Psalm 46

Sermon: THE GOD OF JACOB IS OUR REFUGE

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg



Psalm 46 (NIV)*

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. 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. Selah

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.

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. Selah

Come and see the works of the LORD, 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.

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

This Psalm portrays an absolute confidence in god even though the world becomes Chaos
- Kingdoms Fall
- even though the earth itself quakes and changes
- wars come and bring death to every door step
- life starts coming apart at the seams

"The LORD of hosts is with us, God of Jacob is our Refuge."
It's a well known Psalm, we have heard the words often. "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing." It's so familiar that we tend to loose sight of its basic claim - That the God of Jacob is our refuge..

That sounds like something that the nation of Israel would say, Jacob was their father, they were his progeny. However, if we really reflected for a minute on the life of Jacob, we would find, on the surface at least, that there was not much reason in his life to put our confidence in God. In fact, if we look at the life of Jacob - putting confidence in his God almost seems a contradiction in terms

You see Jacob started out OK. You would find, from reading Genesis 25 - 50 that he was the youngest of two brothers - strong youthful, intelligent, full of energy, smart, inventive in his ways of dealing with life.

And on top of that, he had the promised blessing of his God that he would inherit the promised blessing - he was the chosen one of God.

Rebekah knew from the Lord that Esau, the older would serve Jacob the younger. - Jacobs very life began with the promise of God's infinite riches that were due to come to him from the Lord through Abraham and Isaac.

There was a bit of a problem however, Esau was older, that meant he would normally inherit the promises and the blessings. But Jacob was ingenious - no problem like that would ever set him back and so he set out to make sure that the promises of the Lord would come to him.

Jacob, with his characteristic inventiveness coerced his brother into selling his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew.

And then some time later, Jacob's resourceful character came through again when he tricked his father into giving him the blessing of the eldest son. He put goat skin on his arm, wore Esau's clothing and made his Father a meal just like his brother - he disguised himself as Esau and the disguise worked, he stole the blessing away from his brother.

Things were going great - all of Jacob's efforts to make sure that he got all that God promised to give him were going fine.

He would do everything within his own power to get what God promised he would give him.

Except, in doing so, he ran into a real problem. His brother Esau became his enemy - and as the death of Isaac approached, so did Esau's plot to finish off Jacob once and for all.

So Jacob fled away from Esau to Paddan Aram to his Uncle Laban. Oh, he had a few problems, but he could still handle them - he was on his way to adventure - even though he did feel probably a little alone, without a friend in the world. But then his God came through as a friend and gave him a promise

"I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and you descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east north and south, and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you where you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you."

Up to that point, everything seemed to go OK - the LORD was obviously on his side, he had many reasons for great confidence in God - and now this God had promised to be with him always - no matter what happened!

And then all his problems started...

He got to his uncle Laban's house - and there he met Rachael and Leah - and how he fell in love with Rachael. So he made an agreement with his uncle Laban, that he should work for 7 years and then he would be able to marry Rachael.

For an energetic young men like Jacob 7 years of hard labor was OK, if in the end he got what his heart really desired, but Jacob got shafted - he got Leah instead - and Laban worked it out that he would have to work another seven years to get Rachael, the wife he loved.

The picture we get of Jacob through all these chapters is that he is a man full of energy and ingenuity - he was willing to work fourteen years to get the women he loved. Even though his boss, Laban changed his wages unpredictably at least ten times, Jacob still managed to manipulate the cattle in such a way as to increase his own herd.

Through careful planning and strategy, and a lot of hard slave labor - Jacob worked himself into an inheritance - or so he thought.

But his uncle found out and for fear of his life and his family, Jacob decided that he would have to flee.

But where could he flee? He couldn't go home. Esau was there. Jacob

was between a rock and a hard place. He was going to have to face his brothers anger, the brother that had consoled himself with the thoughts of killing Jacob.

But Jacob is still resourceful in himself - he chose to send gifts of many cattle ahead of him - and he instructed each one of his servants who delivered the gifts to be deeply humble - in the hopes of winning Esau's pity.

And it seemed to work, at least to Jacob, for when he finally met Esau, Esau greeted him in love.

If you looked at Jacob up to this point in his life everything is going quite well even though he had a few frustrations, they were not too much to handle for a resourceful young man. Even though he had some character faults, his God was still blessing him with prosperity.

But then, on the way to meeting Esau, something happened to Jacob. He stayed the night in the place which would later be called Peniel. There, he spent the night wrestling with a man who was in fact God. It was the wrestling of an ambitious, energetic, sometimes deceitful young man against a God who was all powerful. And in that midmorning contest, God decided to end the fight by touching Jacob's hip. This was not the touch that healed - as we usually expect the touch of God to be - this was a touch of God which destroyed and crippled.

From that one wrestling match in the early morning hours, Jacob was handicapped for the rest of his life. From that point on - things he used to be able to control through his strength and ingenuity, became things over which he had no control. Now he would have to face Esau and his 400 warriors but he had no strength from which to do it. Something in Jacob had started to break.

Jacob had to let go and for the first time, in a small way, he let his God be the God of Jacob. When he met Esau, Esau accepted him in love, something which all his ingenuity and plotting could not accomplish. Nothing but a divine force could work that change in Esau.

After his visit with Esau, Jacob settled in Schechem, but there his problems were just beginning. Because of his daughter Dinah, two of his own sons killed all the men in the town of Schechem. Because of their actions, Jacob would have to flee from that area on a painful hip.

With him, he took his 11 sons, his daughter, his two wives Rachael and Leah, and their maidservants.


Of all that he had, he loved his wife Rachael the most. And because of his love for her, he loved her son Joseph more that all his other children.

Rachael became pregnant again, but this time things did not go well. Out of his control, Rachael passed away on the road to Bethlehem as she gave birth to Jacob's 12th son Benjamin.

Jacob, the strong man, started noticing that the control he had over his life was slipping now through his fingers.

First Jacob lost Rachael, the wife he loved, and then he lost his father Isaac.

And in the next years, everything that he had attained for himself he lost.

First, Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers and they cover up their deed by convincing their father that he was eaten by a wild Animal. Jacob's favorite son was gone. His grief was so heavy that he felt he would mourn for him till the day he died.

Then a famine came to the land and because of the famine, he stared losing his grip on his possessions. First the barns went empty, then his cattle started to go hungry, eventually, even his family was starting to feel the pangs of hunger.

But there was food in Egypt, so he sent all his sons to go and buy some, except the only son that he loved deeply because he was Rachael's son, Benjamin. He would have to stay home with his Father. But to get more food from Egypt, an Egyptian authority insisted that the youngest son come also. So when the hunger pangs of the family became to severe, even

Benjamin went with his brothers to Egypt.

At that point, the intuitive, sometimes deceitful Jacob had nothing left for he knew that letting Benjamin go might mean Benjamin's death. First Jacob lost Rachael, then Joseph, now even Benjamin. It was as if everything and everyone he loved and had worked for all his life was being taken out of his hands.

Jacob himself cried out in Genesis 42:36 "Everything is against me!" If he would loose his last beloved son, he would loose his very own life and everything that he had ever strived for.

The man Jacob, when he looked at his own life analyzed it by saying that his days was few and evil (Genesis 47:9), even though in many ways he had been blessed, in the end his days were filled with pain, misery, death, lose of loved ones , lose of his possessions.

If there was a life that came apart at the seams, it was Jacobs!

If there was a life where the earth seemed to quake against a man, where every kingdom seemed against him, where every part of life seemed to oppose a child of God who had the promises of God's love, it was Jacob.

At first sight - not much of a God to take refuge in.

But in all those years of pain, sorrow and loss, something happened to Jacob. Something in him died. That old character that insisted on doing things his own way came kicking and screaming, to an end. That old nature that insisted on holding onto the promises of God, and accomplishing them himself died a slow painful death. When he finally let go of Benjamin, he let go of his last hope in himself.

He let go, and let God do what he promised.

He became still, he could do no other. He had come to the point of realizing who God really is, that God is the one who will keep his promises, that they are all his doing, and there is nothing that we can do to inherit his kingdom.

When he came to the position of stillness, stillness and simply accepting that promises of God for what they are, that was when he got word back that the official in Egypt was in fact his son Joseph, that his beloved son Joseph was alive and had been chosen by God to save the lives of his family and many other people.

When Jacob finally became still before God, and waited in quiet faith, the Lord brought to fulfillment his promises.

And so toward the end of his life, we hear Jacob make the same confession that the Psalmist made years later. He said "the Lord is my shepherd" (Genesis 48:15), even though his life had been hard. The Lord led him through these valleys so that he might learn what it means to have God as his refuge.

One of the last pictures we see in scripture concerning Jacob is in Hebrews chapter 11, where read "by faith' Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, while bowing in worship over his staff."

The picture we see is not a man determining his own future, it is a picture of a Grandfather knowing that God will fulfill his promises, all he had to be was be still.

People of God, when Jacob looked back at his life he saw pain - yes - lots of pain. But he also saw something beautiful, because in all his agony, he saw the Lord was fulfilling a promises his own way, and all Jacob had to do was be still, be quiet, be at rest, trusting; for the Lord would bring all of his promises to fulfillment.

That's why this Psalm boasts! Even though the earth change, though the mountains shake into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble "The God of Jacob is our refuge!" Even though the nations rage, kingdoms totter, the God of Jacob is our refuge!

He is the God who gives to his children a kingdom which is unshakable, because the God of all faithfulness is the one who keeps his promises, they are "Yes and Amen" in Christ. His Kingdom will come!

Therefore

10 "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah (NIV)

Jacob as he looked back at his painful life leaned on his staff and worshiped the Lord in stillness.

This year for you may have been a year of blessing, it may have been a year of sorrow. You may understand why certain things have happened, you may be confused. You may be asking "Why God, why did this have to happen to me?" So was Jacob. In the end though, he saw God, and he gave glory to God because in it all, God's hand was at work to show him that it is all God, and there is nothing in this entire universe which is able to separate us from his love.

Romans 8 (NIV):35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,

39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

*(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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