Our Refuge and Strength.
“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” – Psalm 46:1 NLT
These three Psalms in today’s reading form a very fitting summary of Israel’s life-long relationship with God. In Psalm 46 you see their attitude when all was going well. They have a confidence in God because He has given them the Promised Land and allowed them to build the magnificent city of Jerusalem containing God’s dwelling place – the Temple. “God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it” (Psalm 46:5 NLT). They believed they were indestructible and that the city of God would last forever. Why? Because they were His chosen people and it was home to His Temple. But there is an interesting line in the middle of this short Psalm, and it is one that most of us are familiar with. It simply says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NLT). This is a personal invitation from God to cease from striving and enter into a personal and intimate relationship with Him. That is what God wanted from the people of Israel and Judah. He wanted them to know Him – not just intellectually, but personally and experientially.
But we know the story. The people of God refused to remain faithful to Him. They disobeyed Him and turned to other gods. Instead of being a witness to the pagan nations around them, Israel adopted the lifestyles and practices of the world. They became infected instead of being an influence for good. And so God had to discipline them. Psalm 80 was probably written about the time that the northern kingdom was taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Judah to the south was under attack as well. So they called out to God. “Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved” (Psalm 80:3 NLT). They were in trouble and knew their only hope was in God. “ome back, we beg you, O God of Heaven’s Armies. Look down from heaven and see our plight. Take care of this grapevine” (Psalm 80:14 NLT). They claimed that if God would revive and restore them, they would never abandon Him again. They recall how God had chosen them, redeemed them from slavery in Egypt, given them the Promised Land and made them flourish there. But all that had changed. They were now the hopeless victims of Assyria’s power and God’s punishment. How quickly things had changed.
But Psalm 135 brings it full circle. It reminds us of the power and praiseworthiness of God. “I know the greatness of the Lord— that our Lord is greater than any other god” (Psalm 135:5 NLT). This Psalm reflects an understanding that God alone is the source of all hope and deliverance. It is a reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness. It recalls God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt and, more recently, from the hands of the Amorites and Canaanites. It reflects an understanding that God will deal faithfully with His people. He will not abandon them. “For the Lord will give justice to his people and have compassion on his servants” (Psalm 135:14 NLT). So He is worthy of praise. He will once again establish the city of Jerusalem as His dwelling place. The day is coming when He will restore His people to their land and dwell among them. In spite of their unfaithfulness, He will remain faithful. He will once again prove to be their refuge and strength. Because that is the kind of God we worship and serve. He is reliable and trustworthy. He is faithful and true. He is a covenant-keeping God who never abandons those He loves. No matter how bleak the circumstances may look, God is there. He is working behind the scenes in ways we can’t see. He is faithfully and perfectly working out His divine plan. He is our refuge and strength.
Father, You can be trusted. You are always faithful. Your love for us never fails. Your plans for us never get derailed. You are and always will be our refuge and strength in times of trouble. So there is no reason for us to fear. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men