner Team.

Donations to the ministry go up and down based on a lot of factors. The Monthly Partner Team provides a solid base of support that helps us weather those ups and downs. When we’re in the battle, we know they are standing with us financially, in prayer, and by spreading the message.

When you become a Monthly Partner, we’ll give you one free registration to a conference each year—that includes True Woman '14. We’ll send you one of Nancy’s books when you sign up, and there are more benefits as well. I hope you’ll get all the details on becoming a Monthly Partner at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, tomorrow we'll hear how this week’s message is affecting women where they live. What do their storms look like? How has God proved to be a mighty fortress for them? Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1 Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Ps. 46:1–5). Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996.

 

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