The Promise of Revival (2)
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
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.. Psalm 46.1-3
A world of trouble
We live in a troubled world. We will always live in a troubled world. The grip of sin, the deceitfulness of the lie, and the power of self-interest – together with a creation groaning and travailing under the effects of sin – ensure that life in this world will always be troubled in one way or another.
“And though this world with devil’s filled/should threaten to undo us…” So wrote Martin Luther in his rendering of Psalm 46, which we know as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” The fact that spiritual warfare rages around us day by day only adds to the troubles we experience in this world.
Dire warnings about the future of our planet seem only to have increased during this time of pandemic. Now the threat of economic collapse is added to that of climate change and the various other maladies that “threaten to undo us” in the days to come.
In the face of such dire prospects, it can seem futile to believe that God will revive His Church and awaken the troubled world to Jesus Christ in a great movement of His Spirit and power.
But He has done it before. And He is still sovereign, still in our midst, still with us, and still determined to be exalted in the earth, in the face of all the nations and their troubles.
God in our midst
Luther’s rendering of Psalm 46 expresses confidence in the reviving power and intentions of God’s Word:
That Word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him Who with us sideth.
Yes, God is still with us. He dwells in our midst by His Spirit, Who daily works with the Word of God to bring us into the Presence of Christ, show us the glory in His face, and transform us increasingly into His likeness (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Mountains can be falling into the sea all around us; armies can be destroying whole nations; but the Spirit of God will continue in us and with us, working to bring us forward by increments to our ultimate destination: To see Jesus face to face, and be like Him (1 Jn. 3.1-3).
What joy and freedom from fear such a prospect engenders in our soul! What hope and confidence it gives us for all our days! Everything else can go by the wayside, but we will not be moved from the sheltering grace of God or the destination He has marked out for us:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also!
The body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still:
His Kingdom is forever!
God stands ready to help His Church and to bring in a new day of revival, renewal, and awakening (v. 5). He can command the troubles of the world to stand down, so that righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit can flourish once again (v. 6). In a time of trouble, His Word to His people is clear: “Be still, and know that I am God” (v. 10). And His resolve has not changed from what it has always been: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (v. 10).
Like a never-failing river of life, the Spirit flows in and through and from the city of the living God (vv. 4, 5), bringing daily draughts of refreshing grace and truth to revive His people, renew their mission, and awaken the lost and troubled world to the Good News of Jesus and His peace. God will be exalted in all the earth, and no amount of trouble can prevent that from coming to pass (vv. 8-10).
Praying Psalm 46 for revival
As we pray for revival using Psalm 46, we must remember that even the troubles of the world do not occur outside the scope of God’s sovereign power. The world may be hunkering down and cowering under the gloom of pandemic, but God is not changed. Nor has His purpose changed. Nor has He left His people to fend for themselves.
So we can thank God for the troubles of the world, for we know that ultimately, as the old spiritual has it, “Soon I will be done with the troubles of the world.” And while we still exist in them, we can find daily refreshment in God’s Word and Spirit to embolden us to exalt the Lord, proclaim His peace, and call the people around us to give up their resistance and hear the powerful Word of the Lord in Jesus Christ.
We must give thanks for the troubles of the world. But we must also see God working above all our troubles to fulfill His eternal plan of exalting Himself; working in the midst of His people in every time of trouble to move us to faith and obedience; and working even in the troubled world to prepare people for the call to repent and believe the Good News.
Let Psalm 46 bring you near to the Lord, where you take refuge in Him and shelter against the troubles of the world. Sing it boldly, using Luther’s paraphrase, and make it your resolve to seek and proclaim His Kingdom. The troubled world will pass away – if not by its own troubles, then when the Lord sends the fire next time in judgment. But the Kingdom of God is forever; and we are that city of the Lord to whom and through whom and from whom God channels His river of grace and truth. Let us pray that, whatever the troubles we may face each day, we will stay in the channel of that mighty stream, and offer its many blessings and benefits to all the troubled world around us.
1. Why is knowing that God is sovereign over all things such a source of strength and comfort for believers?
2. What is God’s determination with respect to the nations of the earth? What should we expect that to look like?
3. What can we do to drink more deeply and continuously from the “river whose streams make glad the city of God”?
Next Steps – Preparation: Sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as part of your time praying Psalm 46. Then go forth and live each day in the truth of this glorious psalm.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.