His presence has an unlimited supply. Like a river that has streams and it flows and it flows and it flows and it flows. Unlimited supply.
And you say, “Well, Chip, where do you get this stuff that, how did you get that from this? Unlimited supply of joy, protection, deliverance, security, where did you get that?” Let me show you.
Look at verse 4. It said, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” Did you pick up the contrast between streams here and what the water was like in verse 3? How are the waters in verse 3? They were chaos, they were foaming, it was unsteady, unstable.
And by contrast here, there is a stream, there’s a river whose streams make glad the city of God. What’s the city of God? It’s Jerusalem. I think there’s reference here to the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly Jerusalem. But taking it for its historical value, there’s a river that makes glad the city of God. See, Jerusalem wasn’t just a city that David picked out and thought, “You know, this would be a nice place for a capital.” It was strategic!
Everywhere, and I had a chance a couple years ago to go there, Jerusalem is always up. It is like a fortress. Man, there are rocks, rocks, rocks, rocks and then the city. And then all these huge walls and then there’s a river. And in the ancient days they would have battle after battle after battle, and the key was to have a fortress that your enemy couldn’t overtake you in. But the one way they could overtake you, even if you had a great fortress, is if you didn’t have a water supply.
If you had a fresh water supply and plenty of food, you could stay in there forever. And so for an Israelites ears in that day, he’s painting a picture of, there’s this outward opposition, there’s danger, there’s the enemy but even while all that is happening on the outside, there is a stream outside the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. There is a stream that makes glad the city of God. It’s all happening bad out there but in here, it’s safe.
Now, there’s a spiritual implication as well because not only is that literally true but the “city of God” is used in Scripture of where God dwells - in God’s presence.
In Isaiah chapter 8 this same phrase for “The stream of God,” or “The river of God,” is identified with His presence. And then in Revelation 22, it talks about the throne of God. And guess what flows from the throne of God that gives life? A river.
You see, in Old Testament imagery, he’s telling these people, in the midst of their trouble, God’s presence, a stream, a river that flows from the very heart of God, from all of His infinite resources, it flows to His people in a place where they are protected and there is unlimited supply.
So, what’s it do? Notice the first phrase. It makes gladness. “The streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.”
Now, I hope you’re saying, “Chip, are you really telling me that in the midst of great adversity, I mean, pressure and trouble and fear, that God’s presence could actually give you joy?” Yup. I experienced it just this week.
I went into the ICU, and a fellow named Will South is having surgery. He’s having a quintuple bypass. His arteries not only need to be opened but they have dried out and deteriorated so they had to replace them, it’s like a total plumbing job.
And then they explained all of it to Will and they said, “Do you still want to go through with the surgery?” He said, “Well, sure!” They said, “You need to understand that the chances of success for this surgery is less than a total heart transplant.” He said, “Well, sure!” He said, “The options are if I die, it’s great! I’m going somewhere. And I’ve had seven strokes. I’m ready. I believe God wants me to do it.”
And so knowing that, early Monday morning, I met with Will and, in my heart of hearts, he’s been a dear friend. Every Saturday night, no matter how he feels, he and Jeff and I go and there’s, literally, a closet and we pray before the services.
And everyday he prays for me, sometimes multiple times a day. He prays for all of our pastors and all their kids by name, every day. He said, “God gave me the ministry of intercession when He put me flat on my back.” He said, “It’s been the most delightful years of my life.”
And so I went in thinking, “This is probably my last time, medically speaking, unless God does a big thing here. This may be the last time I ever see Will.” And I’m thinking, I’m uptight and, boy, I want to encourage him and his wife, Sara, is there and what do you say? Tell you what. I read Psalm 46.
And I got about two or three minutes into trying to encourage him and help Will and he said, “Hey! How’s that Ryan? Boy, I just love that kid. What instrument did he play this week? You know, when I was a kid...” And then he starts telling me about his chances now, he got to lead people to Christ as a kid, and music, and “Annie, she sure is growing! How is your wife? You shouldn’t be here. Your schedule is so busy.”
You know, I’m thinking, “Will.” And then there’s this big smile. He said, “Isn’t Jesus good? I don’t mean in a phony way but isn’t it just an honor to be in the presence of the living God?” I said, “Yeah, Will.” And he said, “Well, you know, tomorrow, I tell you, I am so hungry. I want some eggs over medium. They said I can’t have any tonight but I’ve told them tomorrow, after I get out of this intensive care stuff, man, I want some eggs over medium. Well, hey, Chip, you got a lot to get going on. I will see you later. Why don’t we pray?”
I came home that night, I said, “Honey, I met someone who not only knows God like few people I know but he really understands the reality of heaven and an eternal perspective. It was a privilege, it was a privilege.” God’s presence gives you gladness even in the midst of your greatest trouble.
But it goes beyond that. Notice he says, “God is within her, she will not fall.” God provides protection and security. “He will help her at the break of day,” and for us that’s just a little phrase but out of Exodus 14:27, that little phrase would have clicked into the mind of an Israelite, “Wow! Break of day! Remember when Moses led us out and they were coming, we were at the Red Sea, and God opened the Red Sea, and at the break of day, that little phrase, he prayed, and it closed back up.”
It’s a picture of deliverance. In the midst of your greatest fear and trouble, God will deliver you. He’ll deliver you. He will be your security. He will give you what you need, He will protect you and sustain you. What? One moment at a time.
A couple, three weeks ago, and I see him here, it’s good to see you, Paul. I got to visit Paul and he had colon surgery, had cancer, and I mention his name so you can pray for him. And they were hoping to get to it early and they didn’t get to it as early as they’d like and that cancer spread to his liver and we’re all praying very diligently.
And I think it was a day or maybe two at the most after the surgery I got a chance on a Saturday morning to visit with he and Vicky. And I got to witness the presence of God giving protection and a sense of security in a vivid way.
And I asked him, “How are you really doing?” And he’s got that smile. I like that smile. He sort of smiles without his teeth, you know? Like that. And with his head tilted a little bit he said, “You know, considering where we are, we’re okay.” I said, “Vicky, how are you doing?” And not in all the specific words but basically they communicated, “God has given us grace. We have peace in the midst of a hard time.” And their final words were, “We’re just going to live one day at a time and God will give us what we need, one day at a time.”
You know what that is? That’s someone who says, “The presence of God is within me; I will not fall. He will deliver. He will help. The opposition may be strong.”
“Nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall; but He lifts His voice, and the earth melts.” All those metaphors, all those pictures, there is joy in the midst of God’s presence, even in trouble. There is protection, there is security, there is peace.
But where does it come from? It comes from His presence. Let me show you how powerful this is. Now, there’s the imagery of river but five times in these four verses, I circled them in my text, it says, notice what it says, “The city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells,” circle that, that’s number one; “God is within her,” circle that, that’s number two; “God will help her at the break of day,” circle “help her,” He has to be there to help her.
Skip down to verse 7, “The Lord Almighty is with us,” circle that. Literally, it’s “for us.” It means He is there. “The God of Jacob is our fortress.” A fortress is a high positioned place where enemies cannot reach and where you are protected and it’s impregnable.
All of His resources, He’s the God of hosts, all of His armies are available, all of His strength, all of His power is available to meet you where you’re at. That’s what it’s teaching.
And notice who for. He’s not just the God, the Lord Almighty, He’s the God of Jacob. Did you ever wonder why that’s in here? The God of Jacob. Why not the God of Abraham, or the God of Isaac, or at least the God of Israel. I mean, when they changed his name. Do you remember who Jacob was of the three patriarchs? He’s the not very good one. His name means, literally, the grasper of the heel or deceiver.
Jacob’s the guy who couldn’t get it right. Jacob’s the guy that was always messing with people, lying to people, and manipulating, jockeying for position. Jacob was the guy that was always doing people in. I believe there is a clear message here.
See, down in my heart, I feel like, “Oh, God’s presence and His power and all this stuff I’m talking about. Oh, that’s really good for those people that live up here, but I’m here. I mean, those people, you know, the Will Souths of the world and some of the elders that I know and some really godly people. You know, I bet, boy, God will show up for them, like, this is here.” But, you know what? It’s a message of grace.
He’s saying, “I’m the God of Jacob. I show up for manipulators and schemers and people that are living double lives and hypocrites and people whose lives aren’t together.”
In fact, God will actually use your time of greatest need often to do the most radical transformation of your heart, to identify some pride that you didn’t want to look at before. But I’ll tell you what, you hurt so bad there’s nothing else to do but look. To look at your priorities like never before, to look at your relationships like never before, to look at your values like never before.
When you’re a Jacob, when you’re a Jacob, God says, “I’ll show up for you. I’ll show up for you.” Boy, isn’t that encouraging? That’s what you do when you’re afraid. But you might say, “Okay, well, that’s neat to hear how it works for Will, and Paul, and Martin Luther,” and those guys are going to hear this thinking, “My name was mentioned in the same… You say, ‘Will, Paul, Martin Luther.’ I like this!” That’s right!
God is making those kind of people everyday! It’s not because they’re superstars, you know what it is? They learned to trust. And most of us learn to trust, not because we’re noble and we’re godly and have it together, we learn to trust because there’s not other option, because we just hurt so bad.
But unfortunately, when some of us hurt, instead of running to God, we run from Him. And so notice, finally, he’s going to teach us: How does it work? How specifically can you enter in? And in verses 8 through 11, God is calling us to experience His presence.
What I’ve told you is what’s true. The first three verses are the what. It’s a promise. Verses 4 through 7 are the why. It’s the reason. The reason you can trust Him, it’s His presence is available for you, right now, where you’re at, regardless of your circumstance.
Verses 8 through 11, now, are the how. It’s an invitation. How do you enter in and experience His presence? Let me read it and then we’ll make some comments.
Two commands, the first one, “Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations He has brought on the earth. He makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow, He shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire.”
Second command, “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.” And then the refrain, “The Lord Almighty is with us,” or, literally, “He is for us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
We have learned we don’t have to be afraid because God is for us. We have learned that God’s presence provides an unlimited supply of joy, protection, security, and deliverance, even in the midst of our most severe adversity.
And here we learn, God implores us to come and experience His presence in our time of greatest need. He implores us, He invites us, He commands us. It’s available but you gotta come. There are two commands and two things we’re told to do at the end of this Psalm that - here is you and your problem and here is God with His resources.
There are two things you have to do for your problem and you to be interconnected and experience His resources. Number one, command: “Come and see the works of the Lord.” You gotta come! You gotta come to Him! And you’ve gotta see.
The word “see” here is very interesting. It means not only see, objectively, with your eye, but the word is used throughout the New Testament for a seer or for a prophet. It’s the idea of looking at life with the inward eye, the spiritual eye. Looking at the facts but drawing back from the facts and saying, “What is God doing? What could God be doing?”
“Come and see,” and what are you to see? “The works of the Lord.” Now, what did that mean to the Old Testament saints? What were the works of the Lord? They would come and see and in their trouble and they’re surrounded by an army, or someone is threatening their lives, or their children have a disease, and they would open up the Old Testament and say, “Now, let’s see, the works of the Lord. Genesis: God created all there is. Exodus: He delivered the people. David: He made him king. We had battles with the Philistines!”
And they would recount the works of the Lord, His faithfulness in the past. That’s why, notice the phrase. It says, “The desolations He has brought on the earth.” “Hey, He has delivered us in the past. God has come through for us in the past.”
The way we get an accurate view of God, first of all, is from the Scriptures. But we have to go back. The reason we need to read the Bible is to get a clear picture of who God is and what He has done in the past, He is eager to do in the present.
But notice how the tense of the verb changes. It’s from what He did do, it says, “How He makes,” present tense, “wars to cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow.”
It’s not only a picture of His works in the past but the confidence that one day, He is the Warrior-King! The Warrior-King with all power, and His hosts and His armies, and He’s going to bring about justice and He’s going to take care of all of life.
And the invitation is, “You come and you look and remember who God is, what He has done in the past, and what He is going to do in the future.” He’s going to bring peace. He’s going to take care of everything.
How do we do that? Well, first of all, I think, I don’t know where you’re at but if you think you can experience the presence of God without being a person of His word, you are mistaken.
God does not reveal Himself in a vacuum. His Words are life. When you hurt, open His Word and read and cry out in desperation and I guarantee you, He will speak to you.
When we hurt, we spend way too much time on the phone. We spend way too much time listening to talk radio. We spend way too much time on the Internet trying to find out, “What are all the details of the diseases we’re fighting, the situations we’re hearing about, and trying to figure out how we can make it through this on our own.” Research is good but the works of the Lord are in the Scripture.
The second thing you need to do is recount the works of the Lord in your own life. One of the reasons I keep a journal is because I get discouraged a lot, believe it or not. I get discouraged a lot.
I was in intensive care six or seven times this week alone and you know what? I’m not the bionic man. I walk in there, and my heart bleeds, and I project, “Could this be my kid next year?” And you know what? I keep a journal and I write down my prayers.
And about every three or four days, I go back four or five days or sometimes a month and I look at check mark, check mark, check mark and a little in red and the date and how God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered, God answered. And what He did in my past, He’s going to do in my future.
That’s how you come and see the works of the Lord. And you get up next to people who have seen God work in their life and you rub up against them and you talk with them and you pray with them.
At the end of the service we’re going to give people a chance to come together and to pray and get help. You know what will keep you from doing that? Your pride.
Some of you are desperately hurting and God would want to reveal Himself by another person and get you connected and loved today. But some thought about what someone might think if, after the service, you walked down in the front, and just met with someone or went in the prayer room and prayed, will keep you from experiencing God.
It’s a shame, isn’t it?
Well, there’s a second command, not only are we to come and see the works of the Lord, we are to be still and know that He is God.
Now, this is a passage used in lots of texts, it’s very devotional, kind of nice, “Be still and know I am God…” You know? In all the devotionals, “Be still.” Now, meditation is great. Getting quiet before the Lord is wonderful. That is not what this passage is teaching, however.
Literally, this word “be still” means, “cease striving.” Stop! Knock it off! Get your hands off the deal! Hold off! Surrender.
See, when we’re in trouble our tendency is to go and try and find. The Israelites went and found a foreign power to deliver them. And we jockey, and we manipulate, and we try and cut deals, and we try and say, “God, I’ll do this if You do this!” And we play all these games.
And God says, “When you’re in real trouble, I’ll tell you what. You will meet Me on My terms. Be still.”
It’s the same kind of phrase that, remember when Jesus was in the boat and the disciples said, “Don’t you care that we’re perishing? Lord, what are You going to do?” And He said, “Peace! Be still.” Whoo. The waves went like that.
That’s the idea of this word. It’s when you say, “I’m going to stop, I’m going to quit pretending, I’m going to know that He’s God. I’m not God. I’m going to know He is bigger than what I fear. He is God, not a paycheck. He is God, not another person who is not responding right now. He is God.”
Why? “He will be exalted in the earth; He’ll be exalted among the nations.” He is sovereign. This is a picture of the righteous, warrior judge, in control. Stop and surrender!
Practically, this means for us, you pray. A prayer of absolute surrender and dependency. And where you take all the chips of your life, all the cards, all the hidden things in the closet, you open it all up, you push it all to the middle of the table, and this is what it means to be still. “It’s Yours, God. I give. You call the shots. I need You and whatever it looks like, I’m in.”
And when you do that, the Lord Almighty will be with you. The God of grace, the God of Jacob, He will be your fortress.