Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Come, behold the works of the Lord, What desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.
I read this Psalm to Fran as she lay dying in Good Samaritan this last Sunday afternoon. The last time I actually spoke with her was at Gritman a few days before that, and she was pretty worried and she asked me to pray for her. I read some scripture to her then, and I did pray for her. But following that conversation, as I continued to think about her and pray for her, this Psalm kept coming to mind which is why I read it to her this last Sunday as she slept.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The Psalm describes an enormous storm, a tsunami, a hurricane, with rock slides, earthquakes, the whole world coming apart, shaking violently, nothing holding together.
And in the face of that calamity, that upheaval, the psalmist sings: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her, and she shall not be moved.” God is in the midst of her, and she shall not be moved. How is that possible? How is it possible not to be moved in the middle of a storm? How is it possible not to be moved in the middle of an earthquake? How is possible not to be moved when a hurricane bears down on your life?
The psalmist goes on. He says that the kind of tumult, the kind of upheaval he’s talking about includes wicked men and their schemes. It includes backbiters and tyrants. It includes vindictive fathers and critical mothers. It includes false accusations and lies and abuse and scorn and betrayal. It includes political turmoil, kingdoms in disarray, terrorism, war, famine.
But God speaks into the storm. God speaks into the hurricane. God speaks into the chaos and the brokenness, and He speaks and causes the storms to melt away, to dissolve. “He uttered his voice, the earth melted.” When Miriam led the women to sing when God triumphed over the Egyptian armies in the sea, she sang of their coming triumph over the inhabitants of Canaan and proclaimed that God’s great power would cause them all to melt away. The Lord of Hosts is with us, the Lord of armies is with us, the Lord of the Exodus is with us: the God of Jacob is our refuge.
And the psalmist continues: Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow, he cuts the spear, he burns the chariot in fire. God speaks and the storms dissolve. God speaks and the threats melt away. God is a peacemaker. He speaks and wars cease, enemies are scattered, military might is broken, kingdoms are disarmed, superpowers and giants are brought down to the ground, empty, powerless. The Lord speaks and brings peace. The Lord speaks into the storms and disarms them all. He does this is because He is the Lord. He made this place. He runs this place. He’s the Master. And when pharaohs arise, when storms arise, when threats arise, the Lord comes for His people. The Lord speaks and makes Himself known. He speaks into the storm and brings peace to His people. He speaks and says, Be still, and know that I am God.
And when He speaks these words, when His peace triumphs over the storms, over the earthquakes, over the hurricanes, then His people rejoice and are glad because the Lord of armies is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. God is in the midst of her, and she shall not be moved. But as glorious and comforting as this psalm is, it actually pales in comparison to the glory it points toward.
There was a teacher who came from Galilee named Jesus. And one day, he rode across the sea with his disciples in a boat, and a storm came upon them. These were experienced fishermen, but this was enough to scare them pretty bad. And their Master was sleeping in the hold of the boat. And they roused him and looked to him, full of fear, the boat on the verge of capsizing in the violent gale all around them. And Jesus stood and spoke into the storm. He spoke to the wind and the waves. And He said, “Peace, be still.” And the wind and the waves obeyed him. And the storm melted away. And the disciples asked themselves, Who is this? That even the wind and the waves obey Him?
But Jesus was not done, and as soon as the boat reached the shore, another storm greeted them. There was a man who lived in the tombs in the mountains, a man whose body and soul were ravaged with an army of evil spirits, a legion of demons. And he could not be tamed by anyone. He could not be bound. He hurt himself; he cut himself. He was a wild, beast of a man, raging, running naked and fierce. And when Jesus got out of the boat, this raging storm came running to meet them. And once again, Jesus spoke to the storm. He spoke to the raging, demonic wind, and He said, “Peace, be still.” And that enemy army went crashing into the sea and melted away. And when the people of that place came, they found the man clothed and in his right mind. Who is this? That even the wind and the waves obey Him?
But Jesus still wasn’t done, and a few years later, another storm broke out, a friend betrayed Him, a mob mocked and beat him, a church court lied about him, and the governor condemned him. And all the forces of evil, the principalities and powers came down upon Him. And when it had become dark in the middle of the afternoon, when the storm could rage no louder, no fiercer, He spoke again hanging from the cross, and this time, He cried out and said, “It is finished.” There was nothing more the storm could do; the storm had no more power. And he took all the shame, all the pain, all the guilt, all the anger, all the bitterness, all the lies, all the betrayal, all the abuse, all the scorn, all the loneliness, and He took it down into the ground, and He buried it deep beneath the waves of death. When he said, “It is finished,” He said, “Be still.” And when the centurion saw Him die, he could not help but ask, Who is this? And he, like the psalmist, like the Israelites, knew the answer. There only is one answer. The One who says “Be still” is the Lord of Hosts, the God of Jacob. The One who speaks into the storm is God. Be still, He says, and know that I am God. When He says “Be still” you know that He is God. Because He is the only who speaks to the storms. He’s the only One whom the wind and the waves obey. He is the One speaks peace. He is the one who makes the storms melt away. He is the one who has made peace by the blood of his cross in order to reconcile all things to Himself.
Every man, every woman, every child in this world faces the storms of life: natural disasters, disease, sickness, divorce, betrayal, lies, sin, guilt, loneliness, fear, worry, bitterness, anger, regret, hurt too deep for words, aching down in our souls. And everyone in this room will one day face the deep waters of death. That storm is coming, and that storm will overtake you. People instinctively know this. And they try to build protections for themselves. They try to build legacies to protect themselves. They try to pile up money and possessions to protect themselves. They try to build fortresses of good deeds, good intentions. But the storms will come, and they will cast everything down. And in the end death will come. Your sins and guilt will rise up like demons to drag you down to the pit forever. Your boat cannot withstand the storm.
And so that is why the only thing that matters, the only thing that will make a difference, the only question worth asking is, “Who is in your boat?” Who is with you? The Psalmist and all those who have met Jesus cry into the storm: The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. And if God is in the midst of her, then she shall not be moved. Our peace, our security, our hope, our safety is not found in ourselves. It is not found in our convictions. It is not even found ultimately in how we feel about our circumstances, or how we explain them. Jesus is our peace. Jesus is our security. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is our refuge and strength. And there is no other.
Have you met Him? Do you know Him? Has He calmed your storm? Has He spoken into your hurricane of fears and doubts and guilt and pain? Has He said to you, “Peace, be still”? You know if He has. You know and everyone around you knows because there you are sitting miraculously clothed and in your right mind, and your demons have been drowned in the sea forever.
Gran Fran faced many storms throughout her long life. She saw many good things and many hard things. And at times the storms frightened her. Like the disciples, she saw the wind and the waves and she called for help. But she was not alone. She was never alone. She belonged to Jesus, the Master of the storm. And this last Monday afternoon, shortly after one o’clock, Jesus spoke and said to her, “Peace, be still.” And all the storms melted away, and she isn’t afraid any more.
This is not just a nice thought. It would have done the disciples absolutely no good to have nice thoughts in that boat with them. It’s not enough to have thoughts about Jesus in your boat. It’s not enough to have a theology about Jesus in your boat. It’s not enough to have a liturgy that mentions Jesus, a prayer book in your boat. No, you must have Jesus in your boat. You must have the Lord of Hosts with you, the God of Jacob with you. If you don’t have Jesus, you are lost and the storm will take you down. But if you have Jesus, you are safe, you are secure. If He is the midst of her, then she shall not be moved. If Jesus is in your boat, then you are invincible, untouchable, completely impervious to every danger, every evil, every storm.
This is the good news of Jesus, the promise of the gospel, to all those who trust in Him, to all those who cling to Him, to all those who cry out to Him, to all those who are covered in His blood. It’s the promise that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promise of the covenant: I will be your God, and you will be my people. Jesus is that God. And nothing can separate us from His love. This is the river that makes us glad. This is the stream that waters the city of God. The cross of Jesus is God’s announcement of peace. Your sins are forgiven. The demons are powerless. The lies are not true. Your shame is covered over in glory. And when Jesus rose from the dead, He said not even death can hurt you now. He has spoken to us and to this world in the death and resurrection of Jesus. He has spoken clearly and authoritatively. And this is what He has said: Be still and know that I am God.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.