Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Things That Stop the Heart

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Dannah Gresh: When our world is in upheaval, you can always know God has a purpose. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God will do whatever He has to do, whatever it takes, in order to bring His enemies into submission, to glorify His name, and to deliver those who take refuge in Him.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. It’s Wednesday, March 25, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

For the last couple weeks, we’ve been walking through Psalm 46 with Nancy. It’s been a timely message about leaning on God as our strength when storms of life rage around us. As Nancy was recording it seemed fitting that thunder was literally sounding outside. You may even hear that today. Now let’s join Nancy in the series "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

Nancy: I hope that over these last several days you’ve been digging into Psalm 46 for yourself . . . and don’t let me spoon feed you through this ministry. You can get truth and insight out of God’s Word the same way I do.

It’s amazing as you come to familiar passages in God’s Word, as you take time to really look and think prayerfully, how God will show you things, even in familiar passages, that you’ve never seen before. That’s certainly been the case with me.

I’ve been pressed to this passage because some circumstances in my life were in turmoil. And this passage is taking me through some deep waters and difficult circumstances. It will take you through, as well, whether those are current circumstances or ones that you may face yet in the days ahead.

I’m going to begin at verse 1 and then, today, we’re going to focus on verses 8 and 9, in these last couple days in this psalm.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear . . .

That’s good enough to take you a long way! “Lord, you are my refuge. I’m going to run to You. You are my strength. I am weak, but You are strong. You are a very present help. You are here, now, and Your grace is sufficient to help me in this trouble.” That’s personalizing it.

Therefore, I will not be afraid, 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.

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.

Another great verse—just lay hold of it and make it yours throughout the day.

God is in the midst of [me; I] will not be moved; God will help [me] when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter, he utters his voice, the earth melts. [And hear the refrain, verse 7.] The LORD of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (vv. 1–7)

We said that some people think this verse is intended to be a refrain repeated by the people as they read this psalm. So, “the Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Why don’t you say that with me, with conviction. “The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

And then we come to verses 8 and 9,

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.

What in the world is all that about?

Let’s just take it a phrase at a time and unpack it. “Come,” is an invitation—for you, for me. “Behold . . .” There’s something we’re supposed to look at. We’re supposed to gaze upon it; there’s a sight that we’re supposed to see. “Behold the works of the Lord.” These are powerful, awesome works that are going to be described here.

Essentially, what we’re going to see described is the total destruction of the enemy army. Remember we said that there was an enemy, perhaps the Assyrian army, coming against Jerusalem? The people of Israel, the people of Judah, would have had no way to escape, no way to deal with this. They would have been decimated had God not intervened supernaturally.

So they’re going to see God intervene on their behalf, in destroying the enemy army. This is the miraculous deliverance of God’s people. That’s an amazing work. “Come, behold the works of the Lord.” Look at His judgments. Look at how He destroys, ultimately, those who oppose Him and His ways.

The ultimate outcome in this passage is not war, but peace. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth, but the process by which He brings peace about is judgment, desolations. He has brought desolations on the earth. You see here something that is two sides of a coin, that you see many times in the Scripture. That is, God wants to bring salvation for His people, those who put their trust in Him as their refuge, but God does that while at the same time bringing judgment on those who reject Him.

Where there is judgment, there will always be salvation.

All through the Scripture you’ll see salvation and judgment juxtaposed against each other. You cannot have salvation without judgment, and where there is judgment, there will always be salvation. Here within two verses you have, “He has brought desolations on the earth,” that’s judgment of the enemy, His opponents, and, “He makes wars cease, to the end of the earth.” That’s God’s redemptive work, His deliverance of His people.

So the outcome is that He’s going to make wars cease, but He’s going to do that by a process of judgment, and that is not going to be a pretty sight. It’s not going to be pleasant, but it’s an important part of God’s works. We’re challenged to behold the works of the Lord, and to see how God has brought desolations on the earth.

That word desolation is a Hebrew word that means “waste, ruin, astonishment, consternation, or horror.” Someone else has described desolation this way, “Things that stop the heart." Like . . . "Gasp, I can hardly breathe!” when you see the desolations that at times God brings on the earth as part of His great redemptive purposes to bring ultimate peace to the earth.

How does that work? We’ve seen in this passage that the nations are raging, they are setting out to destroy the people of God, and what we see in these desolations is that God’s enemies experience the very destruction that they tried to bring upon God’s people. Do you see that?

They tried to desolate Jerusalem, and God says, “No, no, no, no. I’m going to protect Jerusalem, my people, my city, and I’m going to desolate you. I’m going to bring you to destruction.” In this passage we’re urged to carefully observe the effects of God’s judgments. Desolations on the earth should bring the whole world to stand in awe of God. That’s the purpose of desolations.

All who oppose Him should be terrified when they see His astonishing acts of desolation in this world, as they realize what awaits them if they continue on their course and do not repent. At the same time that the world is being terrified, as they see the acts of God, the desolating acts of God, those who trust God should take heart and not be afraid of the most fierce forces that are arrayed against God’s people, because they know that in God’s time and way those who oppose God will not stand; they will be destroyed.

The enemy is not going to win in the long run. So we have no need to fear, “Gasp! They’re going to get us; they’re going to destroy all the Christians; they’re going to take over the world . . .” Don’t be afraid. Stand still. See the salvation of the Lord. And He does that by judging those who seek to bring desolation on His people.

God delivers His people from peril by means of these desolations, or these judgments, on His enemies. Let me give you an example: Remember when God was wanting to deliver His people out of Egypt? They’d been slaves there for 400 years. What did God use as part of the deliverance process to get the Israelites out of Egypt? He brought the plagues—desolations that devastated the land and the people of Egypt.

Then we read in Exodus 12 about the final plague; it was a tough one. “Come behold the works of the Lord, how He has brought desolations on the earth.” No one likes talking about judgment. God doesn’t like talking about judgment. I don’t like talking about judgment, but we have to talk about it, because there’s no salvation without judgment.

Exodus 12, 

At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead (vv. 29–30).

Horrific! But that desolation was a part of the process of God showing Himself to be righteous and just and holy and a deliverer of His people. God would have delivered the Egyptians if they would have repented and turned to Him, but they didn’t. So they reaped destruction as a result of which God delivered His people out of Egypt.

You see something similar when you come to the Red Sea crossing not many days later.

The LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians [that’s salvation] and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore [that’s judgment]. (Ex. 14:30)

Salvation and judgment. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, “so the people feared the Lord and they believed in the LORD and in his servant, Moses.”

Psalm 76, verse 9 talks about God, “Who arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth.” Judgment is one of the means by which God brings about the salvation of His elect. Desolations on the earth . . .

I’ve been reading in my quiet time recently through the book of Revelation, following along with a book published by our friends at Moody Publishers by John Walvoord on the book of Revelation. He talks about the judgments and desolations of Revelation 6. We read that passage, or part of it, earlier in this series.

As those end-time desolations and judgments are talked about, earthquakes and stars falling out of the sky and the sun turning to blood and these great horrific desolations . . . John Walvoord has this to say about those judgments,

The God who sits on the throne in heaven is in complete control of what transpires on earth. The events happening on earth—no matter how frightening and devastating—are neither haphazard or random. They are ordered by the One seated on His throne. Heaven rules on earth. God’s people are to view what is happening on earth from God’s viewpoint, rather than from man’s.1

God will do whatever He has to do, whatever it takes, in order to bring His enemies to submission, to glorify His Name, and to deliver those who take refuge in Him. He will do whatever it takes to accomplish His eternal purposes and to be exalted throughout the earth. He knows what He’s doing, so even when He brings desolations on the earth, don’t second guess Him. Don’t resist Him. You may not understand Him.

God is at work even through desolations. 

From our vantage point on earth it may not make sense, but know that He has a purpose, there is sense, and that God is at work even through desolations. Verse 8 tells us that God has brought desolations on the earth, but we come now to verse 9, and it tells us what He intends to accomplish through that.

“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.” God establishes peace and brings wars to an end by destroying all the enemy’s weapons and bringing all nations into submission to His sovereign rule.

We read about this in 2 Kings 19 earlier, where we saw that the Lord went out through the night and destroyed 185,000 soldiers in the Assyrian army. When the Israelites woke up the next morning . . . all those dead bodies strewn around . . . God brought desolation on the earth in order to redeem and rescue His people.

He is the Prince of Peace. In God’s time, in His way, He will overcome the opposition and He will make all wars to cease throughout the earth. It’s not just the wars that are in the big world, but it’s the wars that are in your little world, wars that are waged against you, designed to bring you to ruin. The battle you are in will not go on forever.

As Isaiah 34 says, “No weapon that is formed against you shall succeed.” This verse, verse 9 of chapter 46, “He makes wars cease; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire,” it envisions the day when God will defeat every enemy that resists Him." He will disarm the enemy, and He will reign forever and ever. Hallelujah? Hallelujah!

He makes wars to cease. In that phrase we should not picture God as some grand Secretary of State who travels the world trying to negotiate peace by means of peace talks or treaties. What you should picture here is God stepping into the situation and taking over. The opposition has no choice but to surrender. He makes peace; He makes war cease.

Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Psalms, says,

Although the outcome is peace, the process is judgment. The reassuring words, he makes wars cease, are set in the context not of gentle persuasion but of a world devastated and forcibly disarmed. He speaks of tranquility on the far side of judgment.

We want the outcome, but we don’t trust God to do what it takes to get to the outcome. The desolations . . . that messes with our minds. Lost people use this against God, “How could God do this?” God is doing this because He is a God of mercy and justice, a God of love and grace, but a God who will not be mocked. Judgment and salvation both come from our God.

We can see this played out in our own personal lives and experiences. A friend of mine, last week or so, who knew that I was teaching through this passage, sent me an email she said I could share. And I just thought it illustrated on a very personal level how God uses desolations, ultimately, to make wars to cease. Let me read to you what she said.

Many of us have had those moments where we’ve said to ourselves, "Oh, no! I am just like my mom!" For me, it was my thirtieth birthday. Up until that time, although a Christian, I struggled with a root of bitterness, mostly against my mom—but also, though I never would have admitted it even to myself—against God.

You see, God gave my mom Christian parents. They weren’t perfect parents because no parent is, but they did teach her about Christ. In her teens, my mom chose to rebel—and her sin had devastating consequences in her children’s lives. Emotional and physical abuse was our norm, mostly through the men in her life. She failed to protect us from them . . . and so, I thought, did God.

But on that thirtieth birthday God spoke healing into my soul—by bringing me face to face with the realization that while, for the most part, I am quiet and easygoing, deep inside of me lurks the same rebellious, prideful attitude of self-sufficiency that separated my mother from the God who loved her . . . and that proud attitude ultimately destroyed her.

In allowing me to be born into difficult circumstances, God blessed me in ways I only dimly understand. He brought me to the end of myself early in life—and when I got there, my Savior, who loves me beyond comprehension, was waiting for me.

God brought/allowed desolation into my life through the sin of the adults to whom He gave the responsibility to love and protect me. But He used that very "desolation" to make "wars to cease" between Him and me—by showing me graphically where my rebellious spirit would lead me if I gave it free rein.

Do you see the progression there? Desolations can turn you against God, can make you bitter. But once you see that desolations are part of God’s means of making wars to cease, then you can bless the Lord, and you can come to view even those desolations as a blessing.

The Scripture says, “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.” Powerful weapons of God’s enemies are no match for God. They’re like match sticks.

He disarms His opponents; He strips them of their power. Two thousand years ago, God brought the ultimate desolation on the earth. That’s the day that God placed His Son on a Roman cross and poured out on His only beloved Son the wrath and judgment that we deserved. So great was that desolation that at noon that day the sun refused to shine and the day turned to darkness.

At the end of that day, a great earthquake shook the rocks, opened up tombs . . . desolations on the earth. But as a result of striking His own heart with such desolation, God has made wars to cease, and you see it all through the Scripture.

Romans 5, “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . . for while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (vv. 1, 10). Desolation makes wars to cease.

Ephesians 2, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one [Jew and Gentile], and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (vv. 14–15). Desolations on the earth, the result is peace.

Hebrews 2 tells us that, “Through death [Jesus] destroyed the one who has the power of death [that is the devil] so that he could deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (vv. 14–15). Awful desolation that God brought about at Calvary! But what was the result? The enemy was disarmed, rendered powerless, so that we could experience the peace of God.

Through that desolation at the cross, He now breaks the power of cancelled sin and sets the prisoner free.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been offering us much-needed hope. The struggles we are facing truly are hard. I don’t want to be flippant about the pain people are in. As tough as things are, these circumstances have a purpose, and they are part of the story God is telling.

Nancy’s in a teaching series called "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," taken from Psalm 46. At Revive Our Hearts, we want to help you fill your mind with the truth of God’s Word.

As we hear about financial reversals and a global pandemic, it’s so easy to worry. So to help you fill your mind with the truth, we’ve set up a web page called Deeply Rooted. It’s a one-stop site to find biblical truth you need to stay rooted when storms blow around you.

And for more perspective on the struggles we face in this life, we’d like to send you the book Nancy and Robert Wolgemuth wrote together called You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. We’d like to send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount.

The only way we’re able to be here providing teaching like we’ve heard today is thanks to listeners. We know there are so many needs and we want you to support your church and support hurting people in your community. And we encourage you to ask the Lord to meet your needs and to provide enough for you to give.

If God has blessed you and you’re able to support the needs of Revive Our Hearts, you’ll be helping us spread biblical encouragement to women around the world who desperately need to hear it right now. When you donate any amount at be sure to ask for the book You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, or give by phone and ask for the book. The number is 1–800–569–5959.

“Be still and know that I am God.” That phrase gets repeated in hushed tones in many churches, but Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth shows how that phrase was probably originally delivered in a strong commanding voice. Find out why tomorrow when Nancy picks up our study of Psalm 46. Now she’s here to end our program in prayer.

Nancy: Oh Lord, though we wouldn’t choose the desolations, though we wouldn’t write the script that way, we thank You that You’re writing the script, and that even in incomprehensible desolations on this earth, we see Your hand, and we see the ultimate outcome, that You make wars to cease, in our hearts, between us and You, and on this earth. And for that we give You thanks, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you stay deeply rooted. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1 John F. Walvoord. Revelation. Chicago: Moody, 2011, p. 122.

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