Help for the People of God
Psalm 46:1-11 (NKJV)
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song for Alamoth.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
When you are in trouble, it is a blessing to know that help is available. It is a great blessing to know that it is on the way. And it is an even greater blessing to know that your help is here.
The blessing of help in time of need is magnified even more when others are involved. If you have had vehicle trouble with a van full of small children, you know what I mean. And if you have not experienced such a thing, you can surely imagine it or relate a similar circumstance where help is needed, not just for an individual, but for a group.
In our spiritual lives, as individuals and as groups—particularly local churches—we experience crises. The world, the flesh, and the devil are set against our having joy in Christ and glorifying God in all circumstances. Persecution and temptation—external opposition, internal strife, and disappointments—threaten to shake our faith. We need help, and help is available. But God’s Word has better news for us than that help is on the way. When we turn to Psalm 46, we see the good news that our help is here. In unstable and uncertain times, we can have stability and certainty because God is our help, and He is here.
The book of Psalms functioned as a songbook and prayer book for Israel. The psalms reflect much about the experience of God’s people—joy and thanksgiving as well as repentance, complaints, and cries for help. Some psalms clearly indicate the event that is addressed in the psalm. For example, Psalm 51 describes David’s repentance after being confronted about his sin of adultery. Others, such as Psalm 46, do not tell us the exact occasion for which they were written. However, Psalm 46 is one of the eleven psalms with the inscription “Of the Sons of Korah.” It is especially appropriate that we take a brief look at the background of the sons of Korah as we consider this corporate psalm of God’s help for His people in troubled times.
Numbers 16 is the record of Korah’s organized rebellion against Moses. After the congregation of Israel separated from the rebels, God caused the ground to swallow up Korah and his followers alive to show His judgment against them. But according to Numbers 26:9-11, there were sons of Korah who did not die. Though not part of the Aaronic priesthood, the Korahites (also descendants of Levi) served in the temple. According to 1 Chronicles 9:19, they were still in existence after the Babylonian exile. Their background in being spared while their rebellious ancestor perished should have made them thankful to sing praises to God for His present help in trouble.
As we look at Psalm 46, let those of us who are believers be grateful for God’s salvation and look to Him to see that our help is here. We will notice three different emphases in this psalm. It teaches us about the people of God, the person of God, and the presence of God.
Our Help Is Here: Help for the People of God
The corporate nature of this psalm is evident throughout its eleven verses. Notice the references that indicate this nature:
v. 1 God is our refuge and strength.
v. 2 Therefore we will not fear.
v. 4 the city of God
vv. 7, 11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Many psalms are worded in the first person singular with “I” and “my” and “me,” but this is one of the corporate psalms, worded with we and our and us (6 instances). The corporate nature of this psalm reminds us that our relationship with God is not merely an individual relationship that has no relevance to our relationships with others. Rather, it changes the dynamics of our relationships to others. When we become God’s children, we find that we have brothers and sisters. I am not an only child to God, and neither are you. All God’s people are part of a larger group.
But before we discuss the importance of the group, let me ask you this: Do you have a right relationship with God? Have you been forgiven of your disobedience and reconciled to Him? God created this world, including you and me, for His glory to display His character. Yet Adam and Eve—and you and I—have rebelled against God. Our sin has rightly been called cosmic treason; disobeying God is equivalent to seeking to dethrone Him and enthrone ourselves as the king of our lives. This treason deserves eternal punishment. Yet in His great mercy, God sent His Son, Jesus, the eternal Son of God, who was born of the virgin Mary, lived the perfect life that God requires and that we could never live, and died on the cross in the place of sinners, bearing their punishment. He rose from the dead and lives forever. He promises to pardon and rescue rebels like you and me if we will turn from our sin and trust Him for our salvation. If you do not have assurance that you are part of the people of God through faith in Christ, I beg you—trust in Him today.
If you have turned from your sin and trusted in Him, then you have the certain hope and assurance of salvation in Christ. But He has not saved you for yourself; you are part of a larger body, the church.
If you are trusting in Christ, part of following Jesus means to identify with His people. We do this identification through baptism or the immersion into water as an ordinance of the church in order to testify to the world that we are dead to sin and raised to walk in newness of life in Jesus Christ. To identify with God’s people, we should also join ourselves to a local congregation, becoming members of a local church, where we can participate in the decisions of the congregation and also be subject to its discipline. We take gathering with the church seriously. We attend so we may grow from the preaching of the Word and partake of the Lord’s Supper. We also fellowship and encourage and warn one another, being involved in the lives of others.
If you know Christ but have not been baptized or joined a local church, let me urge you to obey God in these areas. Do not be afraid or ashamed to be publicly united to other believers. In our individualistic society, many do not value commitment. But to please God, we must value commitment to one another and love Christ and one another enough to identify ourselves as His people.
As God’s people, we understand that our Lord’s concerns extend not just to our individual problems, but to the problems we face corporately, particularly in local churches. Whether with your local assembly or with persecuted believers gathering in Saudi Arabia or Sudan, God, our Help, is there. He is a very present help in trouble.
|Doug Smith is blessed to be the husband of Krystal and father of three daughters. He is a member of Cornerstone Chapel, in Bristol, Tennessee. Doug has preached in a supply capacity and taught hermeneutics with the Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply, a ministry which focuses on training men for ministry in rural Appalachia. He is currently an intern with the New England Center for Expository Preaching. He also blogs at Gazing at Glory. You may email him with any questions or comments.|