2020 made it very clear that we are not in charge, that life is short, and that the things that really matter in life are neither temporal nor material. For the self-centered secular materialist, 2020 represented a vivid wake-up call to reality. Even for believers, the events of this past year remind us that God is on His throne, and He does whatever He pleases. He will be exalted in the earth. His glorious purposes will be accomplished. It is our joy to be included in those purposes, as those whom He has redeemed by His grace.
I think we are all glad to see 2020 officially laid to rest in the history books. What a year it was, filled with unpredictable twists and turns.
As we embark on a new year in 2021, it is only natural to wonder what the next twelve months will hold. A new president is about to be inaugurated, along with a new Congress. Governmental restrictions remain in effect. Large sectors of the economy are still shut down. Health officials predict it will be months before things return to some state of normalcy.
No matter how uncertain the future might seem, as believers we are not pessimists. We are optimists, not because of wishful thinking on our part, but because our hope is anchored in the King of kings and Lord of lords.
We find solace in His sovereign goodness, knowing that He upholds all things by the word of His power and holds us safely in His hand. No matter what happens in 2021, our future is secure.
There are many places in Scripture we could look to see this truth articulated. Psalm 46 is one of those places. My intention is to encourage our hearts with the bold confidence of the Psalmist in the face of troubling times.
In verse 2 of Psalm 46, the Psalmist writes: “Therefore we will not fear.” What is it that we might have to fear? We could list many potential sources of anxiety, apprehension, and fear. The events of last year provides us with a fairly extensive list.
But the Psalmist focuses on two main categories: (1) In verses 2–3, his focus is on natural disasters, and specifically earthquakes and the destruction that they might cause; and (2) in verses 6 and 9, his focus is on national disasters, and specifically the violent upheaval that takes place when nations go to war and governments crumble.
These two categories sum up what we experienced in 2020, and they provide the main categories of concern as we look to the uncertain future. The Psalmist, likewise, recognized the dangers posed both by nature and by the nations. Yet, the encouragement to those who sang this song in ancient Israel, and the encouragement to those of us who read this Psalm today is the same: we will not fear.
But how is this kind of confident resolve in the face of instability and hostility possible?
I believe Psalm 46 answers that question for us, and it does so by lifting our eyes off of this world and putting them on the Lord. Those who know and love Him need never fear. Though the mountains tremble and collapse into the sea; though kingdoms rise and fall; though wicked men flourish; and though our lives are but a breath—we need not fear.
In this Psalm, we are given three reasons not to fear, even in the face of trouble, and each of these reasons focuses on God, who is our refuge and strength.
We Will Not Fear Because We Rejoice in God’s Presence (vv. 1–5)
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. (Ps 46:1)
We do not fear because God is our refuge and strength. He is our solid rock, our foundation, our refuge, and our stronghold. Notice that he is also a “very present help in trouble.” God is not distant; He is not far off; He will not abandon or forsake His own. Because God is present, we will not fear. So, therefore, what need have we to fear? God is with us, and He is for us.
Now look at the rest of verse 2. This is the context in which the Psalmist is offering comfort: “though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.”
This is poetic language that describes earthquakes. And it stands in stark contrast to the reality that God is the eternal Rock of Ages upon which our hope is built. The ground may quake, but God is immoveable. The earth may change, but God is immutable. The mountains may crumble, but God is unassailable. Tidal waves may form as the waters roar, but God is unmoved. Though the mountains quake, and though the sea rises, God remains sovereign on His throne, unshaken, in control, and in charge as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The rocks of this world may shift and fracture and fall, but the Rock of Ages will never fail and those who hope in Him will never be disappointed. Earthquakes prove that even solid ground can tremble and give way. But our confidence rests in that which is infinitely more secure. Our hope cannot be shaken because our hope is in the Lord.
Now, in order to contrast the uncertain chaos of this world with the settled peace that characterizes those who hope in God, the Psalmist transitions to give us a beautiful picture of Zion:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. (4–5)
Notice how the tranquility of that river contrasts with the raging, wild, chaos of the waters described in verse 3. It is the epitome of rest, peace, and security.