Revive Our Hearts Podcast

When Your World Is in a Tailspin

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Sometimes I’m asked, as I was just recently, how I decide what to teach on Revive Our Hearts. Let me give you a little insight into that. Some series are birthed in my study; I have something on my heart, a burden for a particular need or an issue that I think we need to address with women. The "True Woman Manifesto" series was a series like that, the "Titus 2" series. These are some of the series where I’m thinking, “This is what women need to hear.” So I open the Scripture, get into my study, and develop a new series.

Then there are other series that are birthed, not so much in my study, as in the laboratory of life and the crucible of my own life, my own walk with the Lord. The series we’re starting today is in that second category.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 21.

Here’s Nancy, beginning this series, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," a series developed in the laboratory of life.

Nancy: Let me give you just a little bit of background. Over the last several years, since True Woman ’08, the first True Woman conference we had in Schaumburg, Illinois, God has been at work in and through this ministry in, I think, just such a neat way.

It has been a season of unusual blessing and fruitfulness. Things we’ve asked the Lord to do for years, we’re seeing Him now do, and starting this grassroots movement, this counter-cultural revolution of women who say, “Yes, Lord, I want to be God’s true woman.”

It’s been so encouraging, and many of you who have been here today from eleven different states who are women’s ministry leaders in churches around the country—you are part of this True Woman Movement. God is using you to spread the message and to multiply the ministry. It’s been a great season of fruitfulness.

But, these years since True Woman ’08 have also been for me and for our ministry a season of intensified pressure and unusual challenges on many different fronts. I look back over these last few years, and it’s just so clear to me that the enemy is not pleased with what God’s doing in women’s lives.  He’s been fighting back on lots of different fronts.

A few months ago, just when I thought we had come through that difficult season—blessed but difficult season, and life seemed to be settling down a little bit, I received a letter with some unexpected news that sent my life into a tailspin. Since that day I have been hit with a series of related circumstances and challenges, the details of which it would not be appropriate for me to go into, but circumstances that I never could have imagined having to face.

I’ve been dealing with a situation that is messy, complex; it has high-jacked several weeks of productivity. I know when I share something like this on the air, people’s imaginations start going, and they start sending me notes and vitamins and lists of counselors. Don’t try and figure it out.

There are times when I feel a lot of freedom to share specifically what I’m walking through. It’s bizarre, it’s complex, it has shaken my world in ways I’ve not experienced before. If I could just suffice it to say that . . . As I watch the news and I read the emails we receive at Revive Our Hearts, I know I’m not alone. A lot of peoples’ worlds are being shaken.

In the midst of my own personal upheaval, with wave upon wave of storms rolling in, I’ve found myself again and again turning to one particular passage in Scripture that has taken on a whole new meaning for me. It’s that passage I want to look at over these next several days.

In the book of Psalms, I want you to turn to chapter 46. I’ve been meditating on this passage day and night, going to sleep quoting parts of it, waking up in the morning, sometimes during the night quoting parts of this psalm. This is a passage that’s become an anchor for my heart and has ministered much grace to me.

My prayer is that it’s going to minister grace to you, in your circumstance, the storms of your life, as we walk through this passage together over the next several days. I want to start today by giving a broad overview of the passage and then, starting tomorrow, we’ll take out a microscope and look at this eleven-verse passage over the next eight days, verse by verse, phrase by phrase, word by word.

Again, I don’t know what you may be facing today, or something that you’re not even aware of that you’ll be facing in the days ahead, but my prayer is that God will use this passage to stabilize your heart and to give you His perspective on the storm that you may be facing.

Just a bit of overview: Psalm 46 is the first of a group of psalms that form a trilogy: Psalm 46, 47, and 48. These psalms appear to have been inspired by an occasion, a specific historic incident, in which the people of God and the city of Jerusalem were supernaturally delivered from their enemies.

We don’t know what specific situation that was, because the Scripture doesn’t tell us, but many commentators think that it may have been an instance that we find recorded in 2 Kings chapter 19, and then the identical account is repeated in Isaiah chapters 36 and 37.

Let me give you the situation in a nutshell. The armies of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, were threatening Jerusalem. They put it under siege, and the king of Judah, named Hezekiah, cried out to the Lord in his desperation. God heard his prayers, answered them, and supernaturally delivered His people by bringing great destruction on the army of Sennacherib.

This incident took place in 701 B.C. It’s a real historical incident. As we get into this passage, we’ll read portions of that account from the Old Testament.

Psalm 46 breaks naturally into three stanzas and each of those stanzas ends with the word, Selah. Pause. Contemplate. Think about what you just read. So this is a passage we’re going to take our time with, we’re not going to hurry through it. We’re going to look at it carefully and dwell on it and mull over it and let it work its way into the warp and woof of our lives.

The passage has eleven verses, and interestingly to me, there are in this passage eleven explicit references to God. As I read this passage, Psalm 46, let me ask you to listen for some of the different names of God that are found in this passage. Then we’ll talk about what some of those names are.

Psalm 46, and in my version of the Bible, it’s given a title, “God Is Our Fortress.” Then we have this inscription which says, “To the choirmaster. Of the sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A song.” We’ll come back to that description in just a few moments, but first let me read the chapter.

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. 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. (Ps. 46:1–11)

As we take just an overview of this psalm, I want to make two observations. Then starting tomorrow we’ll move into verse 1 of the psalm, but two observations about the psalm as a whole.

First of all is just the centrality of God that is so obvious in this passage. It’s all about Him. Yes, there are storms. Yes, there are troubles. Yes, there are disasters, Yes, there are earthquakes and tsunamis and kingdoms raging and tottering and all these things talked about in this passage.

But as you read the psalm, the thing that just grips your attention is that God’s at the center of it all. He’s not absent; He’s there. He’s in the middle of it all—He’s not distant. He’s there. He’s present. He’s mentioned. He’s named. He receives the focus. You see this centrality of God in the way that different commentators outline the psalm, the three stanzas.

Let me give you a sampling: One commentator said that the first stanza, the first three verses, proclaim the power and sovereignty of God over nature. Verses 4–7 proclaim His sovereignty over attackers who threaten His holy city. Then the last stanza, verses 8–11, proclaims God’s power and sovereignty over all who oppose Him through the whole world. It’s all about God, His power, His greatness, His sovereignty.

Another commentator divided it up this way: He says that the three stanzas are about Jehovah’s protection, His presence, and His preeminence. Here’s another one: again, the three stanzas, first, God is our refuge, verses 1–3; then God is our deliverer, verses 4–7, and then verses 8–11, He is our peace. It’s all about Him. He’s our refuge, our deliverer, and our peace.

J. Vernon McGee sums it up simply, saying, “This passage is about the sufficiency, the security, and the supremacy of God. He is the ultimate reality.”

I mentioned that God is referred to explicitly by name, in addition to pronouns, eleven times in this psalm. Take a look at some of those names.

First of all, the name, God, and you know that to be the Hebrew word Elohim. You have that word five times in this passage. Elohim is the description of God as Creator and Preserver. It’s the name of God that refers to Him, that describes Him as transcendent, mighty, and strong.

We’re going to see some mighty waves, some mighty storms, some mighty problems in this passage, but above it all is Elohim, the mighty One, the powerful One, the transcendent One, who is greater than the mountains, greater than the storms, greater than the problems. Five times we see as God referred to in that way.

Then in verse 4 we see God identified as the Most High. That’s that Hebrew name, Elyon, the Most High God. This is the name that stresses God’s strength, His sovereignty, His supremacy. He is the God Most High, the One who is over it all, Elyon.

Then in verse 8 we see the word The LORD, and most of our Bibles show all capitals on the word, the “LORD.” That’s the word, Yahweh, Jehovah, this is the covenant name of God, the personal name of God . . .  the God who is self-existent and who makes Himself known to His people.

Not only is He transcendent and mighty and creator and sovereign, but He’s also a covenant-keeping God; He’s a personal God. He’s a God who in the midst of our disasters makes Himself known to us . . . the LORD.

Then twice we see Him not only as the Lord, but as the Lord of Hosts, in the refrain in verses 7 and 11. “The LORD of Hosts is with us.” That’s the Hebrew term Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts. That’s the military title for God, the one that describes Him as the commander of all the angelic hosts and armies of God.

Then, again in these two verses of refrain, verses 7 and 11, we see him called “the God of Jacob,” and we’ll talk about that as we walk through this passage. We look at those names and we’re reminded of that wonderful verse in Proverbs 18 that says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (v. 10).  Our security in times of turmoil is found in God and God alone.

He alone can give us stability, comfort, and peace in the midst of the crisis. Isaiah says it this way, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (26:3). The secure life is not the one that has no problems. The secure life is the one that is grounded on God, founded on God, tethered to God.

The centrality of God in the midst of a topsy-turvy, crazy world such as I’ve been living in in recent weeks is what keeps us sane. It’s what gives us our bearings and keeps us from going off the deep end as so many are doing today because their lives are not tethered to God, their lives are based on shifting sand, the circumstances of life. So we look at the centrality of God; it’s all about Him. This Psalm will take us back again and again and again to this great, transcendent, mighty, covenant-keeping God.

I want you to also notice just one other thing by way of overview about this psalm, and that is that it is a song. Look again at that inscription at the top. It says, “To the choirmaster.” This is to be sung; the choir will lead in singing this. It’s of the sons of Korah. You remember the sons of Korah were a group of Levitical singers in Israel.

Then it has this phrase, “According to Alamoth.” I read a lot of commentators on this, and nobody’s really sure exactly what that means, but they think it’s likely a musical direction. The word in the Hebrew means “young women” or “virgins.” Commentators think that probably means that this song is to be sung by soprano voices or played on a high-pitched instrument.

It’s a song that’s intended to be sung, even though those singing it are in the midst of upheaval and deep troubles. The point is, when in trouble, sing! Sing! I love what Oswald Sanders says on that point. He says, “Faith can sing her song in the darkest hour, sorrow and singing are not incompatible.”1 Another writer said, “Let us sing even when we do not feel like it, for in this way we gave wings to heavy feet and turn weariness into strength.”2

So as we press into this psalm and let it press into us in the days ahead, let me encourage you to sing while you’re in the storm.  Before you even experience His deliverance or can imagine where it’s going to come from, that expresses faith . . . faith that God’s promises in this passage are true.

God said, “I will be exalted.” When you sing, you say, “Amen! I believe that’s true, that God will be exalted in my circumstance.” Then, not only sing when you are in the storm, but sing after He has rescued you, and after He has stilled the waves and the storm. Praise Him for His deliverance and His help. Let your troubles become an occasion for composing a new song—a song of your life that will minister grace to others as you lead others in singing.

God has used this psalm to turn my heart to singing in recent weeks. I can’t see the outcome yet, maybe by the time we air this, but at the moment I don’t see the deliverance. But I know it’s coming, and so I’m praying that the song God has been leading me to sing with the help of this passage over these weeks is a song that you sing, and it will become the song of your heart, and that you’ll go from this place and sing to others who are in trouble . . . the song of redemption and the glory and exaltation of God.

Psalm 46 has been called, “Martin Luther’s Psalm.” It was one of his favorites. It’s said that during the most difficult periods of the Reformation, Luther would sometimes become fearful or anxious in the face of all the opposition. During those times he would turn to his close friend and co-worker, Philipp Melanchthon, and he would say, “Come, Philipp, let us sing the 46th Psalm.” And then they would sing it in Luther’s own version,

A sure stronghold our God is He, 
A timely shield and weapon; 
Our help He’ll be and set us free 
From every ill can happen.

Today we know that hymn, inspired by Psalm 46, as "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing." Luther said about this psalm,

We sing this psalm to the praise of God, because God is with us and powerfully and miraculously preserves and defends his church and his word against all fanatical spirits, against the gates of hell, against the implacable hatred of the devil, and against all the assaults of the world, the flesh, and sin.

This song has a chorus, it has a refrain, it’s repeated in verses 7 and 11. And what is that refrain? “The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Say it with me if you would.

Jim Warren is a longtime dear friend. He served for many years with Moody radio and went home to be with the Lord the day before yesterday. Several weeks ago I talked with Jim and Jean. At the time he was in CCU. He was going through dialysis, kidney failure, heart failure, and the doctors had just begun to tell him that there was nothing more they could do for him.

On that phone call, I remember Jim saying, “I am praising the Lord.” We shared together, we prayed. I was living in Psalm 46 at the time, and I said, “Jim can I read you a passage?” I read it to Jim and Jean on the phone, read Psalm 46. We talked about it, and then Jim said, “Can I sing for you?” He began to sing an old chorus. I wasn’t familiar with it, but I remember the opening line, “The Lord is with me all the time.”

The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress. The grandest, most powerful songs can flow out of the most difficult seasons and circumstances of our lives. Let me remind you that when you’ve been tossed and turned by waves that threaten to overwhelm you and you have found Him in the midst of the storm to be all that you need, you will be able to sing with even greater conviction, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Amen? Amen! 

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing how God can stabilize your heart when you’re in an emotional free-fall. That message is the first in a series called, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," based on Psalm 46. The kind of in-depth Bible teaching you just heard from Nancy is generating conversations.

One woman emailed us and said,

My husband and I have so enjoyed listening to your broadcasts and then discussing some of them later at lunch, but today I decided to check out the website. I have been here all afternoon. Wow! I just want to especially thank you for the downloads that I can print out for myself. It qualifies for the best use of a ream of paper. I feel like I’ve struck gold. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Well, the transcripts of those archived programs are available at ReviveOurHearts.com—along with a lot of audio for you to download. The website is made possible through listeners like you who give. 

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll send you a one-of-a-kind gift.  Nancy’s here to tell you about it.

Nancy: Many of our listeners are familiar with the name and the beautiful work of Timothy Botts. He’s an artist who uses calligraphy and watercolor to point us to biblical themes in his work.

This year, Revive Our Hearts commissioned Timothy Botts to create twelve new pieces of art, each one highlighting a different name of Jesus.

He did a great job, and we compiled those pieces of art in the 2014 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar. The theme this year is “The Wonder of His Name.” When you get the calendar, you’ll focus on a different name of Jesus each month of the year ahead with the help of this beautiful artwork.

We’d like to send you our 2014 wall calendar when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for the calendar when you call to make your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Thanks, Nancy.

Trouble will always be with us. You’ll never escape it in a fallen world, but there is a refuge you can run to during times of trouble. Learn how to respond to the trouble that threatens you, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. 

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

1 Oswald Sanders, The Incomparable Christ, (Chicago: Moody) (in re Matt 26:30).

2 J. H. Jowett. 

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