Ok, ok, the title is a bit of hyperbole. Psalm 46 is the battle anthem for one small and struggling reformed baptist church in Edinburgh that goes by the name Bellevue Baptist Church. Whether any other reformed baptist church either knows the tune or version of Psalm 46 that we sing or, indeed, cares is quite another matter. I doubt Piper knows it. He does, however, know Psalm 46.
Anyway, I thought I’d go through the Psalm 46 in the Bible and explain why it means so much to my church. For the full effect come, visit us and hear us belt it out in lusty tones. All ten of us.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”
Psalm 46 v 1 - 3
Like many Psalms number 46 gets off to a good start. Because God is our refuge we will not fear even if the earth gives way or the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Or if the money basically runs out, if the congregation barely reaches double figures, if no new people have settled for years, if our building is getting sold, if we can’t seem to find a new place, if the minister conks out during a sermon, if God seems to be withholding the blessings we long and pray for, even when this happens we do not fear.
Of course, we do, we give way to doubts and unbelief but we shouldn’t. For God is our refuge and strength. He is an ever present help; he’s not a sometimes present or rarely present or mostly present help but an ever present help.
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”
Psalm 46 v 4 - 5
The city of God is just an image of his church – the gathering of his people. I think what encourages me most about these verses is not just it’s application to my own church but it’s application to the Church – the worldwide collection of Christians. It’s a reminder, a good and humbling reminder, that Bellevue Baptist Church is just one tiny gathering among a host of people that no one can count. It is a reminder that though Bellevue should fall, though we may have to close down, though the worst should happen, it is not the end of the Kingdom of God. The Church, as a whole, will survive and flourish to the end of the age. The Church does not revolve around Bellevue Baptist Church much as if I don’t want it to.
“Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Psalm 46 v 6 - 7
And here we have an awesome image of God’s power. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms are tumbling down but God lifts his voice and the earth melts. God is in control, he is above and beyond all things. And this brings so much encouragement. Humanly speaking Bellevue Baptist Church is on its last legs. It’s closing would appear to only be a matter of time. And yet, and yet, ‘he lifts his voice, the earth melts’ God is in control of our path. That may include Bellevue closing but it could easily not for the Lord Almighty is with us. God is our fortress upon and with him we can outlast any attack.
“Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.”
Psalm 46 v 8 – 9
‘Come and see’ is the invitation to look at what God has done and boy, oh boy, the wonders he has done. I can look to my own life and tell of them, I can look to church history and find innumerable example and I can look to the Bible and find many more. And it’s interesting to ask: how will God make wars cease to the ends of the earth? By converting the nations, by filling the earth with his people, by extending his kingdom from one corner of the earth to the next. If this is the future why do get so discouraged? If this our God what cause have we to doubt?
““Be still, and know that I am God;”
Psalm 46 v 10
I have to say that this verse is haunting my thoughts at the moment. The challenge and command to give up on our own thoughts, to give up on the tumblings of our mind, the troubles we mull over and the problems we obsess over and to be still and just know that God is God. I feel especially with my church that there is nothing much more Bellevue can do than just to be still and know that God is God. To rest at ease in the knowledge of our Lord.
“I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46 v 10 cont…
What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and/by enjoy/ing him forever. All things work out for the glory of God, he will be exalted in the earth and it brings to our attention that we need to make God’s glory our primary aim in life. For it only in glorifying God that we can find lasting satisfaction and meaning. And it causes us to hope: our God will be exalted. Fact.
“The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Psalm 46 v 11
I hope and pray that it will always be said of Bellevue that God was our refuge and strength; that we feared not and had courage because we knew that the Lord Almighty was with us and he makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; that we went and saw what the Lord has done and that we were still and knew that God is God.
Since last I wrote about my church not much has changed in human terms. In fact, things have on one level got worse. I don’t know what the future holds for us: a long drawn out decline or a glorious revival of fortune. But I know that God is our refuge and strength. I know that he will be exalted through whatever he has planned to happen. And that is enough; that is everything.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”
Lamentations 3 v 21 – 26