- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: July 01 2020 July 01 2020
Six months in and 2020 seems like it will be a year most of us will never forget, though we wish we could. A global pandemic, daily death tolls, government mandated shut downs, months of isolation, millions of people unemployed causing much fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Then the tragic and senseless death of a man caught on video that enraged a city and a country. Righteous calls for justice and protests against violence were quickly hijacked by vast mobs of opportunists who seized the moment as an excuse to riot, loot, deface, burn, destroy anyone or anything in their path causing more fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Debates rage over mask wearing, government overreach, police reform, racism and cancel culture with voices calling us to take sides! More fear, anxiety and uncertainty!
What are we to do? Where are we to go? With St. Peter, we know where and to whom to turn; “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). I can't think of a better Word of God for this moment than Psalm 46.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.Psalm 46:1–3
The psalmist paints us a picture of cosmic disaster and utter chaos. Mountains, symbols of security and stability, are being shaken. They are trembling and crumbling into heart of the sea. Waters are roaring and foaming, destroying whatever lies in its path. This picture screams of God's good creation coming undone.
In the midst of the chaos and the upheaval of creation, the psalmist is bold to proclaim “we will not fear,” we will not be shaken, we will not give way! Why? Even in the most dire of circumstances in our world or in our own lives, “God is our refuge and strength.” God Himself is our place of cover, of shelter and He protects and shields all who take refuge under Him. He is our rock, our stronghold, our strength whose security can be trusted. He is “a very present help in trouble” (literally, He is “much to be found, easy to find,” in trouble). God is our help in trouble who is always there, totally available, 100% accessible whenever, wherever and for whatever.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.Psalm 46:4–7
In the midst of roaring waters, there is a peaceful stream the makes glad the city, the people of God. This stream brings calm, peace and security because God is in the midst of His people. Everything else around them may tremble, crumble and come crashing down, but God's dwelling and His inhabitants will stand and will not be moved. This stream is His Holy Word and Holy Sacraments that pardon sin, calm fears and anxieties and give living waters to the thirsting soul.
The Lord “will help her,” His people, His church “when morning dawns.” Indeed, when the morning dawned that first day of the Resurrection Christ rose up from the grave having kicked chaos and death in the teeth! This is God's consummate victory over chaos and death for you! Nothing in this life can separate you from Him and Christ's victory for you! A good friend asked me last week, “Where is this world going?” He knows and you know. It will end with the resurrection of all flesh on the Last Day!
Nations may war and rage against each other and against God's people, but the kingdoms that attack Zion, the Church, will “totter” and give way. Why? All God has to do is speak His all powerful Word and His enemies are no more! He is the LORD of hosts (Sabaoth), literally “Yahweh of armies.” He is General Yahweh who leads His heavenly hosts against cosmic and human foes for the sake of His people.
Even though the very fabric of creation is coming undone, even though God’s Word and truth are under attack, even though fear, anxiety and uncertainly rule the day, we as God’s own beloved need not fear or be dismayed for the LORD is in control and He, the God of Jacob, our Mighty Fortress, is always with us!
Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.Psalm 46:8–11
The psalmist invites us to come and see the “works of the Lord.” He, and He alone, brings wars to end by destroying the weapons of war. Yahweh of armies could have called down a legion of angels to fight for Him (Matthew 26:53). But instead He defeated the prince of darkness and all the evil he insights with a love that could not be destroyed by hatred or violence. His victory didn't look like one through worldly eyes, but a few saw it through the eyes of faith. The thief on the cross said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). The centurion at the cross said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). This is why St. Paul says, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Exalted among the nations on the cross, the Lord of heaven and earth disarmed and dismantled the enemies of His people (sin, death and the devil) by the shedding of His own blood and the laying down His own life (Colossians 2:15). He is now exalted over all things and all things are now under His feet until the last enemy (death) is destroyed forever (1 Corinthians 15:24–26).
“Be still and know that I am God,” is not a call to quiet spiritually, but to know that the battle belongs to the Lord and to trust in nothing else in this world but Him! This psalm is clear that the Lord God alone and nothing else is our Mighty Fortress. When we put our trust in princes, in earthly governments and rulers, in any man or man-made movement, these things become idols. And idols always fail us and always break because they cannot hold our lives. The God of Jacob alone is our refuge, our help, the only One true God who holds our lives under His gracious and protective care.
Hence Martin Luther could write in his great hymn, “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpow’r us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him. … And take they our life, Goods, fame, child and wife, Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.” 1
There is much chaos and upheaval in our world today, maybe even in our own lives. There is much to be concerned about, to pray about and to grieve over. Fear, anxiety and uncertainty abound. But fear not, people of God, for our great God is always our refuge and strength, our ever-present help in any trouble, even now. He is in control and come what may He will see us through these challenging days. He promised and He will.
Serving you in Christ,
Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at nettleton@StJohnsFC.org or at 970-305-2420.