Bread – Fortress

January 2, 2017


Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… Selah.”  Ps. 46:1

The title of this Psalm is “God is our Fortress.”  James Boice in his commentary on the Psalms notes that this Psalm was on of Martin Luther’s favorites, from which he wrote “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

My focus today is not so much whether God is a fortress or what kind of fortress is He, but where this fortress is.  What is its location?  Where on a map may it be found?

We tend to intellectualize Scripture and God, and so our first response might well be to say that the fortress who is God is “up there,” and point to the heavens.  And, indeed, there is much in this Psalm to suggest that God’s fortress is the New Jerusalem, which will descend in the end times to bring in the thousand year reign of Christ.  “God is our refuge and strength” suggests a place of refuge, a place where we can physically go for protection.  Perhaps the image comes to mind of a high mountain redoubt, armed to the hilt with massive guns, which provides us peace and safety if we can only get there.  Perhaps we recall the place of fortress called the “shadow of His wings,” where we can hide under Him and let life’s travails flow over us, leaving us untouched and unscathed.  Perhaps we have a view of heaven with the heavenly hosts surrounding God’s throne and bring ourselves to the place of refuge there.  Perhaps we climb in our imaginations to the peak of the mountain where the transfiguration occurred, and in the presence of God’s glory revealed.

But the second part of our reading today says “God is … a very present help in trouble.”  How can one be “very present” when one is “over there” or “up there.”  The only way one can be “very present” is to be here, in the place where the calamity exists, in the place of worry and fear.

And so we realize that God is not only “over there” or “up there” but also “right here.”  He is “very present.”

Which means this, if God is in me, beneath me, above me, and around me, then the fortress is in me, beneath me, above me, and around me.  If I am in God and He is in me, then I am in the fortress right now.

If that is true, then why do we worry?  Why do feel defeat in calamity?  Why do we yield to trouble instead of just looking at it as it flies by our fortress, which is God in us?

I really don’t know the answer to that question, because I do it too.  I look at a problem and say to myself, “I am in trouble,” instead of sitting under God’s wing, in His fortress, and say to God, “look at this problem and help me solve it, or, better yet, solve it yourself.”

But the implications of our failure to recognize that the fortress to which we can retreat is in us go well beyond us.  The reason is simple … if we, as God’s ambassadors, act like we live in a fortress who is God, then those who need healing, those who need help, those who need love, will find shelter in us.  The beacon of light we should be not only shines light in darkness, but it reveals the fortress from which the light comes.

Imagine for a moment if people said “God’s people are our refuge and strength,  a very present help in trouble.”

Whether or not it has happened to you yet, calamity will come upon us all.  We suffer in this fallen world from disease, death, disaster, pain, and loss.  And where will we turn?  Will we turn to the empty promises of the world or the true promises of Christ?  Will we run to the fortress in heaven in our mind, or run across the street to our Christian neighbor who stands in the evil day and is a fortress of hope, of light, of help, of friendship, and of  strength?  If we claim to follow Christ, we should be that fortress in the storm, we ought to be that fortress in the storm, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be that fortress in the storm for our neighbor.

“A mighty fortress is our God …”  And, to the extent He lives in us, so are we.  Let’s act like it … and let our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and praise not us, but our Father in heaven.  Amen.

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

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Bread – Recall

December 5, 2016


Psalm 44

O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds You performed in their days … You with You own hand drove out the nations, but them You planted…”  Ps. 44:1-2

This will be an interesting week because this Psalm begins one way and quickly turns to another.  A calamity has fallen on the people of Israel and they lament to God why?  But before the Psalmist writes about the calamity, he writes about God’s exercise of His power in the past to help Israel and its people.

There is a saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  However, when it comes to God, those who forget history forget who God is.

Recall of God’s blessings upon our nation, our families, and each of us personally is critical to anchoring us in knowing God, in knowing His faithfulness through all generations.  It is not enough in our tumultuous lives that our anchor to God be set in emotions, in the high of the moment, or in mountaintops, but in the deep past, in the valleys of despair, in the memory of rescue, of salvation, of gifts, of blessings, of hope, and of love.

In order for our ship to be stable on the stormy waters of life, our anchor must be placed firmly in God.  And even though God is here today and will be here tomorrow, it is in the past where His glory, power, and authority has been exercised over and over again for our benefit, laid in stone of history, there for the viewing if we but recall.

We celebrate Christmas this year, recalling the advent of the Christ-child in history.  We will celebrate Easter this year, recalling Christ’s death on the cross in history.  The Psalmist recalls God’s great deeds, the blessing of Sarah with children, the exodus from Egypt, the burning bush, the fall of the walls of Jericho, and many more large and small, written down in the past.

So, as we begin this week, let us recall our history as God’s people, both the ups and the downs, the weaknesses and the strengths, the times of obedience and disobedience, the power and the grace and the blessings and, yes, the flood and forgiveness and the cross and the resurrection, and, yes, the birth of hope for the world in the birth of Jesus.  Let us recall not only the great history God’s people but our own history as God’s son or daughter.

Let us place these recollections firmly in our memory and anchor ourselves in them.

Why, because we will need these recollections to anchor us in the coming storm, to remind us that, when God seems absent and uncaring, He is neither.  And to remind us that, even in defeat, in Christ there is victory.

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© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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