Dear radio friends,
How often is the thought of God before our minds? How often, in our busy lives, do we take time out to contemplate God?
It is God who controls the affairs of this world. Nothing happens in the nations by chance. It is God who controls all of creation—the moving of the earth, the vast domain of outer space. It is God who controls our individual lives, to the smallest details, so that not a hair can fall from our head without the will of God.
Man is so small in the sight of God. All the nations together are as a drop on the edge of the bucket. Isaiah tells us in chapter 40 that if all men together were weighed in the balance they would be lighter than the dust. In comparison to God, man is less than dust.
Yet, how much time does man take to think about God? We can become so consumed in our lives and with our own trivial pursuits that the thought of God is far from us. All things—our lives, creation, the history of this world, even redemption in Jesus Christ—center in and revolve around God’s glory. Certainly, much more time must be spent by us beholding our God.
And that is the emphasis of the passage that we are going to consider today. Look with me at Psalm 46:8-11: “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. 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. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” “Be still and know that I am God…I will be exalted in the earth.”
We bow before these words of the almighty God who is an all-consuming fire. We humble ourselves before the thought of God, who holds the power of life and death in His hand. But God’s people also rejoice when they hear these words because they are uttered from the mouth of the God who saves them in Christ Jesus. Our God is the God of our salvation. He is powerful against our enemies. He saves His church. With fear and trembling, yet with joy and gladness, we contemplate our God today.
At the outset in these verses we are commanded to come before God. “Come, behold,” the psalmist writes in verse 8. That is what we are going to do today, too, radio listeners. We are not going to hold back for fear, or for whatever other reason we may not want to enter into God’s presence. We are going to come before the mighty God of heaven and earth to behold His works. And we will issue forth that call to everyone who will hear. “Come,” God commands us. We heed that command and come and behold. And when we behold, we do not simply look at those works of God in a disinterested and complacent manner, in a rather detached sort of way. We are going to enter into God’s presence and contemplate and analyze and meditate upon His works.
God, Jehovah, is calling for our attention. Is there anyone listening now who dares to ignore Him? Is there anyone who dares to disobey God’s command: “Come and behold My works, O man”? On bended knee in God’s presence we timidly look about.
Where are these works God wants us to contemplate? Wrong question. When we gaze about us, where are those things that are not the work of God’s hands? All things are creatures of His hands. Look at the world of nature—the universe, the earth, the oceans, the mountains—all the works of God’s hands. All things bright and beautiful; all creatures great and small—all the works of God’s hands. There is not one thing that exists except by the hand of God.
Look at our own selves, as the psalmist does in Psalm 139:14-16. There he writes: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” All creatures, including you and me, are the works of God’s hands.
God is great. That we are led to see. He is Creator. We are the creatures of His hands. What now? Do not stop your contemplation so quickly. This same God governs and guides all the creatures of His hand. Not a hair can fall from our head without His sovereign will. Not a bird can fall from the sky, Jesus Himself tells us in His sermon on the mount. Nothing happens in this world, or in our lives, by chance. We ascribe nothing at all to luck. God leads, God guides all creatures—even man himself—to the fulfillment of His own sovereign good-pleasure.
True, God stands infinitely above His creation as God. But that does not mean that God removes Himself from creation. He rules all creatures by His hand. Everything that takes place here God providentially guides and controls to the accomplishment of what He desires.
But there is something that we ought to focus our attention on even more. The particular works that God desires us to behold, first of all, are these: “behold…what desolations he has made in the earth.” What the psalmist wishes us to behold is the terrible power of God. Psalm 47:2, “For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.” That we, together with all men, might be sensitive to that fact: Our God is an all-consuming fire, arrayed in dignity and awful might. His majesty shines forth and His glory burns brightly. Oh that men would truly come and behold that God. Perhaps then they would serve Him as they ought, that is, acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.
God is terrible in His works. That means that His works excite extreme alarm and intense fear. Is this not true when we contemplate the desolations God has made on the earth? Desolations are great and horrible catastrophes in creation. When God unleashes His power in creation, men cringe and quail before Him. When we stand before the fury of the winds of a hurricane or of a tornado, as we have seen in this past season, man flees for refuge and fears for his life. When we see a wall of water sweeping through our towns or through our fields, we are filled with alarm and implore the mercy of that great God who controls these things. When God sends a tsunami or an earthquake, then He sends desolation in the earth.
Behold…what desolations God has made in the earth, the psalmist says in verse 8 of Psalm 46. These are His works. Do not deny it. Do not rob God of His power. God sends desolations. If there is anything that proves it in the Bible, the ten plagues upon Egypt are proof of that fact. Neither does man himself stand outside the realm of God’s sovereign rule over His creation. God directs not only this creation in the desolations He brings in it, but God directs the ragings of the wicked as well. When men go out to war, then it is God who brings the ravages of war as well. Isaiah 45:7, “I,” God says, “form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil [and that word “evil” there is “war”]: I the Lord do all these things.” When men go out to war, then it is God who controls the armies of men. He controls the decisions of kings and dictators and presidents and rulers. God does this.
The wise man, Solomon, who writes the Proverbs, said in Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” No doubt the men of Judah sang this song in Psalm 46lustily. Did they not know that it was Jehovah God who brought up the armies of Edom, Ammon, and Moab against them? And did not they believe that this same God could cause these armies to fall and war to cease? God sends the great destruction and death of war. War is terrible, and the desolations it brings are terrible.
But even as God sends war, God also sends peace. Nor may this side of God’s power be ignored by us as we behold our God. We read in verse 9: “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteththe spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.” The bow, the spear, the chariot were all weapons of war used in the days of Israel. All these God breaks and burns so that even the end of war is brought about by God. God sends war; but God also sends peace. Nothing stands outside the bounds of His sovereign rule. Come now, and behold these works of God!
Let us not look at them through the eyes of unbelief, as so many do. Unbelief manifests itself in so many different ways when they, unbelievers, behold God’s works. There are those who will refuse to come and behold. They dwell in darkness and refuse even to consider that all things take place by God’s hands. This world develops by chance, they say, and everything in it, by natural laws. There is no God in all of this. Others, who feign belief in God, are nevertheless just as lost in the darkness of unbelief. God does not sovereignly control all things, they would contend. Certainly the desolations we see in the earth do not come from God. And more, certainly the wars that are the result of the hatred of one nation against another are not controlled by God or sent by God. The bad things of this world could not be under God’s control because God is a God of love. He would not send these things.
Then who is in control of them? And who does send them? Satan? Oh, that wicked Satan. Only he would do such horrible things, men say. But under whose control is Satan? God does not have control of Satan, his every action? Do the things that Satan does stand outside God’s control? If they do, then Satan must be God too. He must also have power, power equal to that of God. He must be God too, and not a creature of God’s hand.
But Satan is an angel, a fallen angel. The angels, too, were created by God. Satan cannot be a second God, who stands alongside of our God and does what he wants to do apart from the will of his Creator. Our God is Creator, and Satan is but a creature under the Creator’s control. It must be that Satan does these horrible things only by God’s permission, then? But why then would not God keep Satan from doing them. If God is in control of Satan and does not approve of what Satan is doing, why would God not simply stop Satan?
The fact is: God sends such desolations in the earth. And He does it because God is God alone. He is in control of everything. Otherwise He is not God.
When we are called today to come before Jehovah God and behold His works, then we are called to look at these things through the eyes of faith. Come and believe. Believe that these things that take place in this world do not take place by chance. Believe God is in control. He rules over all creatures. Nothing escapes His will. Stand before God, all men, and believe. Worship this God with reverence and godly fear.
The conclusion we come to in this Psalm is: The God whom we serve is God alone. And if He is the refuge of those who believe on Him, then what reason have we to fear what happens to us in this life? This God is for us and not against us. And if He is for us, therefore, nothing in this whole world can be against us.
We believe in this God because He is the God of our salvation. He has delivered us from all the punishment of sin in the blood of Jesus Christ. He has made us into His very own children. We are members of His family. He loves us. He cares for us, as the psalmist said, as the apple of His eye. We have no need to fear for our safety or our welfare. Not even when God sends desolations in this earth. God, who controls all things, will care for us.
Do you come into the presence of that God and are you looking at Him? Then, do not just behold, but listen to what God tells us: “I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” God is speaking here. Do you hear Him? Are you listening as well as seeing? “I will be exalted in the earth, even among the heathen I will be exalted,” God says. To be exalted means to be raised to a higher level of honor and glory than all else. It is to be elevated above others; held in high esteem and honor; praised; revered; worshiped.
Well, we know that God is exalted among His people. We hold our God in highest esteem and praise and honor Him. But we believe in Him. How is it that God will be exalted in the whole earth? And how is it, especially, true among the heathen of this world? The heathen of this world hate God. They would never honor or worship Him. Everywhere he turns, the wicked unbeliever attempts to rob God of His glory and to serve anything and anyone but God. How, in light of all of this, will God be exalted in the earth? How will He be exalted among the heathen? It seems that He is put down by the heathen more than He is exalted. In fact, it seems that the cause of the kingdom of God is being defeated in the earth. Because the heathen, the wicked, hate God, they hate His church, too. They hate His cause. Wherever it is even slightly represented in this earth, the cause of Christ does not seem to be flourishing in this world. It languishes. How is it, then, that God will be exalted in the earth?
Well, let us not be deceived by outward appearances. God is in control, remember. God is directing the affairs of this earth. God even directs the wicked in its attacks on the church. And in that sense of the word, God already is exalted. God has placed upon His holy throne Jesus Christ. And Christ has accomplished God’s purpose in the salvation unto Himself a people. Through that death of Jesus Christ, and through His resulting resurrection and ascension, He has been exalted to God’s right hand. And Christ sits at that right hand of God and rules in the heavens on God’s behalf. It may appear as if the earth is filled with contempt for God and Christ. But we remember that the earth is the Lord’s. And Christ rules over all the earth. God is exalted in the very person of His Son who even now rules in the heavens. He sits upon His throne and though man, the psalmist says in Psalm 2, attempts to break his bands off him, attempts to escape from the rule of that God, and even actually thinks that he has done this, nevertheless, God reigns, and His Son reigns on His holy hill.
God sits in the heavens and laughs at unbelieving man because He is, right now, exalted in the earth. But God will be exalted, too. And not only does God say this in order to assure us of the truth that even now
He is exalted now, but this phrase of this passage has a future connotation to it too. There will come a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that God is God and that Jesus Christ, His anointed Son, is Lord. There will come a day when God will be exalted in all of the earth and among the heathen as well. Even the heathen will bow before this God and confess “He is Creator. He is sovereign Ruler over all.” That day will come in judgment, when Christ returns to usher in the new heavens and the new earth.
No, the wicked will not be included in that kingdom, but, nevertheless, the wicked, ungodly, unbelieving people of this world will be subdued. God will place His foot upon their neck, and they will be forced to confess that God is God.
Have we listened to God now? Did we hear what He has declared about Himself? Have we come, for a few moments today, and beheld who God is and what desolations He makes in the earth? Good. This is how we should respond: “Be still, and know that I am God.” What do we know? What is the knowledge of our faith? God is God. Do you believe that? Do you stand in awe before Him? Do you fear and tremble? Well, we should. We are either on His side or not. And if we are on His side, then we know this: We will never be moved. Because, you see, this God is the God of Jacob. And the God of Jacob, that is, His church, is our refuge. To Him we can flee for protection from our enemies. To Him we can flee when the troubles of our life overwhelm us. The Lord of hosts is with us. He is our shield and our defense. We serve a great, big, wonderful God, always victorious, always watching over us.
And now we know that God is God. Then be still—sh-h-h. Be quiet. Do not say anything. Stop your busyness, harness your wandering thoughts, drain your thoughts of anything but God and His power. Be still. Put your troubles aside. Come, behold. God is an awesome God!
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we stand before Thy Word that teaches us who Thou art. We stand in awe before Thee. And we give praise unto Thy great and glorious name. Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. And we thank Thee that we can contemplate also for a few moments in this day Thy power and Thy greatness. Teach us to be still and know that Thou art God. We pray this for Christ’s sake, Amen.