Sermon preached on Sunday, March 3, 2013 at Garden Valley Chapel during our morning worship service based on Psalm 46:1-3.
Take your Bible if you will and open it to the book of Psalms, Psalms chapter forty-six.
Martin Luther is one of the key figures in church history, a man mightily used by God to bring the reformation to the church.
The year 1527 proved to be the most difficult year in his life. After ten demanding years of leading the Reformation, a dizzy spell overcame him in the middle of a sermon on April 22 of that year, forcing him to stop preaching. He was convinced he was at the end of his life.
It was a time in his life where he was averaging one sermon every two and half days!
In addition, heart problems and sever intestinal complications escalated the pangs of death.
Of this ordeal, Luther wrote:
"I spent more than a week in death and hell. My entire body was in pain, and I still tremble. Completely abandoned by Christ, I labored under the vacillations and storms of desperation and blasphemy against God. But because of the intercession of the faithful, God began to take mercy on me and tore my soul from the depths of Hell."1
Making matters worse, the dreaded black plague had entered Germany and spread into Wittenberg. Many people fled, fearing for their lives.
Yet Luther and his wife Katy (his "dear rib") remained, believing it was their duty to care for the sick and dying. Their house soon became a hospital where they saw many friends die.
On top of that, Luther´s one-year-old son Hans (i.e. Johannes) became desperately ill.
Q: Where can you turn to for comfort and strength?
A: Luther turned to God and His Word - specifically to the book of Psalms. He had taught Psalms for years and loved them very much. But it was Psalm 46 that became the strength of his soul in his time of trouble.
Soon after, Luther wrote his most famous hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" that ultimately became the symbol of the Reformation.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe-His craft and pow´r are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.
Beloved, we want to direct our focus upon God who "hath willed his truth to triumph through us."
And so we do not fear, we do not tremble, we endure, because it is about God, who is our mighty fortress and our all-sufficient refuge in our weakest moments. He cannot be conquered. He cannot be subdued. He is our MIGHTY and INVINCIBLE GOD.
Stand, my beloved in the reading of God´s Word and listen as I read this glorious hymn.
Read Psalm 46:1-11.
The background to this song of praise is unknown. While we do not know the details, it does seem to have to do with the uproar of pagan nations (cf. v. 6) and wars that Yahweh brings to an end (cf. v. 9).
Some believe that it was probably written after a military victory over a foreign power that attempted a siege against Jerusalem.
Notice the heading that is also part of Scripture:
0 For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.
This was a song given to the sons of Korah. These were Levites who were descendants of Korah (cf. 1 Chron 6:16ff; 9:17ff).
They produced and performed music while the tabernacle was in the wilderness and after the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. Elsewhere they were known as gatekeepers (cf. 1 Chron 26:19).
Hard to believe, but sometimes these choirs were sent out to battle (cf. 2 Chron 20:19). Back then, music was a huge part of warfare.
There, King Jehoshaphat [good king] appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army. Verse 19 reads – they “stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel, with a very loud voice.”
Imagine for a moment hearing this psalm as a promise of victory before the battle is won! So great was their trust in the Lord that the choir marched in front of the army, singing psalms.
So before we face the great battles of life, the great storms of life, let this be our song as we set out to sing: a Mighty Fortress is our God!
This psalm points us to God. God is the focus here, not the troubles.
God is our Strong Refuge (vv. 1-3) – (Selah)
God is our Satisfying River (vv. 4-7) – (Selah)
God is our Sovereign Ruler (vv. 8-11) – (Selah)
To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song.
46:1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah (ESV)
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