Dear radio friends,
“Fear not, little flock. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
With these words of blessed encouragement from Jesus Christ, we begin the year of our Lord 2001. The future is unknown to us. We cannot see beyond the moment of the present. What will be for us in this year? We do not know. But this we know: our God has pledged to supply our need and will guide us faithfully, fulfilling all of His good pleasure in us and hastening us to the day of glory.
There is work to be done in the year 2001. The very fact that we come to a new year shows us that the counsel of God for time is not yet complete. God does not bring us to another year for the sake of the world, but for His church. For all things, we read in I Corinthians 3, are for your sakes. Your sake, the sake of the church. The real world is not what the experts say it is on television or in newspaper. The real world is what God interprets it to be. And God says that all things transpire in time for the good of His church and to lead to the end that He has decreed, the glory of His church in Jesus Christ.
So we are given work to do in His kingdom this year. That work is in your home and marriage, to rear your children and to live godly. That work is in the church of Jesus Christ, to proclaim the truth of the Word of God, the sovereignty, the almighty power of God’s grace and glory. That work is in Christian schools or home schools or wherever that may be, wherever your work takes you. It is in your Christian life. And there will be opposition to that work.
We come to a verse of Scripture today (Psalm 46:4, 5) which pictures to us that the people of God will be opposed. The text will picture the people of God as a besieged city. Foes are circled round about this city to remove her from her foundation and tear her down. But we will be assured that God, who is in the midst of His church, shall be her helper.
Our text today is Psalm 46:4, 5: “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.”
Last Sunday, as we stood at the close of the year 2000, we looked into the first three verses of this beautiful psalm. We saw that it was a psalm of holy confidence. We confessed that God is, that God is our refuge and strength. And we deduced from that that therefore we will not fear, even if the most unsettling things would occur. Even if the mountains be cast into the midst of the sea and the earth shake under our feet, we will not be overcome with terror. For in all of this God is, and He remains, our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.
Now, in the next verses (4 and 5), God is pictured as our provider, as the One who makes provision for His church and people in the face of every and all opposition. You must not fail to note in your heart the contrast. I trust that you have your Bible open. Read verse 3 of the psalm. There you have mountain trembling, sea roaring, earth shaking, man in terror. Then in verses 4 and 5 comes a calm and peaceful word: There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. That is, right in the presence of all the upheaval, all the panic, all the uncertainty, all the turmoil of the world and in our own lives – in the midst of it all, there is this wonderful provision: God’s city is forever blessed. Since God is there, she stands unmoved.
I would like to talk then today about God’s provision for His church.
What is the precise focus of Psalm 46:4, 5? The focus is upon the church in her need. Whereas in verses 1-3 the people of God confess their confidence in God in the face of all natural calamity, the more precise focus of verses 4 and 5 is the church in the midst of her need. The concern is not simply God’s people generally upon the earth. But we have now these ideas: city of God, tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her.She shall not be moved.
What is the “city of God, the tabernacles of the most High”? That is God’s church. There is no question but that the imagery is from the Old Testament and that the psalmist is referring to the city of Jerusalem. That was the city of God. And there stood the tabernacle of the most High which was on Mount Zion in the city of David.
If you are acquainted with biblical history, you know that it was David who conquered the city of Jerusalem and made it his own. It was a very protected area, from a military standpoint. It was built upon lofty hills. It was there that God revealed that He would have the tabernacle pitched, the tent that Moses made for worship. And, later on, God revealed that there the temple which Solomon would build was to be erected – upon Mount Zion. Jerusalem was the religious center of Israel. In that sense God was pleased to dwell there, to take up His rest with His people and from that place dispense His blessings.
But the psalmist does not limit himself to the historical moment of the church then. He is speaking of the church of Jesus Christ in the midst of the world. She shall not be moved, we read. Well, Jerusalem was moved – the city of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple. Not only was it removed, it was destroyed. It was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. It was thrown down. It was pillaged. And it was razed to the dust later on by Rome. But it is said in the psalm that the city of God shall not be moved, she shall never be moved from her position of security.
Still more, the Scriptures plainly teach that there is one church of God in both Old and New Testament and that David’s city, Jerusalem, represented or pictured the church of Jesus Christ. Open your Bible to Hebrews 12:22, 23. There we read, “But ye,” that is, New Testament Christians, “are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn.” There all that was represented in Mount Zion, the city of the living God, all that was represented even in the heavenly Jerusalem, all of that is equated and compared to and made synonymous with the church of the firstborn of Jesus Christ. The city of God is the church. There is one people of God. There is one work of God throughout the ages. That one work of God is in Jesus Christ, His Son. And it centers in the church, the gathering of the elect of God through the blood of Christ into one body.
We have here a very beautiful description of the church. She is the city of God, the tabernacle of the most High. God is in the midst of her. The church, then, is all of God. Do you note that? God rules, God owns, God protects, and God lives in the church. God is the author of the church by a sovereign, eternal grace. He determines who will be the members from eternity. He is the creator of the church by saving power. He is the ruler of the church by His Word and Spirit. He is the preserver of the church by His constant faithfulness.
Still more. It is the tabernacle of the most High: it is the place where God lives. That is His church.
Do you ever think about that? Do you ever think about what the church is? Do you know? I am not asking you if you know where your church building is. I am asking you if you know what the church is, the church of the living God. That place that God desires above all others. That place where He has placed His honor. That church as it represents the focus of all of God’s eternal thoughts and purposes.
The focus, as we said, is the church of Christ on earth in her need as a besieged city. The focus is not the church triumphant, that is, the church already taken up into God’s presence in heaven. But it is the church militant, as she fights the battle of faith. If you look ahead in the psalm at verse 6, you will see that the nations raged and the kingdoms are moved. So the church is pictured as being surrounded by her enemies.
Now take that to heart. That, too, is the Bible from the beginning to the end. That is always the case. Jesus said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against My church, but they surely will try.” So, repeatedly, the Scriptures teach us that the forces of sin and evil are constantly arrayed in fiery opposition to the true church of Jesus Christ on earth. Always the attempt is to get the church of Christ to join the world, to destroy her testimony of the grace of God, to make her into a harlot – a spiritual harlot. For the church then, and for all who shall live godly in this year, this world is a spiritual battleground. Before you will come seductions, spiritual seductions, the forces of world conformity and apostasy. Departing from the truth of God’s Word will be thrown against you. The devil wants you out of the church – at least out of a true one. And he wants the church destroyed. God forbid that you in this year be found outside the gates of Zion.
Now the question is: What will come of the church in this coming year? The answer is: God has made provision. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. As the psalmist contemplates the position of the church surrounded by the world, facing venomous opposition, notice that his faith is centered upon God. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God shall help her! The focus is upon what God shall do for us.
We live in a day when men are enamored, are enthralled, by man and by what man is going to do for them. We live in a day in which life is viewed in terms of what life is doing to me. Look at what this is doing to me.
And you and I, as people of God, are no different. We can shake like the leaves in the wind. But God now says to us, “Listen. The enemy is there. Look to Me.” Emphasize God. God is in the midst of His church. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. Oh, that is beautiful. If you lived in the biblical days, you would understand the importance of a river to a city. A city was protected by walls and barred by gates, all right. But it needed a fresh supply of water in case of a siege. The very first thing that an enemy would do would be to cut off the water supply, to dam up or poison the water flowing into the city and then sit back and wait. But this verse of Scripture says that for the church of God in the world, there is a river. God is saying that He will continually refresh His church, no matter what happens. Look, that river breaks down into smaller streams conveying water to every part of the city. The streams, we read, shall make glad the city of God. The water diverges. It is directed to every member and every individual in the church of Jesus Christ.
What is this river? It is very plain. It is the river of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. We read in Revelation 22:1, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” It is a river of eternal life found in the Lamb of God. It is the river of God’s powerful, life-giving grace. It is the water that comes from God who has life in Himself. It is the water that flows from the throne of God. No one can cut this source away. The river is God’s grace in Jesus Christ. And that comes to us. It comes to us through the Scriptures, for sure. It comes to us through the ordinances given to the church – the preaching of the Word of God and the sacraments. It comes to us through the communion of the saints. Through these means the wonderful grace of God is dispersed. It is given to every member in the church.
That river shall make glad the city of God! Are you glad? What makes you glad? It is nothing you can buy. It is nothing that is manufactured in a store. It is nothing that you can go out and bring back home and pile up in your living room. All of that is sand and dust, and it will, if you put your hope in it, make you sad, eternally sad. What makes glad? God’s grace makes glad. That is something that the world cannot give. That is something that you cannot buy. But it is also something that cannot be taken away. It is something that does not grow old.
Child of God, there is a river, the river of God’s faithful grace given to us through His Word, through the preaching of the Word, through sacraments, through the fellowship of the saints, through prayer. God will provide in 2001 and in every day ahead for you, for His church, gladdening streams of grace.
But there is more. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. The city of God is indestructible because God is there. God is in the midst of her. By virtue of the cross of Jesus Christ, God says, I take up My residence in the church. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” In John 14 and 16 He says, “I will give you another Comforter, and He shall abide with you forever.”
She shall not be moved! Of course not. The church of Jesus Christ, though it be but a little band of believers gathered around the infallible Scriptures – God is in the midst of her. The Holy Spirit and the promised Savior is there. She will not totter; she will not fall away. Oh, her outward form may crumble. She may be banned. Her doors may be nailed shut by the world. But the church of God will endure. The Lord of Hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Do you remember when the Lord was with His disciples on the Sea of Galilee during a violent storm? The waters were foaming and swelling. These experienced sailors were rowing their hearts out and going nowhere. And they cried, “Lord, save us or we perish. Don’t you care that we perish?” Now, it was not so. They would not perish with the Son of God in that ship. With the Son of God in the midst of their ship they could smile at the storm. But yet, fear overcame them. They did not look by faith to Him. Then Jesus said, “Peace, be still.” And the wind and the waves obey Him. The disciples needed to remember and understand who it was that was with them. Do you know that? Do you know who is in the midst of the church? Do you? Do you know who stands faithfully with you in your life? Do you know that? Do you know why He is there? When you know the answer to those questions, by faith, then you have holy confidence and you shout out your Hallelujah! God is in the midst of His church; she shall not be moved. His Son has said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Oh, false believers may endure for a little while. Visible churches built upon the philosophies of men crumble away until they find a new fad to get people back. But the church of Jesus Christ that sounds forth the truth of the infallible Scriptures, the living Word of God; the gathering of believers and their children desiring a life of holiness and to be faithful to the truths of God – this church shall not pass away!
But there is a question that comes. Maybe you say, “I know all of that. I know that the Lord will preserve His people. But will it come in time?” God says, “God shall help her, and that right early.” Those words, “that right early,” mean at the dawning of the day. They are teaching us that God is not an idle observer of the throes of His people. But God shall come the very first thing. The word “help” is a very simple word. Yet it is so significant. When you are in trouble, it is amazing how that little word sums up everything, is it not? “Help!” A man is drowning. What does he do? Does he spell out a poetic yarn about the power of the water? Does he give you a dissertation scientifically on the biology of the lungs and their inability to absorb water? No. “Help!” That is what he says. “I am ready to perish. Help me.”
God shall help her. He shall help His church in her dire straits. Right early, at the dawning of the day.
So often in Scripture our troubles are likened to the night. In the midst of the night, when it is dark and sleep is gone and we simply do not know what to do or where to go, God says that, as certainly as morning follows night, so also He shall arise for our aid. He shall come to us. Psalm 30:5, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” At God’s appointed time, as God controls time, God comes just at the right moment. He comes to the aid of his church because He remembers.
Do not count the church off. No matter what happens in this coming year, do not write it off. Do not write that child of God off, either. God says that He shall arise by His might and put our enemies to flight. God will glorify His Son. That is what is going to happen in the year 2001. The way of godliness and truth will become narrow. But of this, be sure: God will be our help. God shall be sufficient. His church will be saved and preserved. Hear the Word of God: God will supply our every need out of the river of unfailing grace. Do you walk in a way of sin? Do you begin this year careless and complacent, harboring sin secretly in your soul? Do you compromise between the world and Christ? Repent! In the way of sin it is only horror and fear. What will you do when everything falls down around your head? The Scriptures say, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way.”
But, believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, lay hold of God’s promise. Whatever comes in the will of God this year, in the next hours, in this week, in life or death, sorrow or joy, ease or hardship, grief or pain, struggle or temptation or loneliness or despair, there is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God. God will faithfully preserve you and His church by His grace. And when everything rages around you, and fears threaten to choke your soul, be filled, then, with the holy confidence of faith. God is going to provide. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God shall help her, and that right early.
Let us pray.
Father, thanks for Thy holy Word. Write it upon our hearts. Amen.