Today [Psalm Forty-Six through Forty-Eight] The Strength and Triumph and City of God. In today’s study we will read 3 psalms. In Psalms 46 we see the strength and faithfulness of God. Sometimes we wonder if God is paying attention to our need or is ignoring us for some reason. This psalm rejoices in the impregnable strength and availability of God to move in our life. Psalm 47 speaks of the triumphant nature of God. We are not called to failure. Living for Jesus is not groveling in defeat till we die and go to heaven. Psalm 48 speaks of the city of God not just as a location in the Middle East but the city of God that you and I are a part of – the church of the living God.
[Psa 46:1-11 KJV] 1 [[To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.]] God [is] our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 [Though] the waters thereof roar [and] be troubled, [though] the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. 4 [There is] a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy [place] of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God [is] in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, [and that] right early. 6 The heathen 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, what desolations he hath made in the earth. 9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. 10 Be still, and know that I [am] God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 The LORD of hosts [is] with us; the God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah.
When verse 1 says that God is our strength, the Amplified Bible adds that He is a strength that is mighty and impenetrable. We may feel at times that God’s protection is permeable – that somehow at times Satan can get past the promise of God and successfully afflict us. Thus looking at it this way it may seem then when our contradictory circumstances are the result of a choice that God makes. Therefore it begs the question where does the responsibility lie when you are experiencing something contrary to the promise of God? It is God’s fault? Is God unable to rescue us or is He pursuing some murky purpose by which it is desirable from His perspective that we suffer?
This question is almost universally addressed throughout Christian scholarship as a matter of God’s sovereignty. The theological idea of sovereignty is understood to be the belief that in spite of the clear promise of God’s word regarding your situation that He can choose for His own reasons NOT to honor His word. For me this is unthinkable. If God for instance tells us in 1 Peter 2:24 that “by His stripes you were healed…” then that is not only a promise but a past tense promise. How is it possible to have ANY FAITH AT ALL if we are required to believe in a promise of God that He (as theologians suggest) can arbitrarily decide NOT to be faithful to His word? Where does this diseased thinking come from? Because we are not willing to look at the human component when it comes to God’s promises. We don’t want to consider that if we fail to receive from God that the reason lies with us and not with God. We want to be able to PRESUME without self-examination that there is no defect in our faith therefore we come up with a doctrine that affirms that we are not at all responsible for why we did not receive an answer to prayer.
Unbelief is the major cause of not receiving from God. It is the only one that Jesus Himself EVER identified as a reason for not receiving a miracle or an answer to prayer. In Matt. 13:48 He could do no mighty works because of unbelief. In Matt. 17:20 He told His disciples they couldn’t get an answer to prayer – because of unbelief. Heb. 3:19 says we “enter not in” because of unbelief.
It may OFFEND the suffering person to consider this but you have to decide where your sentiments lie – with the suffering or with the savior. This is an important challenge because almost universally the deference in Christian teaching is toward the suffering. We say to the suffering “you had all the faith in the world but it wouldn’t make any difference because God for reasons of His own chose not to answer your prayer…” This is the contemptible thinking behind “God always answers prayer but sometimes He says no….”
This psalm is a psalm of the impregnable strength of God available to the believer. God is our very present help. He will help us and that right early. When we put our faith in Him we shall not be moved!
[Psa 47:1-10 KJV] 1 [[To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.]] O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. 2 For the LORD most high [is] terrible; [he is] a great King over all the earth. 3 He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet. 4 He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah. 5 God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. 7 For God [is] the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. 8 God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. 9 The princes of the people are gathered together, [even] the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth [belong] unto God: he is greatly exalted. 10
This psalm is a psalm expressing the dominion of God over all the earth. It is a psalm that encourages rejoicing in the triumph of God. Many times in our Christian walk we find ourselves clinging to our faith during seasons of seeming failure. There are psalms of lament through the book of psalms that are all about faithfulness and fidelity toward God in the midst of frustration, downturn and defeat. Although Christian teaching often suggests otherwise, defeat is not the default state for the believer. Living for God is not about thrashing about through this life in total misery in hopes of waking up in heaven.
In Mark 10 Jesus establishes a precedent of expectation for the believer. In speaking of the rewards of discipleship He uses the phrase “in this world and the world to come”:
[Mar 10:29-31 KJV] 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 31 But many [that are] first shall be last; and the last first.
As this psalm suggests – walking in dominion is now. Subduing the earth and conquering the enemy is not something for a distant eternity. Walking in victory and provision is now – and not later. Can you take now for an answer? As verse 3 suggests – God will subdue the people under us. When? In heaven? We won’t need victory in heaven because there will be no opposition. We need the people (those opposed to God’s purposes in our lives) subdued under our feet. What will we do with them when that happens? We will love them and send them on their way!
Verse 4 speaks of Jacob receiving the inheritance. I am glad that there is connection of Jacob with the inheritance and not just Israel. Jacob is who Israel was before He wrestled with the angel. It speaks of Jacob while he was still maturing and in need of character refinement. We tend to think when we reach Christian perfection there will be blessings then that are not available to us now. This is not true. The promise is God is to JACOB as well as to ISRAEL. The promise of God that we stand on takes into account our JACOB NATURE. God knows your failure, your folly and your foolishness – and He extends His promise to you anyway. He will not leave you there, He will bring you forward in maturity but He will not dangle His promise before you to torment you with a promise that is not your until you achieve some ineffable level of spirituality that really doesn’t even exist.
The psalm concludes with the statement that all the shields of the earth belong to God. We may be counted as sheep for the slaughter and the world may disdain our faith and mock our God but never forget that they don’t have the last word. If the world could have wiped Christianity off the face of the earth it would have long ago. God is a shield around you. God is looking out for you. The threats and intimidation of the world and the circumstance you are in may seem dire but fear not for God is your shield!
[Psa 48:1-14 KJV] 1 [[A Song [and] Psalm for the sons of Korah.]] Great [is] the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, [in] the mountain of his holiness. 2 Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, [is] mount Zion, [on] the sides of the north, the city of the great King. 3 God is known in her palaces for a refuge. 4 For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. 5 They saw [it, and] so they marvelled; they were troubled, [and] hasted away. 6 Fear took hold upon them there, [and] pain, as of a woman in travail. 7 Thou breakest the ships of Tarshish with an east wind. 8 As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever. Selah. 9 We have thought of thy lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple. 10 According to thy name, O God, so [is] thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of righteousness. 11 Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments. 12 Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. 13 Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell [it] to the generation following. 14 For this God [is] our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide [even] unto death.
Psalm 48 is a psalm of the city of God. For the believer the city of God is more than the city of Jerusalem in the middle east. Jesus taught that the city of God is not to be restricted in our understanding as a coordinate on a GPS grid called Jerusalem. In Matt. 5:14 He declares that we are the city set on a hill that cannot be hid. In Heb. 11:10 we find that Abraham spent his whole life looking for a city whose builder and maker was God. Now this isn’t Jerusalem because Abraham knew about Jerusalem and in fact paid tithes to the king that ruled there. When we read about the city of God we do not conclude this is natural Jerusalem and that is the end of the matter. The writer of Hebrews identifies the city of God as the church of the living God:
[Heb 12:22-23 KJV] 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
Whatever part that natural Jerusalem plays in the plan of God it does not pre-empt the understanding that you and I are a part of a heavenly city as members of the church. This is why we can never wholly reject being connected with other believers. In this day and age the cohesiveness of the church is badly frayed. Many believers who love God dearly have very tenuous relationships with the institutional church. Many churches are filled with 100’s of people who have very marginal levels of actually fellowship and relationship with one another. They mainly go to church, look at the back of someone’s head for an hour or so and that’s about it. The church that is the city that Jesus spoke of and the writer of Hebrews speaks of is far more than that.
The city of God as with any strong city is a vibrant, relational community filled with activity, commerce and community. It is a place to live. It is a home place where people actually want to live out their lives. Webster defines a city as a place where people not only live but also work. I wonder how many commuter Christians we have today? They live in church culture they don’t work in church culture. Their church is a bedroom community where very little is done and all their investments are elsewhere. This is not the city of God that the New Testament speaks of. We are the city of God. A place of rejoicing and activity and refreshing that as the natural Jerusalem God puts His blessing there.
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