Reverend James Lanning, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
I was walking through town this past summer and I noticed a bumper sticker on a vehicle that made me laugh. It was styled like your typical bumper sticker that is meant to show support for a political candidate, with the name of the person running for office and their slogan. This one, however, had a giant space rock, emblazed with fire, hurtling toward the earth, as the candidate; and the slogan was “A Giant meteor, 2024: Just end it already.” It’s a great bumper sticker, in a morbidly humorous way, which makes us laugh (and if this was your car, thank you for making me laugh). But the thing is, even though it is good for a laugh, it also betrays the underlying fact that things are not going well; after all, no one jokes about wanting a cataclysmic, world-ending, natural disaster, if the current situation is good. For the past several years we have been facing what seems like crisis after crisis: a world-wide pandemic, political turmoil, riots and mass murders, civil unrest, wars, governmental overreach, sexually explicit and perverted material be introduced in public schools around the country, and a growing anti-Christian sentiment becoming more prevalent in western countries, including our own. All this makes it seem like we are inevitably careening out of control, like a giant meteor, toward both civil war in this country, and a third world war globally. With times such as these, where tension and anxiety seem to be constantly rising, we need something to give us peace of mind, body, and soul. Psalm 46, one of the great comforting psalms, is something that reminds us that what we truly need is God, who is bigger than all the problems of the world.
1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
Psalm 46 starts off with the image of God as a refuge, a stronghold, a Mighty Fortress, that is strong, ever present, and able to protect His people from any and all troubles. Here the psalmist gives us a picture of chaos resembling the cataclysm of the Great flood, where the earth has given way, and the waves of chaos are threatening to destroy everything. But the Rock, God our refuge and shelter, stands firm to protect us even as the waves of chaos and disaster threaten to reach our door; because of this, we do not fear, for God is our Rock and shelter, unmoved and undaunted by each attacking wave. God is for us, and with us, regardless of what is happening, whether our problems be small and personal, or great and global.
4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
From waters of chaos and destruction that seek to over come the people of God, we then hear about water that is a comfort to our hearts, a river whose streams gladden the city of God. This water is comfort; this water is refreshment; this water is life-giving water. Like the water that God brings forth from the rock in the wilderness of Sinai, this is a spring of water flowing from the true source of life, God Himself. God showed Moses a rock in the wilderness and told him to strike its side, and from its stricken side life-giving water burst forth for God’s people to drink. This river of life, flowing out of the Rock, became for God’s people streams of living water, the provision of God for His people.
6The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
After a brief word of comfort, the psalmist turns back to the raging waters that beat against the Rock, the shelter and refuge that protects God’s people. We see that waves of chaos that beat against the Rock are the nations who come against God’s people, threatening to destroy them. But God is with His people, and will save them from the chaotic forces that surround them, Just as God delivered His people from the great Assyrian army that surrounded Jerusalem, wiping them out in one night. God simply speaks and the enemies of God are done for.
8Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
11The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Finally, the psalmist invites us to see the aftermath of those forces that would rage and swell against Him and His people, as they are left scattered and desolated upon the earth, like the great Assyrian army. We get a vision of the end-times, as God puts an end to all war, struggle, and strife. God speaks to the whole earth, commanding the raging storm and waves of the nations to be still, and recognized who their God is. We see the weapons of war lying broken and shattered on the ground, no longer being used to rage against God and His people. Rather, the peoples’ hands are raised, in worship of the One true God, exalting His name through the entire earth.
The Christ Connection
Psalm 46 is a wonderful psalm that brings hope to those who trust in God, reminding them that God is greater than any and all problems they may face. But you may still be left asking the question “where is God specifically, for He seems to me hard to find?” So where is God, our refuge and strength, and how is He a very present help in troubling times? He is the Christ, the Son of God, who became man for our sakes, and lives and dwells in the midst of His people. Jesus is the Rock on whose word and promise we can fully rely, a mighty stone fortress that does not give way when the waves of chaos and evil beat against Him and His people. His mighty voice speaks as He stands above the waves and calls to the raging storm of the nations, commanding them to be still and know that He is God. Jesus is also the river, the source of life-giving water, refreshing His people by Word and Sacrament, and giving them new life. When God’s people were wondering through the wilderness of their own sin, God had His own Son, Jesus the Christ, struck down. Like the Rock in the dessert that Moses was commanded to strike, Jesus was struck in the side after being crucified, and John tells us how from His stricken side flowed blood and water, the river of life-giving water flowing from the very side of God. For those who are baptized into Christ, He is our refuge and strength, a Mighty Fortress, whose very stones flows with living water; He both protects us with in His mighty hand and sustains us with His life-giving water.
One day Jesus promises to return and bring about His Kingdom on Earth, a Kingdom that John describes in Revelation, as having a river of life flowing through the very center of the city, and coming from the throne of God. At this time, He will have cause all wars to cease; every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father. Until then, Christ can be found where He has promised to be: in the midst of His people, for He says ”For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Our Lord is with us as we gather around His Word and Sacraments; He is there where His word is rightly preached; He is there as we approach His table to receive His Body and His Blood that he freely gave to us on the cross. He is there when a baptismal candidate approaches the font of the life-giving water to be baptized into His family. For those who call upon His Name, God is Here with us, ready to protect us from all the attacks of the enemy, and sustain us with His life-giving water. Therefore, let all your worries and fears be stilled, knowing that Jesus Christ is indeed God; take heart, and know even when the whole world falls apart under the wight of every calamity and disaster, God is still our Might Fortress, a very present help in times of trouble.
And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.