Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: In the late 60s the English rock band Led Zeppelin released a song that I think reflects the longing in every human heart for that which is truly lasting.

Dannah Gresh: This is Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy: The opening words were, “If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. When mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.”

You see, people are looking for something reliable, something unshakable, something/someone they can count on, they can trust in. So often they think they have found it in a relationship or in a career or a source of income or a friend.

The fact is, most people today are placing their hope in what the hymn writer called “sinking sand.” Only God is unshakable, and when the mountains crumble to the sea, and the sun refuses to shine, only He will always be there.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, for Friday, March 20, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

What can you really count on to give you satisfaction? This week we’ve been forced to ask ourselves what really satisfies, as many things we take for granted were taken away. Can our heart be content when: Shelves are empty, our friends are stuck at home, investments take a dive, vacations are canceled, and plans for the future are on indefinite hold. These challenges are really an opportunity to remind ourselves. Our true satisfaction is in a relationship with Jesus. Nancy’s going to remind us of that in today’s teaching.

As we watched events unfold over the weekend, we pulled a classic message from the archives that has been helping us keep our footing in the middle of a medical and financial storm. The series is called "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." It’s a study of Psalm 46. Let’s listen.

Nancy:

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. (Ps. 46:1–3)

So here we’ve been seeing over the last couple of days we have tumultuous, churning, roaring waters and floods, and these floods are devastating the mountains and everything else that seemed at one time to be secure. I mean, if you think of anything that’s secure, it’s mountains, right? You don’t just move a mountain! But these waters are causing the mountains to be hurled into the sea. The result is chaos, upheaval.

Now in verse 4 we see another body of water that has a very different effect. Verse 4,

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

Let’s stop there and think about that for these next moments.

In verses 2 and 3, we saw the waters that were menacing and destructive and threatening. They swept the mountains away. Now in verse 4, by contrast, we have a river, water, but this is water with a very different effect. It fertilizes the land. It brings life and vitality and refreshing and joy and gladness.

You can almost hear in verses 2 and 3 the shrieks of people who were terrified by these tsunami-like waters. And now here you have a river that makes people glad, that brings people joy? Well, it’s the river of God, a metaphor for the presence of God, the grace of God, the favor of God that blesses and gladdens His people’s hearts. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

The people of God here are likened to a city, and the city of God is being surrounded and threatened by adversaries, and like the roaring waters of a tsunami, the forces of evil are threatening to overwhelm and swallow up God’s people and His holy city. But the inhabitants of that city, in the Old Testament context, Jerusalem, are calm.

With all that turmoil going on around them, how can they be calm at a time like this? Why? Because God is their refuge. He is their strength. He is their help, and they are trusting Him for protection.

These people, with the encroaching Assyrian army that we’ve talked about over the last few days, have every reason to feel fearful, disheartened, and sad, and maybe even mad, but certainly not glad. But the river of God’s presence and His grace flowing in and among His people makes them glad. Even when surrounded and threatened by enemies, the city of God has a never-failing source of sustenance flowing from it. It will never run dry.

These people, the people of God, cannot be cut off from His supply. Their needs will be met. They’re assured of that because they know in whom they have believed and whom they have trusted, and so there’s no need to give in to fear or despair.

I want to remind us that no matter what is going on around you, no matter what the churning, turbulent, tumultuous waters may be around you, God always has a river of grace to bring joy and peace to His people. It is His grace. It’s His provision. It’s His sustenance in these difficult times.

Now I want to look at the river of God a little more extensively, but first let me mention this city of God that’s referenced here. “There’s a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.”

What is the city of God? This is the holy place where God lives, where He reigns, where He is worshiped and honored. He’s called the Most High. It’s “the holy habitation, the home of the Most High.” He is the sovereign ruler of the world, and the city of God is those people who are ruled by the Most High.

Now, again, as we’ve said, in the immediate Old Testament context, the city of God was Jerusalem, the earthly city of God, and we think that perhaps the occasion for the writing of this psalm was the case when that holy city, Jerusalem, was being threatened by the Assyrian armies of King Sennacherib.

“The holy habitation of the Most High,” that was Jerusalem, but the city of God is so much more than a geographic location. There’s a spiritual city of God, and that’s the people of God, a holy community of those who are His true children. The Scripture teaches us that God dwells with His people. God dwells in His people. They are His holy habitation.

So in a New Testament sense, this is describing the Church—that’s us, those who truly place their faith in Christ. Our lives are His temple, His holy place. “The holy habitation of the Most High”—that’s me, that’s you, that’s us, that’s His Church—the city of God.

And then, of course, we look forward to that eternal heavenly city of God, what Galatians 4 calls “the Jerusalem above” that has its ultimate culmination in heaven. The dwelling place that God has now and is preparing for His people—the new heaven, the new earth, where there will be unending eternal joy and gladness—that’s that far-off city of God . . . not far to Him but far from our vantage point right now.

Running through that city of God is a river whose streams make the city of God, the people of God, the holy habitation of God, there’s a river whose streams make us glad.

Now, that river is a fascinating and powerful and thrilling motif that you see running throughout all of Scripture, from the opening chapters of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation. I want to take some moments here just to read to you some passages, chronologically through the Scripture, that give us a sense of this river of God that’s talked about here in Psalm 46.

Beginning in Genesis chapter 2, verse 8—that’s the first reference we see to this river. The Scripture says,

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the East [this is Paradise on earth] and there He put the man whom He had formed. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden.” [Now, remember that because when we get to Revelation, you’re going to see that tree of life again.] A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.

So, in the Garden of Eden, God created a river to make it lush and beautiful and fruitful, and that river, as we see it running through Scripture, is a picture of God’s presence and God’s grace that sustains us and makes our lives blessed and fruitful.

This river in Eden is divided into four rivers, that are named actually as you continue in Genesis 2, that served to water the whole region. It’s interesting that in Psalm 46 we read, “there is a river [singular] whose streams [plural] make glad the city of God.”

So there’s a river of God, a river of God’s grace, a river of His presence that flows out from His heart and is channeled and distributed out into every part of the city of God, the people of God.

It flows out to where you live, to your family, your church, your community, your life. One river—that’s the presence of God—but then it divides, distributes, and flows out to all the places—the eleven states represented here today, your city, your burg. The lady who says she lives out in a cornfield, the river of God has a stream that goes out there. And some of you from Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the river of God has a stream that goes there and everywhere in-between.

Now we read in Psalm 1 a description of the man who delights in the law of the Lord. It says,

He’s like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (v. 3). 

Here we see the refreshing, life-giving supply of God’s grace that comes to us—how?—through His Word. Through meditating day and night on the Word of God, that’s how you get that river flowing in and coursing through your body—the Word of God, as you meditate on it day and night.

Listen, Psalm 46 has become, to me, a river of God in these last days, watering the parched places of my heart, turning it from a desert into a beautiful place, a fruitful place, a blessed place.

Psalm 36 says, “You give them drink from the river of your delights; for with you is the fountain of life” (vv. 8–9).

In Psalm 65, “You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water” (v. 9).

Those verses speak of an abundant supply, a sufficient supply of God’s grace and presence. Sometimes we feel like the river of God is just a little, tiny trickle running through our lives. And sometimes we feel like the river bed has gone dry, right? Go to the Scripture and be reminded that God gives them to drink from the river of His delights. With Him is the fountain of life—there’s no dryness there. “You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water.”

Listen, I’ve got some desperate circumstances in my life right now, and some of you do, too. I want to tell you, there’s no lack to the river of God. It’s full. It’s always full. It’s full when I’m empty. It’s still full. It’s full when I run dry. He’s still full. And that river of God can run through my life by faith if I will allow Him to be to me the full supply that I need.

Then listen to this passage in Isaiah 8:

The Lord spoke to me again, "Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently . . . therefore, behold the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will flee on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land” (vv. 5–8).

Now there are two bodies of water described in that passage. The first is “the waters of Shiloah that flow gently.” That’s the water of God’s provision, His protection. “The gentle waters of Shiloah,” one commentator said, “were a small fountain and brook just outside of Jerusalem which supplied a pool within the city for the use of the inhabitants."

So there was not a river running through Jerusalem, but there was this small fountain and brook that provided enough supply for the people’s needs to be met, and God says, “I am like that water of Shiloah that flows gently, but,” He says, “My people have refused; they’ve resisted; they’ve rejected the waters of Shiloah that flow gently.”

The presence of God is pictured as a gentle, peaceful flowing river, and God says, “Because My people have refused My grace and My presence, and the river of My delights; therefore, I am going to bring up against them a raging torrential river that will overcome them, flood them, and overwhelm them.” It’s the river of the enemies of God. In this case, it’s the Assyrian army.

God says, “You don’t want Me? You don’t want My grace? I’m not enough for you? You can’t trust Me? Then let me send some water in your direction.” And God says if we receive His favor and His grace, that gentle river is sufficient to withstand the tumultuous, threatening waves that oppose us in the world. But if we reject that gentle, softly flowing river of His presence and grace, we will end up being overwhelmed by the adversary.

You see, it really matters whether we trust God’s presence and provision in our lives. You say, “Well, I wish for more.” God says, “You’ve got enough. You really want more? Let Me give you something that will . . . I can send water, but you don’t want it to be the Assyrian army coming in that will overflow its banks and come and conquer you.” God says, “Take your choice. Put your trust in Me, or you’ll be overwhelmed by the enemy.”

Isaiah 33 puts it this way: “The LORD in majesty will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams” (v. 21). God Himself is to His people a place of broad rivers and streams. That suggests abundance, sufficiency. His divine fullness is the unending source of our fullness, our fruitfulness, our peace, and our joy.

Then listen to this from Jeremiah 17:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is in the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit (vv. 7–8).

He’s saying, “You want to be fruitful? You want to be protected from spiritual barrenness? Then get planted by the river.” And what’s the river? It’s the Lord. He is the source of life and fruitfulness, the protection from spiritual barrenness.

And then just a couple more here, two or three more. In Ezekiel chapter 47—some day maybe we’ll do a whole series on this passage. I love this passage. The prophet Ezekiel is given a vision in which he sees a stream going forth from the temple and flowing out to water the land. This river, as it goes out, gives life and health to everything with which it comes in contact.

Ezekiel 47, beginning at verse 9:

And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, for this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes . . .

And on the banks on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, [Have we heard this before?] nor will their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing” (vv. 9, 12).

And from our lives, God intends that there should flow rivers of living waters. Isn’t that what Jesus said in John 7?

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water." Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive” (vv. 38–39).

Listen, there is no source of river, living water, within me or within you apart from the indwelling Spirit of Christ. But with the indwelling Spirit of Christ there is an unending, Artesian spring, a source of living water. The presence and the grace and favor of God can flow out through us as the Holy Spirit of God fills us.

Well, let me take us to the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation chapter 22, and read this passage now, or hear this passage now in the context of the other passages we’ve been reading beginning in the book of Genesis.

Revelation 22:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.

See the city there again? You’ve got the river and the city together in Psalm 46, and now again in Revelation 22.

Also, on either side of the river, the tree of life [Remember Genesis 2? We haven't seen that tree of life since man sinned. But now it comes back, and it’s in the city of God] with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (vv. 1–2)

So what is this river of the water of life that flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb? Well, the Gospel of John helps us out with a little detail that’s in John chapter 19, verse 34. Remember at the cross after Jesus died, one of the soldiers, John 19 says, “pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water”? (v. 34)

Now, in John chapter 2, the body of Christ had already been identified as the temple of God. And out of that temple there came flowing blood and water. The river that gives life to the world is the stream of God’s grace that flows from the heart of Christ, given for us in His sacrifice on the cross.

From that stream flowing from the side of Christ is a river that blesses all creation and brings joy and peace to the city of God, the people of God, and enables us to be fruitful and to become a source of blessing to others in need. “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.”

If you are a dwelling place of God, if your life is a temple—and it is if you’ve placed your faith in Christ—then God intends for there to be springs of living water filling you, flowing through you, giving life to you and to others, and it’s the life of His grace.

Dannah: As we've watch the events of this week unfold, we've had a choices. We can horde things for ourselves. We can look at everyone with suspicion. We can only worry about our own future, our health, and our finances. Or like Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth just said, we can become like springs of living water that flow from God, through us to others.

That includes loving the people right in our own homes. You might have kids home from school. They pick up what’s going on in the news. Many moms have been writing to me and telling me that their daughters feel fearful. They know that their parents are stressed, and their siblings are talking about what's going on.

So in this season of staying closer to home, I want to tell you about a great opportunity for moms and tween daughters to connect to each other and to Jesus. And not only that, to connect to hundreds of girls around the globe.

Starting Monday, my friend Chizzy Anderson and I will connect you with these other moms and daughters through a Bible study taking place online. We're going to cover the topic of overcoming lies about our beauty and our worth.

You might say, "Well, my daughter doesn't really believe those things yet. Well, that's the perfect time to plant truth. We want to fill her with so much truth about inner beauty and worth in Christ, that there is no room for the lies.

The Bible study starts Monday night, and you can learn more at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Here’s one of the most amazing themes throughout Scripture: God dwells among His people. Why is this so amazing? Nancy will explain Monday on Revive Our Hearts when she picks back up in Psalm 46. Now, let’s close our time in prayer.

Nancy: Thank You, thank You, Lord, for that river of the water of life. Thank You that when circumstances and pain and trials, storms, winds, and waves are pummeling up against our lives, within us “there’s a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” And as we trust in You, as we drink from that river, we will find abundance, fruitfulness, never a barren month or season, but continue to believe and receive life because of the life You have given us through Christ, in whose name we pray with thanksgiving, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you stand firm in every storm. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.