God is Our Fortress 2017 | Psalm 46, Isaiah 36

/////God is Our Fortress 2017 | Psalm 46, Isaiah 36

God is Our Fortress 2017 | Psalm 46, Isaiah 36

Our God’s help is sure and near!  Often in the Bible, the Lord is spoken of as a shelter in the storm or a sanctuary for his people in the midst of their adversaries.  The Bible says that He is VERY PRESENT during our times of trouble.  Psalm 46:1 says,

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Main Idea: God is present and powerful in times of trouble.

God’s people in the Old Testament had experienced God’s presence in real tangible ways.  Before we move forward in the battles we face today, God’s Word encourages us to stop and behold the victories God has won for His people time and time again throughout their history.

This psalm is a call for us to remember that Our God is both near and powerful – especially in times of trouble.  To help you understand how much trouble God’s people found themselves in when the Psalm was (likely) written, let me use a modern illustration:

Terrorists in our town

What do you think people would do here in Cottonwood if there was just one terrorist loose here in our town?  What kind of pandemonium would break out if just one guy managed to set off a couple of car bombs downtown and the police couldn’t find him?  Here’s what I think would happen:

  • People would stay home from work and hide
  • Kids would not go to school
  • Shops would close

I think that just one rouge terrorist would be enough to have our entire city literally up in arms and seeking shelter in their homes.

Let’s now think about the situation in Biblical proportions

Now think about an army of 185,000 terrorists moving towards Cottonwood.  These soldiers are godless, savage, angry, hungry, armed to the teeth and are just a few miles outside town.  There are 185,000 trained, battle-hardened men in their army and there are only 25,000 of us.  It would be a hopeless situation.

If you are able to picture that scenario in your mind, then you can begin to understand what was going on in Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah.

Psalm 46 Connection

We cannot be 100% certain of the historical background of Psalm 46, but the conflict between King Hezekiah and the Assyrians is likely the backdrop for the psalm.  King Hezekiah was a poet and a few scholars think that he wrote Psalm 46.  Psalm 46 was either written as a direct response to the conflict mentioned in Isaiah 36-37 or Psalm 46 is PERFECTLY ILLUSTRATED by the conflict in Isaiah 36-37.

Either way, understanding how God worked in Israel during the time of King Hezekiah is very helpful in understanding how God helps us when we are faced with impossible circumstances.  So let me share with you the account of Israel’s conflict with the Assyrians starting in Isaiah 36. Turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 36.

Historical Context

  • This story happens during a time when Israel and Judah are separate kingdoms.  Israel is in the north.  Judah is in the south.  Jerusalem in located in Judah.  Both are nations of Jews, but politically, they are 2 separate kingdoms.  Both Kingdoms were beginning to turn away from God in order to worship idols.
  • Because of their idol worship, God had allowed much of Israel to be captured by the Assyrians.  When Hezekiah took over as King of Judah, he began making some changes.  He realized that when his father, Ahaz, was the King, the people had strayed away from God and their idol worship was the underlying cause of the military trouble among the Jewish people.
  • Hezekiah called Judah back to repentance.  1 Kings 18 tells us that Hezekiah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” and destroyed the shrines and temples erected to false gods and led the Jewish people to worship the one true God once again.
  • Because of Hezekiah’s spiritual leadership, Judah enjoyed fourteen years of relative peace.  Then Assyria showed up and wanted to expand their borders to include Jerusalem.  That brief background brings us to Isaiah 36

Isaiah 36

36 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And the king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army.

Rabshakeh is a title referring to the chief officer in the army.  Skip down to verse 4.

And the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this trust of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me?

The Assyrians had a formidable Army.   They had modern weaponry like swords, spears, shields and (the ultimate weapon of their day) chariots.  They were known for their savagery and brutality.  They leveraged effective scare tactics against any people group who tried to oppose them.

In the past, Judah may have paid some kind of bribe to Assyria to keep the peace, but now Hezekiah was apparently no longer making these payments.  Their refusal to pay a tribute may have been the reason the Assyrians were accusing Judah of rebelling.

The Rabshakeh in the next few verses began to probe to see if Judah had the backing of Egypt or if they were planning to rely on the power of the gods (whose temples had been destroyed by Hezekiah).  At last, he turns to the people of Judah in order to demoralize them directly.  In verse 12, He predicts that their defeat will be so humiliating that the men of Judah will “eat their own dung and drink their own urine.”

Skip down to verse 13, the Rabshakeh begins speaking loudly in Hebrew so that they can all hear and understand his violent threats.  Here’s what he says in verse 13:

13 Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah (He’s speaking in Hebrew): “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria! 14 Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you. 15 Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, “The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” (The Rabshakeh is openly questioning Hezekiah’s leadership and the power of Judah’s God)

16 Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, 17 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards.

Like a modern-day warlord, the King of Assyria promised the Judeans protection if they submitted to his demands.  Then the Rabshakeh tried to convince God’s people that resistance was futile.  The Assyrian army was too strong to fight.

18 Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? 20 Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”

The Rabshakeh was saying to all his people who had gathered that day that the God of Judah was impotent.  And he was saying that the God of the Bible was by no means more powerful than the armies of Assyria.

In the natural, the Assyrians were unbeatable.  This was a dire and hopeless situation with no easy way out.

  • Have you been in a situation like that before?
  • Have you been faced with circumstances that seemed to be bigger than God Himself?

As God’s people, we have this assurance: when we are faced with trouble, our God’s help is sure and near!  God is present and powerful in times of trouble!  This morning we’ll look at three aspects of God’s interaction with His people during trouble:  He is their defender, He is their strength and He will be exalted.

God is the defender of His people and the defender of His glory – Psalm 46:1-3, Isaiah 41:10, 37:15-20

Turn with me to Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Have you ever faced a situation where everything seemed to be falling apart?  There are times in life when everything that used to be stable begins to become unstable.

When the Assyrians showed up, the Judeans had every reason to be trembling like frightened children.  In these verses, the psalmist describes earth-shattering natural disasters.  The most stable thing he could think of – the mountains – were about to fall into the sea.

The Assyrian threats were so severe that it was enough to even cause the mountains to tremble in fear.  All that was stable and foundational in their lives was in chaos and in danger of giving way and crumbling apart if God didn’t show up.

  • Judah could not boast in fortresses and armies.  The Assyrian army was far superior.
  • They could not put their trust in kings or weapons or technology.  The weapons of the enemy were far better.

But… instead of fear, they were able to turn to God in faith because Judah had a God who is a “refuge and strength,” and  “a very present help in trouble.”  They had a God who is present and powerful in times of trouble!  Isaiah 41:10 says,

“fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

While the Assyrians placed their confidence in their large army, Judah placed their confidence in an infinitely powerful God.  When the Lord stands with His people, His power is far greater than the most powerful weapons of this world!

God’s power is totally sufficient.  God is both refuge and strength for those who follow him, worship Him and obey His commands.  God is strong for His people when they are assaulted.  He can prevent the attacks, but there are times and circumstances when he allows a nation, a ministry or an individual to be tempted, tried or attacked.

  • A nation can be attacked by a superior enemy with overwhelming power.
  • A ministry can be attacked by division, immorality and disunity.
  • A body can be attacked by illness, stress, worry, or sorrow.

There are times when God permits the attacks to come, but our text says that in the midst of those attacks our God is present with power.  He alone can preserve His people in the midst of those storms.

He’s in the battle with us.  He’s not just around, but He is “a very present help in trouble.”  The Hebrew word for trouble means to be in “distress” or to be in dire “straits.”  Have you ever felt like your back was up against the wall?  We can know with certainty that we will face trouble.  We also have certainty that when trouble comes our way, God is powerfully present.  Maybe today you are facing an uncertain situation and you need this truth:

  • The earth may change.
  • The mountains may be thrown violently into the sea.
  • There may be earthquakes and tidal waves.
  • Life is uncertain, but God is our certainty in uncertain times!
  • The safest place in this fallen world is in our God!

God is with us and powerfully protects His people, His church and His world against the schemes of men, against the gates of hell and against the hatred of the devil himself.  There is safety in the person of God, in the presence of God and in the divine purposes of our all-powerful, ever-present, never-tiring, all-loving King!

Knowing that God alone holds the power to deliver Judah, Hezekiah goes up to the temple, humbles himself and prays.  Look at Isaiah 37:15

15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.

18 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

God is our source of strength during difficult times – Psalm 46:4-7, Isaiah 37:23, 36, 42:8

There is no assurance of safety in this present world, but there is safety in the power of God!  God’s power to totally sufficient.  Turn back to Psalm 46 verse 4:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

Imagine the scene where God’s people are gathered together inside the city of Jerusalem while the enemy army is encamped all around them.  They need to decide who they are going to listen to.  Will they believe the powerful scare-tactics of the Assyrians or will they trust in the strength of their God?

Psalm 1 tells us to be careful about who we listen to when we are faced with trouble.  It tells us not to stand with those who stand against God but to root ourselves in God’s promises instead.  The man who is saturated in God’s Word and who delights himself in the Lord is like a tree fed by a river.  He is strong in the midst of the storm because his roots are deep and healthy and well-nourished.

God’s people were under siege.  They did not have the army or weapons they needed to prevail.  How were they going to survive?  Verse 5 says, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved…”

  • Without God, Judah’s army would have been defeated.
  • Jerusalem would have been overthrown.
  • God’s people would have been captured or killed.

But… when God is in the midst of the battle, no power in this world is strong enough to overwhelm His almighty hand.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Israel was often under attack by enemy nations.  God does not ever promise that He will deliver His people from conflict, but He does promise that no matter how severe the trial might be, He is near and able to protect His people.

When Judah was backed into a corner, Hezekiah cried out to God.  He asked the Lord to save them so that all the nations of the world might know that He is the one true God.  Hezekiah asked the Lord to preserve and protect His people for the sake of His glory.

The Lord responded by making it clear that the Assyrians have not picked a fight with Israel.  They just picked a fight with God Himself.  Look at Isaiah 37:23:

23 “‘Whom have you mocked and reviled?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
Against the Holy One of Israel!

God preserves his people by His divine presence but he also protects His people by divine intervention.  God is sure and near.  God will help.

In a demonstration of His far superior power, He sends out one angel.  Not an army of angels, but just one lone angel to stand against a huge army known for its savagery.  With this single heavenly host, God demonstrated once and for all who is in charge and who is most powerful and who is the true king and ruler of the Nations.  Look at Isaiah 37:36

36 And the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

God is present and powerful in times of trouble!  God always shows up and he always shows up right on time.  God will defend His people and defend His glory.  Isaiah 42:8 says,

“I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.”

God is jealous for His glory and He will be exalted in the Earth

God will be exalted in the Earth – Psalm 46:8-11

The believer can take comfort in the Lord’s determination to preserve his glory on the earth.

The third scene in the account of this conflict is on the fields surrounding Jerusalem. In these fields, the Assyrian soldiers lay on the ground dead.  There is no natural explanation.  There were no signs of a battle nor was there evidence of a natural disaster.  God sent one angel whose power was so devastating that every armed man in the great Assyrian army was struck dead in one night.

Who dares to taunt the power of a God like our God!?  The trouble we face might be great, but His power is infinitely greater!

Psalm 46: 8

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.

No one can fight like our God can fight!  The Lord had decisively defeated and disarmed one of the greatest armies in the world with a single creature.  The Assyrians were so totally destroyed that they were powerless before the hand of our almighty God.  No one fights like our God can because (in all due respect) our God doesn’t fight fair!  He has all the power and verse 9 says that He fights by destroying all the enemies’ weapons.

  • He breaks the bows so they can’t attack from afar.
  • He shatter’s their spear so they can’t attack up close
  • When they try to run away, he sets their chariots on fire.

You don’t want to tangle with a God like our God!.  Instead, you always want to be on our God’s side.  Hezekiah and his leaders had humbled themselves and prayed.   These men admitted to God that they were powerless without Him and they asked for His help.  When they cried out to God, He listened and responded for the glory of His name.  Verse 10 says,

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

“Be Still” literally means, “take your hands off!  Relax!”  It’s a call to surrender and to trust in God’s power.

  • To the unbeliever, God is calling them to stop trying to fight against him
  • To the believer, he is calling them to stop trying to fight for themselves.

God is present and powerful in times of trouble!  God is totally in control, He protects His people when they cry out to Him for the glory of His name.

It must have been overwhelming to stand in the midst of that fallen army.  It must have been eerily quiet.  185,000 men, fully armed, laying in the dirt dead.  In that stillness, there was no doubt who was God.  In the midst of the “undefeatable” Assyrian army laying on the ground ‘totally defeated’ without a single arrow having been shot, the words “be still and know that I am God” must have had weighty significance.

Certainly they were muttering under their breath these words:

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Application – Proverbs 18:10, Matthew 11:28-29

The captain of the angel’s armies is with us with the power to protect and preserve His people.  God will sometimes allow us to be up against a wall or backed into a corner.  When you can’t go forward or backward or left or right, then there is just one direction left to go:  You can only go up!

When you and I are forced to say, “if God does not come through for us, we are in serious trouble,” then God gets all the glory when the breakthroughs are made.

Sometimes our problem is that we don’t trust in the power of God to preserve and protect His people.  Instead, when troubles come, we take our eyes off God and gaze at an unbeatable army.

If you are a child of God, then take your gaze off the enemy forces and put it back upon the sure and near power of our God.  Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong towerthe righteous man runs into it and is safe.”  Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-29, “ 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

  • Are you faced with trouble in your life right now?
  • Are you faced with an enemy that seems to be overpowering and undefeatable?

In our God and in His Son, Jesus, we find rest from our heavy burdens.  God is present and powerful in times of trouble and God specializes in making breakthroughs in impossible situations!

He can do what no other power in the world can do!

 

 

God is Our Fortress 2017 | Psalm 46, Isaiah 36-37

Main Idea: God is present and powerful in times of trouble.

God is the defender of His people and the defender of His glory – Psalm 46:1-3, Isaiah 41:10, 37:15-20

God is our source of strength during difficult times – Psalm 46:4-7, Isaiah 37:23, 36, 42:8

God will be exalted in the Earth – Psalm 46:8-11

Application – Proverbs 18:10, Matthew 11:28-29

God specializes in making breakthroughs in impossible situations!

 

Mark Stafford

Senior Pastor

Canyon Bible Church of Verde Valley

mstafford@canyonbiblechurch.org

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