When our world is turned upside down

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Psalm 46

When our world turns upside down

Lately it seems like our world keeps on being turned upside down.

We’ve had the drought going on for years. We might not have felt it as deeply here in Sydney as we should have only noticing it once we couldn’t water our gardens or wash our card. But for people out in the country for years they have had to watch their livestock die and their crops fail, and their pastures dry up and turn to dust. But, if that wasn’t enough then there were the fires that took homes, livelihoods and sadly lives away from people. For many it felt like the final blow stealing away whatever they still had left after the drought had taken away most of it. And now it is COVID-19 spreading around the world and all we can do is lock ourselves away and hide from one another as this virus turns our lives upside down.

Already there have been thousands die around the world. One minute it was business as normal but in what seems to have been an incredibly short time our world has been turned upside. Countries are in lock down. Thousands of people have died. The markets have plummeted. Everyone is keeping their distance, and everything has been cancelled including, for us, the gathering of God’s people on Sunday at least for an indeterminate time. And then there has been the needless panic that we’ve either have experienced ourselves in our supermarkets or seen it on our screens. We’ve watched the strangest of things as people fight over toilet paper and as shelves have been stripped bear. The truth is people are scared for in a very short time their world has been turn upside down and the illusion of us being in control of things has been shattered.

The illusion of being in control is shattered

Of course, the fact is that we have never really been in control. But most of the time we can pretend that we are or at least ignore that fact that we aren’t and its often only when some sort of disaster comes our way and things turn upside down in our world that we see the fragility of life and know that the idea of us being in control is lie that we tell ourselves.

Our world can so easily be turned upside down. Of course, it doesn’t need to take a worldwide pandemic like COVID-19 to do it. It can happen at any time to us on an individual level. It might be a stroke that leaves us unable to talk. It can be the death of someone that we love. It can be losing the security of having a job. It can be the betrayal and breakup of a marriage. At any time, things can spin out of control and our world can be turned upside down.

We will not fear

What are we do? How are we to cope? This morning I want to look at Psalm 46 for here the psalmist confidently writes that when the world falls apart that we will not fear.

Psalm 46:2-3

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.[1]

I think that this is what we would hope that all of us could say in the face of disaster. The psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah. In it they wrote that even should the world fall apart with the mountains falling into the sea and the land give way to the water again, that they (and presumably the people of God for whom this psalms was written) won’t fear. But how can the sons of Korah so confidently write this?

The image that they paint is the reversal of the creation itself. What is depicted in verse 2 and 3 is end of the world, as we know it. Yet, even should this happen, and the world comes falling down around their ears, they say “we will not fear”. Today I want us to look at what makes the people of God so secure that they could say that even if this world comes to an end that we, the people of God, will not fear.

(1)  Our God is always with us  (v1)

 

The first reason that they say that we will not fear is because our God is always with us.

We aren’t oblivious to what is going on around us. We suffer and go through hard times and trouble like everybody else but the big difference is we know that our God is always there with us. He stands by us in the midst of our troubles. We aren’t alone. When the world turns upside down the Lord is there with us to help. Verse 1 is the reason why the sons of Korah can say what they say about not fearing in verses 2 and 3.

Psalm 46:1

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

  • He is our refuge

The sons of Korah wrote that the God who is with us is our refuge. A refuge is a place of shelter that offers protection from an enemy or the elements. For the believer our God is our refuge. He is our secure place. He is the one to whom we can turn to for help in trouble.

A good number of years back when fires swept through the suburbs of Canberra there was a story of a family who took shelter under a wet doona in the laundry of their home. They soaked a doona in water and wrapped it around them and then huddled there in the laundry until the fire had passed over. God is like that wet doona and laundry. He protects us and shelters us when all around us our world is falling apart. It doesn’t mean however that we don’t feel the heat, but he does promises to preserve us from the flames. Even should we perish our life won’t be extinguished. The world can end but he will preserve us and keep us from ultimate ruin. He is our refuge or shelter in times of trouble.

  • He is our strength

The second thing that they said about our God is that he is our strength. When we don’t have the strength in ourselves, he is there to strengthen us. He is our strength. The people of God don’t have nerves of steel. We aren’t any more fearless or courageous than the next person. The reason why the sons of Korah can write as they do is because the know that it is God who is our strength. In psalm 73 the psalmist writes

Psalm 73:26

26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

Asaph who wrote this psalm knew that even though his heart might fail, that God was the strength of his heart. The sons of Korah knew and believed this. God gives us the courage and the strength that we need to face whatever He allows and ordains for us to bear. We might feel the heat, but he gives us the strength to endure it. The load might sometimes feel heavy and more than we can bear, but he helps us to bear it. We have our God to lean on for he is the ever-present help.

  • He is ever-present

He is always there when we need him to be. He never leaves us or abandons us. He never takes a break. He is never out of the office. He never takes a vacation. He is never uncontactable. His phone is never off. Our God is always there for the believer.

God is there when the fires burn down our home. He is there when the doctor tells us that it’s cancer. He is there when we have that stroke or loose that child. He is with us even now in the present crisis. He is ever present, and his strength will always be sufficient to bring us through whatever it is that we are going through.

(2)  The city of God will never fall (4-6)

The truth is our world is a turbulent place. It’s never quiet. It’s never at peace. It’s chaotic and at times dangerous. There are always floods and earthquakes and droughts and storms. There are always conflicts and wars. There is always disease and sickness. But there is a place, a city that is secure and can’t be shaken by all the things that are going on in this world. And the believer belongs to it. It is the city of God and it’s our city. It is described for us in verses 4 to 5.

Psalm 46:4-5

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.

While Jerusalem may have been upmost in the authors’ minds their description goes beyond any literal Jerusalem that history ever knew. In this city there is a river whose streams make it glad. Old Jerusalem always had problems with water having been built high in the hills of Judea.  This isn’t ancient Jerusalem or perhaps it is better to say that is more than ancient Jerusalem. It was the hope that ancient Jerusalem held out. It is the new Jerusalem. It’s Eden fulfilled for like Eden it has a river and its streams bring joy and gladness to the city[2].

  • It is the place where God dwells with his people

The city of God is of course is the place where God dwells with his people. The sons of Korah describe it as “the holy place where the Most High dwells” (v4). They wrote that “God is within her” (5). It is the place that God dwells with his people.

For Israel this place was thought to be Jerusalem where the temple of God was. But when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed the prophets looked forward to a New Jerusalem where God would dwell with his people forever. In the letter to the Hebrews the writer tells his readers (believers) that are those who have already have come to that city.

Hebrews 12:22-23

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.

 

The city of God is the place where God dwells with his people. It’s the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem that we whose names have already been written in heaven are already members of. We are already part of this heavenly city. Whatever happens to us our citizenship of this city cannot be taken away. We are also told in the book of Revelation will one day come down and fill the whole earth.

  • It can’t be shaken

Because God is in her it secondly is a place that is secure. It can’t be shaken. The mountains might fall into the sea (2) and the kingdoms might also fall (6) but notice that this city will not fall (5).

Psalm 46:5

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

Nothing can shake her. Nothing can overcome her for God will help her. And when God helps you there is no reason to worry. There is no reason to fear for his help will be sufficient for anything that we might possibly face. For if our God has the power to melt the earth by his voice, then he also has the power to keep us safe and secure with him. Our security is not found here in the cities of this world, but in the fact that we belong to the heavenly city – the place where God is.

What we are to learn (8-9)

This world might fall apart but there is a lesson that we all must learn here and now. The psalmist outlines the lesson in verse 8 and 9. It’s an object lesson. We are invited by the psalmist to consider the works of the Lord.

Psalm 46:8-9.

Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.

God hand can be seen in our world if we only open our eyes. The Lord is the one who makes the wars cease. He brings judgement on our world. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear and burns the shield. He is the one who will bring peace to this chaotic world. The lesson we are to learn from this is to understand that the Lord is God. We are not. In the midst of the turmoil we are meant to discover who the Lord really is. C.S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse our deaf world.”[3].

Psalm 46:10

 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

 

  • Be still and know that the Lord is God.

As the seas rage around us and as our world comes tumbling down, we are to be still and know that the Lord is the God of all the earth, and he will be exalted. We spend so much of our lives exalting ourselves and worrying about those things that we have no real control over. We are meant to learn to that the Lord is God and trust him who is always with us and who is our strength and our ever-present help. We are to be still, or calm down, and know that the Lord is God and trust him with our lives and not give into fear.

  • The Lord is in control

When our world is shaken by events it’s another opportunity for us to consider carefully again who it is that really is in control. It isn’t us. It’s God – the God who has made himself known and revealed himself in his Son, the Lord Jesus. We are to consider the works of the Lord and learn the lesson. He will be exalted. His city alone will remain.

What we are to remember (7,11)

Lastly, when our world is falling apart there is something for us to always remember. It’s repeated twice in this psalm so that we might not forget it. It is of course the refrain found in verse 7 and 11.

“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (verse 7,11)

There are two parts to this refrain.

(1) We are never alone

Firstly, we are to remember that we are never alone. Sometimes in this world it might not feel like it, but it is true. The Lord Almighty is always with us. He is with us today and will never leave us for he has drawn near to us in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. At his birth he was called Immanuel, which means, “God with us”. His would live and die so that people might be reconciled to God so that they might live with him and he with them. He then promised the disciples that he would be with us until the very end of the age (Matt 28:20). Jesus came into the world so that God might be with his people forever and always.

When our world is falling apart, we are to remember that we aren’t alone. We who have put our hope in Jesus can be assured that the Lord Almighty is with us.

(2)  We are always secure in him

The second thing we are to remember is that we are secure in him. The psalmist writes that the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The word for “fortress” here was a word for a particular type of fortress. It’s high tower or strong hold. It’s a fortress built on hill – an inaccessible height. It’s safe and secure no matter what goes on around it. The seas might rage, the mountains might shake, but in him we are always safe and secure.

This is what we are to hold onto when our world seems to be falling apart. When all around us people are worried and anxious about what might happen. We are to be still and know that the Lord is God. It’s his unshakeable city that we belong to and we are to remember that the Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 

[1] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture citations are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[2] If anything, it might be thought to be a little reminiscent of the language of Genesis. Out of Eden ran a river and its streams watered the world.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The problem of pain.