A Friend Indeed

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A Friend Indeed

Text: Psalm 46:1-11

INTRODUCTION: From childhood, I’ve heard the old saying, "A friend in need is a friend in deed." Friendship is one of the greatest blessings of this life. Today I want to talk to you about the greatest friend anyone could ever have. He is a "friend in deed" not because He is in need but because we are. Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live penned these words, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). Of course Solomon was speaking of God. He is the greatest friend. Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus said to His disciples, "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends" (John 15:15). The Bible says that Abraham was called "the friend of God" (James 2:23). The Bible says of Moses, "So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11). We must conclude that not only is God the greatest friend anyone could have but that He wants to be our friend too.

        If there was ever a time we needed God’s friendship, it is now. We live in a catastrophic time. When those hijacked jetliners crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, our lives changed forever. The worst part is that we do not know what will happen next. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Will the terrorists strike again? Will we end up fighting all the Arab nations? Will our economy rebound or will it plunge even lower? A recent America Online poll showed that 50% of those surveyed said they didn’t feel safe in the United States anymore.

        Aside from our national crisis, many are working through personal crisis. Some of you are in the midst of marital difficulties; some may be considering divorce. Others are facing severe problems with your children. Still others are wondering how they will ever get out of their financial mess. All of us have dilemmas we must face, whether they are at home, at work or at church.

        Interestingly, Psalm 46 was written at a time of national crisis in Israel. Martin Luther, the great reformer wrote the hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God based upon his study of this psalm. Listen to this stanza: And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.

        As you look at your Bible, you may notice that the psalm is somewhat divided into three parts. Verses 1-3 are about God’s presence as our "refuge and strength." At the end of verse three is the Hebrew word "Selah," which means "pause, consider, meditate, reflect." Verses 4-7 tell us about God’s peace, which is like a "river" that "shall make glad the city of God." God’s peace brings us refreshment in days of trouble. Again we see "Selah" at the end of 7 and in 11. Verses 8-11 are about God’s power, that we can trust Him to bring us through anything.

I.          God’s Presence is our Refuge (vv.1-3).

A.        "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble." (v.1)

1.      The Hebrew word for "trouble" refers to a tight place. We speak of being in trouble as being "between a rock and a hard place."

2.      That is exactly the idea represented in the word. It means when the world is pressing in on you, when circumstances are strangling you, when you feel helpless and alone.

B.       When we are "in trouble" we are to remember then two truths about God.

1.      First, He is "our refuge and strength."

a)      "Refuge" carries the idea of shelter. Have you ever been caught outside in a storm? What do you want? Shelter! (Hail storm in Tyler)

b)      In a much greater sense, when the storms of life descend, God is our "refuge." He shelters us from "trouble."

c)      Psalm 61:4 says, "I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings." It doesn’t mean God has big wings. It does mean that God is our "shelter" our "refuge: to strengthen us when "trouble" comes.

2.      Second God is "a very present help" when we are in the midst of troubling times.

a)      "Present help" literally translates "speedy aide."

b)      God is always present and quick to come to our aide when things get rough.

C.       God is not only a "refuge" and a "very present help." The Bible also says that He is our "shield."

1.      Psalm 3:3 says, "But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head." God sometimes shields His people from trouble and sometimes He delivers His people from trouble.

2.      Sometimes He sends our troubles away before we even know them. He refuses to let troubles enter our life.

3.      It would stagger us to know how much trouble God has shielded and protected us from! On the other hand, sometimes God will allow us to face struggles, trials and tight places so He can teach us to rely on Him for deliverance, so we can learn that He indeed is our only "refuge."

Someone said it this way, "Sometimes God calms the storm for His people, other times He calms His people in the storm."

4.      In verses 2-3 we see that because God’s continual presence is our refuge, "Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling."

a)      "The earth" and "the mountains" are symbols of stability. What is more stable than the "earth" below our feet?

b)      We always take it for granted. What is more solid than "mountains?" We don’t ever expect the "earth" to move. It is solid and permanent.

c)      We can’t in our wildest imagination dream of the Great Rocky Mountains crumbling to dust and rolling down to the Pacific Ocean! Yet, we’ve seen many things in our lives that seemed so stable become suddenly unstable.

d)      We saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center, symbols of our economic prosperity crash before our eyes in real time. We saw the symbol of our military might, the Pentagon in ruins and aflame. Two years ago who could have dreamed this would happen?

e)      We have seen our personal stability shattered too. Sickness, Finance, Homes.

f)       What do we do when our stability is shattered? The common response is panic, crimson red fear! The biblical response is found at the beginning of verse 2. Because God is our "refuge," because He is our ever "present help," "therefore we will not fear."

g)      In Mark 6:45-52. we find the account of Jesus sending the disciples out in the midst of a storm on the Sea of Galilee while He goes to the mountain to be alone with His Father. Of course, in a small boat in the middle of a great storm, the disciples are panicking. Jesus comes to them, walking on the waves. At first, they fear even more because they think He is a ghost. He comforts them by saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." He goes up into the boat with them and then calms the storm. Verse 51 concludes by saying, "They were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure and marveled."

D.       How is Jesus our friend in times of trouble? Let me show you three ways from this story.

1.      First, He intercedes for us. In verse 46, while the disciples were in the storm, Jesus was on the mountain praying. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." Hebrews 7:25 says, "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."

2.      Second, He sees us. Verse 48 says, "He saw them straining at rowing." The Lord is not blind to our struggles. If He keeps up with the number of hairs on our heads, He is aware of the burdens of our hearts. He knows what we are going through.

3.      Third, He comes to us. Verse 48 says, "He came to them…" Verse 51 says He went "to them." When we struggle, He comes right along beside us. Hebrews 13:5 says, "For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’"

God is our "refuge." He alone is stable, immutable, unchanging and unmoving. God will be with His people. He is our "refuge." He is the friend that "sticks closer than a brother."

II.       God’s Peace is our Refreshment (vv.4-7).

A.        God is our ever present helpful friend and gives us refuge from the troubles of life. What’s more, even in the midst of trouble, verse 4 says God sends "a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High."

1.      "River" in this verse does not call to mind a raging torrent of floodwaters but a calm, serene scene. This river is symbolic of God’s peace that can flow through our lives.

2.      The "river" is also significant in biblical history. The "sons of Korah" wrote this psalm to commemorate when the Assyrians under King Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem. Jerusalem, under King Hezekiah, was besieged by the foreign invaders. The fields were burned and the city was surrounded.

3.      However, Jerusalem had one great advantage. Though there were no natural sources of water within the walls of the city, nearby was the Gehon or Virgin’s Springs. A conduit from the springs was cut into bedrock for 1700 feet so that it would empty into the pool of Siloam near the temple. Hezekiah ordered the springs and the conduit concealed so that unbeknownst to the enemy, there was a continual supply of fresh spring water within the city walls. There was indeed "a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God."

4.      Without that life-giving water, the people would have perished not by the attack of the enemy on the outside but by the lack of refreshment on the inside.

5.      When we are besieged and troubled by our enemy, we need a life-giving stream of refreshment. We need the gentle waters of God’s peace over our lives. Paul wrote to the Philippian church, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:6-7). In other words, pray, give your problem to God and He will flood your soul with His refreshing, life-sustaining peace.

B.       People are thirsty today. They try to quench their thirst with money and possessions, with power and comfort. So many people drink from the well of our culture but are never satisfied.

1.      When Jesus met a woman at the well of Sychar in John 4, He said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’

2.      In John 7, we learn that during the Feast of Tabernacles, the priests would go down to the pool of Siloam, the very pool fed by the conduit I mentioned earlier and their they would carry pots of water to the temple courtyard and pour out the water on the pavement to commemorate how God had brought water out of the rock in the desert. John 7:37-38 says, "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’"

3.      The question is what water are we drinking? Are we drinking deep of the water of life, the water that brings peace to hearts even in times of trouble or are we drinking of the water of culture that leaves us thirsty still? The Lord spoke through His prophet Jeremiah and said, "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns; broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jer.2:13).

C.       Let’s go back now to Psalm 46. Why was the city "glad?" Because it was "the city of God."

1.      Stated simply it was "God’s town." God selected Israel to be His chosen nation. God selected and built up Jerusalem to be His city the home of "the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High."

2.      Jerusalem could rejoice and find peace in the midst of war because "God is in the midst of her and she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn." Even though "the nations raged" and "the kingdoms were moved," when "God uttered His voice, the earth melted." Israel could rejoice in the midst of trouble because of verse 7. "The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge."

3.      God no longer puts His presence in a tabernacle. He now dwells within people. Ephesians 1:13 says, "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." The person who has been born again according to the gospel message is himself now a temple of the Holy Spirit because God dwells in him! 1 Corinthians 3:16 asks, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"

If you have been saved, if you are a believer, you have no need to fear. Nations rise and fall. Problems come and problems go, but the Lord is with you! In His climatic hymn of praise, the Apostle Paul asked in Romans 8:31, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" There is no greater friend!

III.    God’s Power is our Reliance (vv.8-9).

A.        Verses 1-3 tell us about God’s Presence. Verses 4-7 tell us about God’s Peace. Both end with "Selah," pause, meditate. Now we enter the third section of the psalm. Verses 8-9 says, "Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire."

1.      There is coming a day when acts of terrorism will be no more. Wars will cease. Weapons of mass destruction will themselves be destroyed. In His omnipotent strength, in His mighty power, God will bring human history to a grand conclusion.  

2.      Because God is all-powerful, because God sovereignly controls everything, we do not have to fear. The believer does not even fear death because in death we find our greatest reward, heaven. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

B.       I want to take you back to the scene at the arrest of Jesus.

1.      Jesus had led the disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed and prepared Himself to die for our sins. When the mob comes to arrest Him He asked them who they were seeking. They said, "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus calmly but majestically said, "I am He." John 18:6 says, "Now when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground." Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. Peter drew his sword and missed a man’s head but cut off his ear. Jesus healed the wound. The disciples fled in a panicked fear. The mob assaulted Jesus. Yet, throughout the entire incident and the dark hours that followed, He never gets rattled. He never panics. He stands in calm majesty. Why? Because He is confident in His Father's presence, power and plan.

2.      We can have that same majestic calmness when we rely on God too. Notice the first phrase in verse 7. It is identical with verse 11. Both say, "The Lord of hosts is with us." Who are the "hosts?" The "hosts" are angels. The Bible indicates that one third of the angels of heaven were cast out after the rebellion. They are now the demonic hordes of hell. Do the math and don’t fear demons. For every demon there are two angels! The God who commands "an innumerable company of angels" (Heb.12:22) is with us! 1 John 4:4 says, "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."  

IV.    God’s Plan requires our Response (vv.10-11).

A.        You might be thinking, "Great! I understand all that.

1.      I know that God is the best friend anyone could have.

2.      I know that we have God’s presence, God’s peace and God’s power but what are we supposed to do?

3.      How are we supposed to respond when the world comes crashing down on us?" Look to verses 10-11. "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The god of Jacob is our refuge."

4.      The point is, we don’t have to do anything. We must simply "be still" and "know." Verse 8 tells us to "come" and "behold" or see God’s works. Verse 10 tells us to "be still and know" that our God is ruler of everything.

B.       God’s plan today is the same as when this psalm was first written.

1.      Today He calls us to come and see. He wants us to see His Son, suspended on a cross, bearing the sin of all humanity.

2.      He wants us to see the great love that caused Him to "lay down His life for His friends."

3.      He wants us to come and see the empty tomb, to understand that Jesus won victory over death, hell and the grave. He wants us to come and see the forgiveness, the grace, the peace, the joy, the strength and the heaven that can be ours through faith in His Son.

C.       He also calls us to be still and know. He wants us to know that we are sinners.

1.      That we are separated from Him and that unless something changes we are all on the road to hell.

2.      He wants us to be still and know that His Son died on the cross to pay the price of our sins that we could never pay.

3.      He wants us to be still and know that if we will repent of those sins and believe on His son we can have eternal life, eternal salvation, that His presence, His peace and His power can reign in our lives no matter how hard the storms blow.

CONCLUSION: There has been a lot of talk about our nation returning back to God. In conclusion, let me read you the words of an American President.

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."

Surprisingly, these are not the words of George W. Bush, but Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863 when our country was in the midst of the Civil War. This speech was a precursor to His call for a national day of thanksgiving.

The psalmist’s words, "Be still" have the connotation of "lying down arms." We are to surrender. God is calling you to surrender to Him today so that you can have His eternal friendship. You are the friend in need. He is the friend indeed.

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