God and Fear
A Study of Psalm 46
We who weren't alive during the horrible years of World War II don't get the emotional jolt that people of that generation get when they hear about Pearl Harbor. We don't know what it was like to hear, for the first time, the words from Franklin Roosevelt that the Japanese have just attacked Pearl Harbor.
But most of us can remember where we were September 11th 2001. Like Pearl Harbor, it was a day that will live in infamy. It was the day our world changed forever. Four planes were hijacked by terrorists, and two of them crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. This lead to the collapse of these majestic buildings, and the murder of thousands of people.
One hit our senate building and killed many more. The fourth, thanks to the heroism of the passengers on board, crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania, instead of hitting the White House, or some other unthinkable target.
Our world will never be the same after that day. Immediately after those events, fear was rampant. And thousands lived in uncertainty of their future. Globally, there was marked uncertainty as well. The peace of the world was disturbed. And, here in the United States, people were being murdered simply because they looked like Arabs. The whole world seemed to be falling apart.
Let's take a moment and ask ourselves what makes us afraid? The interesting thing is that we all have this belief that we are somehow in control of our lives and our destinies. Truthfully, however, there is much in life we have very little power over.
We don't control when and where we'll be born, and we don't know when we'll die. We're at the mercy of the weather, and the devastation it can bring through earthquakes, floods and other things just as horrible.
We have limited control in our government. We can vote in the man, or woman whom we think will look after our best interest, and that of the country, but we can't guarantee that he, or she will live up to the promises made. And we have no control over the potential madmen that could come into power in other countries. Who knows if another Adolf Hitler, a Saddam Hussein, or a Osama Bin Laden will arise. And what could we do about it if they did?
And what of more personal fears. How will our children turn out in this immoral society in which we live? Are we going to have enough money to retire? When and how will I die? Should I leave the security of this job to go to another? All this and more contributes to the potential fear that many experience.
I. The Theme of Psalm 46
If we had to summarize Psalm 46 we would say: "We should not fear, when God is near." This wonderful Psalm celebrates God's domination and control in one sphere after another. Because He is omnipotent, or all-powerful, He can truly be our refuge and strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. (46:1). It was this psalm that inspired the great reformer Martin Luther to write:
" A mighty fortress is our God; A bulwark never failing; Our Helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing."
The Psalm can be neatly broken into three sections, each showing the Lord's control over a different sphere. It shows:
1. God's Control Over Nature (1-3)
2. God's Control Over the Attackers of His City (4-7)
3. God's Control Over the Whole World (8-11
II. God Versus Nature (1-3)
The first contest is God versus nature. But the Psalmist faces it unafraid because God is His refuge and strength. And we're not just talking a little tremor. We're talking about the whole earth changing, the mountains moving, tottering and shaking, and finally slipping into the heart of the sea. That is one major earthquake!
What the Psalmist is picturing here are two seemingly impregnable and unchanging things, the earth and the mountains. And he is contrasting them with the restless and menacing sea. But obviously the mountains and the earth only seem impregnable. Here they are being destroyed. He is using this poetic language to contemplate the end of the whole created order.
What He is looking at is something on the order of a Nuclear Holocaust that destroys everything. But because God is near, it doesn't phase the writer, for true security is in God, and not God plus anything else.
III. God Versus the Attackers of His City (4-7)
The City of God is one of the greatest themes of the Old Testament. God chose Zion or Jerusalem to be His city, just as He chose David to be its king. And the prophets predict that God's City will be the envy of the world, and the mother city of nations.(Psalm 68:15ff; 86).
The whole idea is that if God is for His city then who can be against it. The enemies of God's city are God's enemies. And before Him they are as nothing. Verse 6 says: "The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered. He raised His voice, the earth melted." The psalmist isn't afraid of these tottering nations because: "The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold" (46:7).
IV. God's Versus the Whole World (8-11)
Not only is God in control of nature, and the attackers of His City, He is literally in control of the whole world. This last section is a vision of things finally to come. The words "behold", or "come and see" are usually used for seeing with the inward eye, as a prophet sees. These last verses picture a time when God will bring about peace by way of judgement. It is looking ahead to the Tribulation, Millennial Kingdom and finally, the New Heaven and New Earth. It tells us that God will bring desolation (8), make wars cease (9), and finally he will be exalted (10-11).
Looking ahead to the future is like seeing a mystery movie that we know the ending to already. We know that whatever problems the main characters go through, in the end it all turns out well. We know the ending to this adventure that we're going through right now. God has told us that all things will "work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
So what are you afraid of today? Does the future bother you? God is there and is in control. How about your present circumstances? God is with you, and He's not going anywhere. Are you afraid of death? Jesus has been there. He has conquered death, and through Him, you can do the same. Maybe things like the fear of wars, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes keep you up at night. God makes wars to cease, and He can calm any natural disaster by a simple command. And if finances are your problem, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the gold in every mine.
No matter what we can think of that could be a problem in our lives, and some we can't anticipate, we can face this world unafraid and remember: "We should not fear, when God is near."