This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for October 17) is written by Neil Norheim, senior minister with Parkview Christian Church, Findlay, Ohio.
God’s Safe Refuge (Psalm 46:1-7)
By Neil Norheim
“O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.” Think about the trust factor of these words in the hymn by Isaac Watts. Trust is the critical issue. Our temptation is to trust only in ourselves, doubt everyone else, and constantly remain suspicious. From an emotional standpoint, this defensive posture is mostly paranoia.
Psalm 46 begins, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (v. 1).
Think about the words the psalmist uses to describe this place of safety, which is actually not a place but a Person.
- “Refuge” is literally a place of trust. Animals seem to sense when they inhabit a wildlife refuge; they know they live in a place that is safe and free from attack. The 12 tribes of Israel had six cities of refuge that offered protection to people while they awaited trial.
- “Ever-present” is not just a theological term describing God’s ability to be everywhere at the same time. Here is a description of the adequate help God supplies for this moment and beyond. Literally, it is more help than is presently needed. The original language indicates that almighty God is also easily accessible. Help is available for the asking. Jesus described the blessing of God as being “pressed down, shaken together and running over” (Luke 6:38).
Can you imagine the trust we would have if we believed God would provide more than we need for each challenge? Our God is not a God of “just enough” to get by.
“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2).
- “. . . Though the earth give way.” Here is the comparison between present, personal troubles and geographical chaos. Rarely do we describe our difficulties as being an earthquake or a mountain collapsing. But we often complain that no one alive has ever faced “our trouble”! Actually, the opposite is true. As Peter reminds his readers, others face the same suffering and certain results can be expected from our suffering: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
God is paying close attention to the storms, economic downturns, recessions, layoffs, loss, disease, and accidents we face. Look at what he promises through suffering:
- The restoration is for future use.
- Strengthening comes so we can endure the difficult times.
- Firmness is the solid foundation where we can stand while everything else shakes.
- The blessing of steadfastness is persevering endurance that is shown by constant trust in the Lord. King David wrote about this in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
Notice we don’t need to go to a special place for refuge. The place is actually a person who goes with us. Having the Lord as our refuge is exactly the safety we need.
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (Psalm 46:4).
- “There is a river.” What a blessing this picture portrays. Sitting along a riverbank is peaceful. More than once the Scripture pictures the “river of the water of life” (Revelation 22:1) as a pleasant, sustaining, and peaceful place. Just being on a beach or shore usually is a great way to eliminate stress and regain perspective.
Our usual approach to planning and scheduling does not include this kind of rest and refreshment. Instead, we are driven by hectic schedules that overestimate our efficiency and ability and underestimate our obstacles and interruptions. The result is stress. Imagine what might happen if we planned physical and emotional resting! I have a sneaking suspicion we both need a good long reflection by the side of this river.
- “ . . . Make glad the city of God.” How does a city get glad? Is it by commerce, population, production, entertainment, restaurants, or sporting events? Do we need major tax revenue to make our city glad? Is it a geographical certainty our town will be “glad” if a river runs through it?
Notice these word pictures describe the city of God. In David’s day that city was Jerusalem. In our day the picture points toward Heaven. One commentator suggests this river is a reminder of God’s grace. If that is true about the “river of life,” then grace will still be amazing long after we leave this life. In short, the subject of God’s grace will make the city of God “glad.”
“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” (Psalm 46:7).
- “Fortress” is the place of protection, an inaccessible, secure place. The idea suggests that God has lifted us up to this place of safety.
Do you face trouble or conflict right now? This psalm encourages us that God doesn’t ignore, run from, or look the other way when trouble comes. So then, there is nothing you and the Lord cannot handle today. Because he is our helper, there is no fear.
Now that is the refuge we need!
*All Scripture references are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|Oct. 11: Isaiah 40:6-11|
|Oct. 12: Deuteronomy 7:7-11|
|Oct. 13: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7|
|Oct. 14: 2 Corinthians 1:8-11|
|Oct. 15: Isaiah 52:7-12|
|Oct. 16: Psalm 68:4-10|
|Oct. 17: Psalm 46:1-7|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Neil Norheim serves as senior minister with Parkview Christian Church in Findlay, Ohio. He has participated in several short-term mission trips, including one to Brazil this month. He enjoys golf and photography, is an instrument-rated private pilot, and is a husband, father, and grandfather.